Living with diabetes means paying extra attention to your diet in order to maintain steady blood glucose levels. Maintaining a healthy diabetic diet can involve limiting some food groups. This often results in nutrient deficiencies, a lack of key vitamins and minerals, and even exacerbates the risk of diabetes complications. One of the best ways to find a balance between limiting some foods and ensuring an optimal nutrient intake for healthy bones and the body is dietary supplements and vitamins.
Some vitamins, such as Vitamin C may reduce insulin resistance while others, like vitamin D, can reduce the risk of complications with the disease. Below we take a look at some of the best vitamins for diabetes management and maintaining great health.
There are two types of Vitamin D – D2 and D3. Both are naturally found in egg yolks, oily fish such as salmon and tuna, and beef liver. Our bodies are also able to create our own vitamin D3 from exposure to sunlight. This is one of the essential vitamins for diabetics as it can improve insulin sensitivity, helping their bodies turn blood glucose into energy.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to the development of diabetes because low levels increase insulin resistance. When a healthy diet doesn’t contain enough vitamin D or the depths of winter don’t allow for enough exposure to natural sunlight so we can produce our own vitamin D, the supplement form is a great way to boost health.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects our cells from damage caused by free radicals. This nutrient is found in many foods – spinach and broccoli are two easy-to-find sources. For people with diabetes, controlling blood sugars is key to maintaining good health and avoiding further complications. Vitamin E has been shown to promote heart health, help maintain stable blood sugar levels and improve endothelial function – the key regulator for vascular balance.
Vitamin E improves blood glucose tolerance and can reduce the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and boost our immune system. Best absorbed by our bodies when it comes from food, almonds, avocado, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts are great sources of vitamin E and are easy to include as part of a healthy diet.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
Otherwise known as vitamin B1, thiamin is one of the best vitamins for diabetes as it can relieve the pain and discomfort of diabetic neuropathy. The nerve damage from this condition creates a feeling of numbness or pain in the legs and feet and can also extend to causing problems with the digestive system, urinary tract, vascular system, and heart too.
The high blood sugar levels that preceded the condition are mitigated with thiamin. Low levels of vitamin B1 have been linked to the development of diabetes. Whole grains, pork, nuts, and oranges are all great sources of thiamin.
Vitamin C protects our cells, keeps them healthy, and helps our body produce the white blood cells that protect us from infection. Vitamin C has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in diabetics and assist with blood glucose control.
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, making it easy to include as part of a balanced diet. The recommended daily intake of this vitamin is around 40mg. Excessive vitamin C intake can result in stomach pain, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Studies show that this nutritional supplement can help with managing diabetes by improving insulin resistance. High doses of this antioxidant have been successfully used in Europe to treat various types of nerve damage, pointing to the possibility of its effectiveness for people with diabetes who suffer from neuropathy.
Alpha-lipoic acid has also been found to reduce inflammation, ageing of the skin, and risk of heart disease. Early evidence is also suggesting this supplement may alleviate symptoms of dementia.
Low levels of alpha-lipoic acid are found in a variety of foods from spinach and Brussel sprouts to potatoes and yams. Higher levels are found in red meats, particularly organ meats.
Needed for more than 300 bodily functions, magnesium is an essential nutrient for a balanced diet, yet many of us – not only people with diabetes – are deficient in this mineral. Magnesium helps maintain usual nerve and muscle function, supports our immune system, and promotes heart health. Healthy levels of magnesium positively influence blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
Greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all great sources of magnesium. This mineral can also be absorbed through the hair follicles in our skin, however, people with diabetes should take oral supplements if not getting enough magnesium in their diet as multiple studies have proven the effectiveness of this method.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements People with Diabetes Should Avoid
Not all food supplements are appropriate for people with diabetes. In some cases, there is little benefit to some vitamins and minerals, or the possible side effects way outweigh any benefits.
Small human studies suggest fenugreek supplements could lower blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes. However, its adverse interaction with blood-thinning drugs, a propensity to cause gas, diarrhea, and nausea, make this a supplement that is better left on the shelf by people with diabetes.
Bitter melon is both a food and a supplement common in many parts of the world. Despite some smaller studies showing bitter melon supplements may reduce high blood glucose for people with diabetes, its also been linked to gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, and puts pregnant women at higher risk of miscarrying. Bitter melon fruits and supplements are better left alone by diabetics, particularly those who are hoping to become mothers.
For those interested in other common supplements for people with diabetes, Klinio is an excellent resource that addresses dietary needs and helps people build healthy habits to aid the management of their condition. While some multivitamin supplements are great for diabetic health, others can be harmful. Tracking nutritional intake, regularly exercising, and supplementing diets with the right vitamins and minerals ensures people with diabetes can live long and happy lives.
Kasparas Aleknavicius is one of the freshest doctors in the Klinio family. With his master’s in medicine and broad-spectrum experience in health, he is currently helping people better understand diabetes management. As a healthcare futurist, he is also constantly looking for innovative ways to control blood glucose and assure the easiest diabetes management complexes.