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Managing Diabetes Mellitus with Foods and Herbs

By Godwin Ihesie


The importance of diabetes Education

All the progress made today in the management of diabetes notwithstanding correct education still remains the cornerstone of diabetes management. People with diabetes especially the Type1, unlike the patients with many other medical conditions cannot just be careless with their medication, diets, exercises, blood sugar monitoring or without knowing some of the factors that can raise their blood sugar levels. Because, only by keeping their blood sugar level as close to normal as possible and by actively managing their disease – would they be able to prevent the long term complication such as; vision loss, heart attack, stroke, kidney and nerve damage associated with the disease.


Nutritional Management:

Proper diet is very crucial in the management of type I and II diabetes. As at today, there are numerous dietary regimens that have been given in many books – all of which are fashioned to assist diabetic patients. Such regimens could be useful to some while in some other cases they may be completely useless. The main reason for this is that each person as an individual is unique physiologically, biochemically, genetically, even spiritually and so each person also has its own unique metabolic activity. And the body’s demand for food also varies from one person to another and this may depend on the climatic condition, culture and traditional beliefs, sex and age, lifestyle and habits of the individual.


It is this individual uniqueness that makes it almost impossible to design one diet regimen or to give a universal guideline that will be perfect for all.  Therefore, no rigid rules are made, the question of what to eat, and how much should be eaten should be an individual’s affairs. However, it is important for the individual to learn and understand what should constitute a good eating habit – that is common to all types of diabetics.


  • Foods to Avoid

A good dietary plan or regimen should be devoid of: Mucus-forming diet Mucus-forming diets include: eggs, fish, red meat, pasteurized dairy products, white flour products, snacked foods, fried foods, margarine (highly toxic) and refined vegetable oils, biscuits, cakes, meat pie, etc. ice cream, candy, all artificial sweeteners, canned or processed foods, genetically modified organism (GMO) foods, carbonated drinks, fruit Juice (loaded with sugar), alcohol, cigarette, etc.

  • Beneficial Foods

Many nutritionists believed that a standard nutritional plan for a person with diabetes should consist of:

(i) Calories from carbohydrates = 50-60%,

(ii) Calories from fats = 20%,

(iii) Calories from proteins = 10-20%.


  1. I) Sources of Carbohydrates


Whole grains: – Whole wheat from which whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, and biscuits are made.  Whole wheat is that which is coarsely ground, with all parts of kernel left intact with all its nutrients such as vitamin E, minerals, lecithin, etc, still available and without further processing or refinement.

  1. i) Millet: – This cereal is believed to be the grain that contains almost all the essential amino acids. It is rich in vitamins (A, C and the B’s), minerals, etc; also it is one of the alkaline forming grains that are recommended for diabetics.
  2. ii) Maize (corn) and Guinea corn: – When mixed with other grains are very helpful to the diabetics. They are not fattening but are rich in body building elements that prevent constipation, heart diseases, and hypertension.

iii) Brown (unpolished) rice: – This is the rice from which the husk, the bran layers and the germ have been partially removed without further processing using machines. All the health-building elements are still retained, which element help build a healthy skin, healthy nervous system, etc.

iv)Unripe plantain or banana (flour),

v)Water yam,


These food items are high in their fiber contents, which help to form the bulk of the laxative that ease bowel movements and therefore prevents constipation and internal pollution. They lower the risk of hypertension, heart diseases and bowel diseases. Complex carbohydrates with high cellulose don’t digest easily and they prevent the sudden surge of blood sugar after eating, they also prevent over-eating which causes excess weight.


Glycemic Index and Diabetes

The glycemic index, or GI, measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose.

Foods are ranked as being very low, low, medium, or high in their GI value  based on how they compare to a reference food — either glucose or white bread.

Low GI Foods (55 or less), e. g. 100% stone-ground whole wheat, , Sweet potato, corn, yam, beans, peas, dried beans and legumes (like kidney beans, lentils, most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots

Medium GI (56-69), e. g, brown rice, quick oats, Whole wheat, etc,

High GI (70 or more), e. g, white bread, corn flakes, pasta, macaroni, rice cakes, popcorn, melons and pineapple

Meats and fats don’t have a GI because they do not contain carbohydrate

Foods with a high GI score contain rapidly digested carbohydrate, which produces a large rapid rise and fall in the level of blood glucose (this is not good). In contrast, foods with a low GI score contain slowly digested carbohydrate, which produces a gradual, relatively low rise in the level of blood glucose (this is good).

