“Everyone Knows Someone Who Needs This Information!” (TM)
Here’s some of the advice that Hippocrates would give for at least a partial prescription for treating diabetes, as he always said “Let food be thy Medicine!”, and these foods are particularly useful for diabetics.
Registered dieticians Patricia Partain, RD and Jamie McDermott, RD list 10 herbs and spices below as some of the healthiest to incorporate into your diet, and many of these are especially helpful for diabetics.
Health benefits: The active ingredient is curcumin. It’s found in most curry mixes (it’s what makes them look so yellow). Turmeric is a calming spice and aids digestion. A 2006 study at Johns Hopkins University suggested that curcumin may also be helpful in reducing colon cancer.
How to use it: Add to curry mixes when making your own, otherwise, use a pre-made mix (check it’s in there on the label). You can also buy it as a single spice (when it is not a hot spice).
Mix it into any curry recipe, soup, or use with scrambled tofu or eggs. You can also stir it into the water being used for quinoa, rice or couscous – and it will color them yellow as well as be more healthy.
Many people have learned about the amazing “stinking rose’s” health benefits: possibly lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, being a natural anti-viral and more. Holistic physicians use it to prevent onset of heart disease.
How to use it: It is most beneficial when it is raw. You must use it immediately after chopping or mashing withing 10 minutes or coat it in olive oil to give yourself a bit more time. Use in savory smoothies, dips, salad dressings, compound butters and spreads.
People suggest cooking it, but that does compromise it.
Many diabetics have digestive issues as your overworked pancreas may not be supplying enough alkaline buffers needed for complete digestion.
Mint’s health benefits include: relieving indigestion and nausea, as well as symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But Partain and McDermott say peppermint is not recomm-ended for people with acid-reflux disease.
Peppermint also has some energy stimulation components.
How to use it: Most people use Peppermint as herbal tea by steeping it in hot water for a few minutes.
For a summer drink: crush the mint along with some lemon juice as a base for lemonade. Then to sweeten, add diabetic-friendly Truvia or other stevia powder to taste. If you crush or shave the ice, it becomes a cooling granita.
Mint can be used as an edible garnish, mixed in with lamb, added to feta cheese, salt and pepper to use as a dip or spread and more!
This herb is a cleanser. It helps to clean the GI tract and thereby “sweeten” breath. But, it is much more!
Health benefits: Parsley is high in potassium – a critical mineral which can help control high blood pressure and fluid retention. It is also high in vitamins K, C and A (which helps to keep skin healthy — which is also vital for diabetics).
How to use it: Add to basil pesto or tabouli. You can even make a completely parsley pesto! Sprinkle it over potatoes, quinoa or brown rice. Add to fresh tomato sauces and finely chop into dressings. Use in savory smoothies. Juice it! Make a Mediterranean-style salad with lemon juice, tomatoes, chopped fresh onions and feta cheese. Add it to soup just as you take it off the burner, as long as it is minced (be sure to use the stems, too). Mix into meatloaf or hamburgers (this is a good place to use finely-minced stems as these dishes cook longer).
This is an herb used in classic European cuisines, as the Simon & Garfunkle song implies “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”.
Health benefits: rosemary may reduce potentially carcinogenic HCA levels when mixed with meat before cooking — HCAs are produced during barbequing, especially.
This herb has also been used to cure indigestion.
But, be aware that it can act as a natural diuretic (as can lemons), so keep your fluid levels up by drinking at least 64 ozs. of pure water a day (unless you have kidney disease — in which case, follow your urologist’s recommendation). If you are taking diuretics, you need to make sure that all your liquid intake is water. Other “liquids” will dehydrate you, in varying amounts..
How to use it: rub rosemary extract or ground rosemary over meat before grilling (it goes particularly well with lamb). Sprinkle this herb over potatoes before roasting. Add it the water when poaching salmon. Bake it into breads (along with some garlic and black, Greek olives). Add rosemary to tomato sauce as you heat it, but be sure you have ground the leaves in a mortar and pestle, as the leaves don’t soften in cooking, easily, whether fresh or dried versions.
Chilis, especially the smallest Asian ones, along with jalapenos, are very good sources of anti-oxidants, and are nerve pain relievers (usually as a pharmaceutical cream — not as food).
Health benefits: the component called capsaicin is an anti-inflammatory. This can also temporarily increase heat production in the body, so it helps cool you in hot weather and helps burn more calories for revved-up metabolism and weight-loss. Capsaicin has also been used to help with circulatory problems, which is an issue that many sedentary diabetics have.
