Obesity is epidemic in the U.S. and one of its side effects is type 2 diabetes. 26 million Americans have diabetes and another 57 million are at risk of becoming diabetic, draining $132 billion annually from our pockets. Reducing obesity and the number of people suffering from diabetes will have a major impact on lowering health care costs for us all.
If obesity is the reason for the majority of diabetic diagnoses, major changes in diet and exercise habits are necessary for weight reduction in those experiencing obesity and overweight to impact the rise in diabetes. But for those who have developed a resistance to insulin (type 2 diabetes) there is no reversing it, even after significant weight loss and dietary improvement. Daily insulin management is a way of life for these people. That’s why prevention is so important for those 57 million people who are at risk.
There is mounting evidence for one natural plant that can help not only in the prevention of diabetes, but also in it’s management. That plant is flax and more specifically, flax seeds. Flax has been grown for its fiber for tens of thousands of years. Today it is grown mostly for the seeds and the oil that they produce. The oil, also know as linseed oil, is used in painting. However, it is also a nutritious and healthy food.
Flax seeds are high in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and anti-oxidants. Two tablespoons have about 160 calories, 8 grams of fiber and 5.5 grams of protein. Those two tablespoons also have about 12 grams of fat, but it’s a good fat, mostly polyunsaturated with 150% of the RDA for omega-3 fatty acid. Flax seed really is a super-food.
We have known for decades that when flax seed is consumed with a meal, the normal spike in blood sugar from that meal is reduced. But tests measuring this effect has never been done on diabetics until recently. In the study, diabetic participants took one tablespoon of ground flax seed per day for a month. Compared to a control group, they experienced a significant drop in fasting blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and cholesterol.
In another study, researchers gave obese diabetics three tablespoons of either ground flax seed or wheat bran for twelve weeks and found a slight drop in their insulin resistance for the people using flax seed, while there was no change for the people using wheat bran. So while more research is needed, the benefits of including flax seed into your diet far exceed and unproven benefits to blood sugar levels.
Your best bet in buying flax seed is to buy the whole seed. When stored in a cool, dry, dark place like the refrigerator the seeds will stay fresh for up to one year. If you try to mix the whole seeds into your food, you’ll likely swallow most of the small seeds without them being broken up. Your digestive system is very ineffective in breaking through the tough outer layer of the seed. Your better off grinding up the quantity you need in a coffee grinder. Then sprinkle two tablespoons of ground seeds onto hot or cold cereal or steamed vegetables. You can also blend it into a protein shake or fruit/vegetable smoothie. You can also bake the ground seeds into muffins, breads, or other baked goods.
On word of caution. If you are diabetic and are already on medication intended to lower blood sugar levels, if you add flax seed into your diet you risk creating a condition where your blood sugar may become too low. Careful monitoring of your blood sugar is necessary as well as consulting your physician.