Nutrition • 5 Sep 2020

Food as Medicine: Regulating Your Blood Sugar

By uci_admin

Food as Medicine: Regulating Your Blood Sugar

By Maggie Quinn, ND – SSIHI Naturopathic Practitioner

Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute

UCI Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences

How well do you regulate blood sugar? You don’t need a diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes to be aware of your blood sugar! Stable blood sugar is important for many mechanisms in the body, and can have a significant impact on energy levels, sleep, hormones, fertility, immunity, mood and weight. When I consider the best foods for blood sugar regulation, I always take into account their glycemic index.

The concept of glycemic index (GI) was proposed by Dr. David Jenkins and colleagues in 1981 to evaluate the rate of carbohydrate absorption after a meal[1], or to put it more simply, how quickly the food causes your blood sugar to rise. The GI of a food is determined by factors including type of carbohydrate, fiber content, protein, fat and method of preparation[2]. Many foods in a Western Diet or Standard American Diet are high in carbohydrates and produce a high glycemic response[3].  Foods containing little or no carbohydrate, typically have a low GI. Less than 55 is considered low glycemic, however I think that aiming for foods under 45 is best. Low glycemic foods also help you stay full longer!

Here are some delicious and nutritious foods to incorporate in your diet for blood sugar regulation:

  1. Avocado – Healthy fats are key to regulating blood sugar. Remember when fat was taken out of foods? In most cases, when fat is removed from food (milk, yogurt, etc), more sugar or carbohydrate is added. After a low fat meal, more carbohydrate is absorbed2.  Low fat is also counterproductive to weight control because it increases blood sugar and secretion of insulin3. Avocado is estimated to be a 15 on the glycemic index, making it a low-glycemic food.
  2. Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are a good source of fiber, protein and omega-3’s. They have a glycemic index of 15, which is lower than other seeds, like sesame and sunflower.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar has a GI of 40. It’s a great option for a salad dressing, in combination with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper – yum!
  4. Broccoli – broccoli is high in fiber, folate, vitamin C and potassium.  It has a glycemic index of 10 and is a great side to incorporate with a protein and healthy fat.
  5. Lentils – Lentils have a glycemic index of 42. When choosing a carbohydrate, this is a better option compared to white bread, white rice, or white potatoes.
  6. Cherries – Cherries have a glycemic index of 20. They are great choice, especially compared to fruits that have a higher glycemic index like banana, dates, watermelon and pineapple. Apples, pears, and berries are also a good low-glycemic option.
  7. Salmon – Salmon has a glycemic index of 0! That’s right, zero. This is because salmon contains no carbohydrates. This is also true of animal proteins and eggs.  Be careful of any sauces or marinades you use on your protein, as this may alter the GI.


[1] D J Jenkins, T M Wolever, R H Taylor, H Barker, H Fielden, J M Baldwin, A C Bowling, H C Newman, A Jenkins, D V Goff, Glycemic index of foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 34, Issue 3, March 1981, Pages 362–366,

[2] David S. Ludwig, Dietary Glycemic Index and Obesity, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, Issue 2, February 2000, Pages 280S–283S,

[3] Janette C Brand-Miller, Susanna HA Holt, Dorota B Pawlak, Joanna McMillan, Glycemic index and obesity, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 76, Issue 1, July 2002, Pages 281S–285S,

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