I wrote here about the potentially damaging effects of sugar. But to recap, it’s been heavily associated with weight gain, heart disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, cancer, and dementia, just to name some of the big ones. It’s important to keep yourself out of the danger zone (fasting glucose over 100, or Hemoglobin A1c over 5.6). But ideally, I like to see fasting blood sugar in the 70s or 80s, and HbA1c around 5.0 to 5.3 or so.
For some people, no matter how clean they eat, this just doesn’t seem to happen. A few possible reasons for this might be deficiency in some critical nutrients.
(In order to understand what follows, you’ll need to understand the relationship between glucose and insulin. This article might help if you need a reminder on that.)
Nutrients That Stabilize Blood Sugar
Even if you’re not overtly low in some of these nutrients, the addition of them into your clean eating lifestyle can go a long way to stabilizing and lowering blood sugar.
- Zinc. This common mineral deficiency is required for insulin processing, storage, secretion, and action. It also helps to facilitate glucose uptake from the bloodstream into the cells.
- Chromium. This also common mineral deficiency enhances insulin activity and therefore improves glucose control.
- Magnesium. This exceedingly common mineral deficiency acts as a second messenger for insulin (meaning insulin sends it to do the next step in the process of bringing glucose from the bloodstream into the cells). So without magnesium, insulin can’t do its job properly.
- Potassium. This electrolyte also helps lower glucose levels. This study shows that even as weight increases, serum glucose does not, with potassium supplementation.
- Vanadium. This trace mineral improves glucose utilization, though apparently we’re not totally clear on its mechanism of action.
- Essential Fatty Acids. These are fatty acids that your body cannot produce on its own—hence the “essential” in their names: you have to consume them in the form of food or supplementation. They are critically important for maintaining the function of cell walls throughout the body—and healthy cell walls means healthy responses to external signaling, including insulin.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid. ALA, a fantastic antioxidant, can be helpful in both protecting against any oxidative damage associated with increased blood glucose, as well as lowering fasting blood glucose itself.
I’d love to think that we could get all the nutrition we need from food alone—and there was a time when I think that was true. But unfortunately, that time has passed—and at this point, there are four supplements I think everyone should be on just to maintain health. Three of them are represented above: a high quality multivitamin should, in theory, cover you for the minerals mentioned; a fish oil or other EFA supplement, and an antioxidant. (The fourth, probiotics, can also help maintain a healthy weight!)