Meal planning with the GI involves choosing foods that have a low or medium GI. If eating a food with a high GI, you can combine it with low GI foods to help balance the meal.


  1. II) Sources of protein
  2. a) Plant sources:
  3. i) Soybeans: Soybeans is rich in protein that has high biological value. It is also rich in lecithin that helps the diabetes to overcome neurological complications associated with the disease.
  4. ii) Legumes (pulse): These include kidney beans, green peas, chickpea, etc. It is said that generally, every 100 gramme of pulse or legume contains about 25 percent of dietary protein – They are rich in minerals and some B vitamins.


  1. b) Animal sources:

Sea Foods: Fresh fish, crabs, shrimps, oysters, etc.

Birds: fowls, guinea fowls, turkey, ducks, etc.

White meat: lamb (meat from young sheep between 5 months and one year), Veal (meat from young cow, (i.e. calf), rabbit and snail.


Protein from these sources is less putrefactive and they are good for the glandular system, the brain and the nerves. They are excellent sources of protein for the diabetics, if they are raised organically (i.e. if they are reared on diet that is devoid of man-made chemicals).



Pumpkin seeds (is very rich in zinc that helps in preventing sexual weakness in diabetics), sesame seeds,sunflower seeds, melon seeds, etc.  Seeds are good for all types of diabetes – they are very rich in tissue building protein, blood building and blood cleansing vitamins and minerals.  They are also rich in unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, lecithin, etc.


Sprouting seeds is one of the greatest discoveries made in the field of obtaining all the macro and micro minerals, enzymes and other nutrients that are essential for the maintenance of proper composition of the blood and other body fluids or tissues. Sprouted seeds are “multi-minerals and multi-vitamin par excellence” for the diabetics.


  1. d) Nuts:

We have walnuts, cashew nuts, and groundnuts. They are good sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, lecithin, natural oils and fats.

Groundnut is particularly beneficial in diabetic conditions.  The Indian natural physiciansbelievethat chewing about a handful of groundnuts daily will help prevent the vascular complications associated with diabetes mellitus – this is because groundnut is rich in niacin.


  1. e) Vegetables:

No diabetic diet is completely adequate without a generous intake of vegetables which could be in the form of salads (raw), steamed or slightly cooked vegetables.  Vegetables contain practically all the body building and health maintaining elements.  They include:

The vegetables within the Lily family: – Garlic, Leek, Onions, etc. Apart from using these vegetables as food, they are also used as medicine in diabetic conditions. Infusing them in wine serves as a general tonic for diabetes, they are said to balance the activity of the pancreas and they have reasonable hypoglycemic effects (blood sugar lowering), they help prevent peripheral neuropathy and reduce cerebral congestion that may result in stroke in some diabetic patients.  Because of their high volatile oil contents, they have very strong anti-microbial effects and they help diabetics overcome recurrent infections, e.g. chronic vaginitis (in women) and candidiasis.  Onion in particular is very rich in zinc and therefore, it help prevent sexual weakness associated with diabetes mellitus.


Root vegetables: Irish potatoes, carrot, etc.

Vegetable seeds cucumber, garden eggs, green pepper, and tomatoes which are particularly good for all cases of weight related to diabetes.

Deep green leafy vegetables: Fruited pumpkins, greens, lettuce, spinach, parsley, cabbage, cauliflower, basil, celery.


  1. f) Fruits:

A tree-ripe fresh fruit contains simple sugars (fructose and glucose) which are absorbed rapidly and directly into the bloodstream; because of this diabetic are advised to avoid an excessive intake of fruits, especially sweet fruits.  However, many nutritionists have found that citrus fruits and some other sub-acid fruits are particularly beneficial for most diabetes. For example:


Grapefruits: When grapefruit is taken regularly, it helps the obese diabetics to lose excessive weight gradually.  The fruit is low in calories and it is said to speed up fat metabolism.


Diluted Lemon juice:  This will help reduce the excessive taste of fluid and water in diabetic patients.  Undiluted lemon juice when rubbed regularly on the legs and feet will help in reducing burning and tingling sensation which most diabetics experience; it also protects their skin against infections, boils and skin rashes.

Guava fruit:When infused in water and taken regularly, will help quench the excessive thirst in diabetics.