However, if you have a sensitive stomach and colon already, use this with great care. Maybe start with small amounts of dried chili powder or a Japanese 7-spice powder, instead of any of the hot, fresh chili peppers.
I would not give this to most children. For diabetic kids, use alternatives.
How to use it: Mix tiny amounts of chilis into mashed potatoes or eggs. Stir it into softened butter, along with a tiny bit of lime, then spread on corn on the cob. Stir a tiny bit in to make Mexican hot chocolate.
The word has been out for quite a while about cinnamon’s ability to help diabetics, but actually quite a bit is needed, more than people think. Plus, some things labeled as “cinnamon” are actually “cassia” which is not helpful for this purpose.
Health benefits: real cinnamon has an anti-inflammatory effect and it can lower blood sugar. Cinnamon can also have an anti-cancer effect.
There has been some indication that cinnamon can increase metabolism, but exercise and diet are what’s really needed to make the difference.
How to use it: as a sweeter spice, people are more willing to use it. So, sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal, sweet potatoes and into applesauce. Even though you can, I don’t recommend eating cookies and pies, but if you do, then be sure to add cinnamon!. Use it to spice meatballs and in drinks when they will be well-mixed.
Ginger is in the same botanical family as Turmeric, so it has many of the same properties. The main one, apart from fabulous flavor (fresh or dried) is that it is a well regarded anti-inflammatory, so it helps to lessen pain, especially for those with osetoarthritis.
Health benefits: Ginger helps to alleviate nausea and vomiting, and is very useful for children on car trips or for sea-sickness!
It also helps nausea when related to pregnancy.
For the rest of us, ginger is good for digestion.
How to use it: Grate it and add to broths or to stir-fry dishes. If you steep ginger in hot water and add lemon and honey this will make a soothing digestive tea. Bake gingersnaps or gingerbread as a way for diabetic kids to enjoy this spice as long as you use a diabetic-friendly natural sweetener like a tiny bit of organic maple syrup or stevia. Personally, I like undyed sushi ginger to chop-up into dressings, smoothies, popsicles and more.
Basil is a cousin of mint. Most people only think of it in terms of pesto — an Italian sauce for pasta, but Basil is quite versatile. Thai food uses it to good advantage and the Holy Basil of India is used in Tulsi — an important herbal tea.
Health benefits: Like mint, basil also freshens breath. It is also an anti-inflammatory, and it has an alkaline pH. Basil is a good source of magnesium and vitamin A — both of which are needed in potent doses for diabetics.
How to use it: of course, we’ll mention pesto sauce, and you can pair fresh leaves with tomatoes and mozzarella in a Caprese salad (which I personally find hard-to-eat and suggest you dice everything up and eat it on a plate instead of how it’s usually presented). Finely mince and immediately sprinkle over fish just after cooking. Add it to lemonade. Make holy basil into Tulsi tea or buy the tea directly (at Whole Foods).
Ah, this is another French secret! They will have the best lavender recipes, and lavender honey is incredible (use just tiny amounts, but you don’t need much as it has wonderful flavor!).
Diabetes is very stressful on your body and psyche, so lavender can be very beneficial to help bring calmness, allowing your body to rest and also have a better chance to rejuvenate.
Health benefits: Lavender is very calming and can aid with sleep.
How to use it: The flowers can be used in a tea (for sleeping, add a few lavender buds into chamomille tea — unless you are sensitive to daisies or other aster flowers. Otherwise, just brew a purely lavender tea.). Lavender can be baked into cookies – with stevia as sweetener.
In the famed herb mix, Herbes de Provence, is a mix of fennel, basil, thyme and lavender which is used with meat, fish, quinoa or brown rice.
Fresh herbs may seem expensive, but they are not when you think of the benefits they bring — and with less liklihood of side-effects. They are also easy to grown in your garden, or on a patio or balcony or on a windowsill in winter. You can always benefit from many of these listed above, all year, for reasonable cost. See the Titles Archive tab above for my excellent posts on container and indoor gardening!
Enjoy these useful herbs and see if your Health also improves as you incorporate them daily.
Best to all — Em
Sources: Patricia Partain, RD; Jamie McDermott, RD; University of Maryland Medical Center; American Cancer Society; whfoods.com; Prevention Magazine; Memorial Sloan Kettering; Food Network.
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