Many Nature Cure doctors have suggested that for a balanced diet, diabetics should combine their food intake in the following proportions: 45 to 50 percent of complex unrefined carbohydrates (grains, tubers, etc); 30 to 35 percent of protective foods which are fresh raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and sprouted seeds and 20 to 25 percent of proteins – from both plant and animal sources.  Whenever it is possible, they should eat organically produced foods i.e. foods that are cultivated without artificial fertilizers, chemical pesticides and herbicides, and animals, sea foods and poultry foods that are reared naturally without antibiotics, hormones and other artificially synthesized chemicals.


Useful Supplements:

Chromium 200 mcg daily – enhances the utilization of glucose, activity of insulin.

Coenzyme Q10, 30 to 60 mg daily helps to improve heart function

Vitamin C – 1,000-2,000 mg, daily, helps fight infections, etc.

Vitamin E 100 to 400 I.U, helps to reduce long-term diabetic complication.

Vitamin B6 100 mg daily reduces nerve damage,

Essential Fatty Acids – Flax Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, or Borage Oil, 800 mg helps to protect the heart and blood vessels

Zinc – 100 mg, Selenium – 400 mg, Magnesium – 400 mg,


Herbal management:


Most of the herbs that help the diabetic patient are classified under the following categories:


Herbal digestive tonic: A herbal tonic that helps in balancing the physiological and biochemical events that takes place within the internal system, e.g. Turmeric, Dandelion root, Encalyptus, etc.


Hypoglycaemic herbs: the herbs that generally lower blood sugar levels, e.g. Balsam pear, Neem, Mistletoe,Phyllantus,Periwinkle etc).


Alterative herbs: Herbs that have mild action in the body, used mainly to gradually restore a diseased body to normalcy, e.g. Nettle, Neem, etc.


The herbs enumerated below have been proven over the years to be quite beneficial to most diabetic patients:

  1. Aloe Vera: Numerous researches have indicated that the gel extracted from fresh Aloe vera helps in regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism.  The pulp of this wonderful plant is very rich in vitamins, enzymes, essential amino acids, minerals and other nutrients that make it an excellent food supplement for the diabetic.  Regular intake of raw stabilized Aloe Vera juice is believed to help prevent cataract formation in diabetic patients.

Two spoonful of the fresh Aloe Vera gel could be mixed with about one half glass of water or fruit juice and taken three times daily.


  1. Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) – This is often referred to as “Red Ginger” – when the powder made from the root of Turmeric (about ¼ of a teaspoon) is mixed with Aloe Vera gel and taken three times daily, it will help most diabetics to overcome the weakness associated with the disease. It is good tonic that also has very powerful anti-microbial properties.
  2. Balsam Pear (Bitter guard) – MormodicaCharanta. In Yoruba language this plant is called Ejirin.  The fresh juice made from this creeping plant taken on any empty stomach first thing on waking up – the dried leaves can also be used as tea (infusion) in the same manner – is very helpful to most diabetic victims.  It has been found to have hypoglycaemic effects (i.e. having the capacity of lowering high blood pressure, peripheral nuerophathies, etc).  The pulp made from this plant when rubbed on the foot and hands helps reduce the tingling sensations seen in diabetic victims.

4          Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Lobulus): This is an ever green plant commonly found in the Northern parts of Nigeria especially in Jos, and Kaduna.  The tea made from the dried leaves of this plant (1 teaspoonful per tea cup of boiling water) and taken 2-3 times daily is very beneficial to all cases of diabetes mellitus.  It has an effective hypoglycaemic effect.  It is also a very powerful tonic herb that helps in preventing general debility.  It helps in preventing neuralgia in diabetics.  It may be combined with other herbs like mistletoe to achieve a good synergetic effect.

  1. Neem (Azardiractaindica): This is commonly referred to as “DogonYaro” here in Nigeria.  A cold or hot infusion made from the fresh or dried leaves of this plant is highly beneficial to most diabetic patients.  Also, a decoction or tincture made from the inner back of this tree is also useful in many cases of diabetes. The plant contains bitter tasting substances collectively referred to as “Bitter Principles”. In Ayuredic medicine, it is known to have a very powerful blood and tissue purifying effects, it is also a very good general tonic to be used in times of chronic weakness and muscle wasting often seen in some cases of diabetes mellitus.  It is said to regulate the functions of the liver and the pancreas.  It can be used effectively in conjunction with other herbs like the phylatantus, balsam, pear leaves, mango leaves, etc.
  2. Mango leaves: In ayuvedic medicine of the Indians, many practitioners recommend a regular intake of the cold infusion made from the young leaves of Mango or a hot infusion made from ½ to 1 teaspoon of the powdered young mango leaves.  These help most diabetic victims to reduce their dependence on chemical drugs.
  3. Stingling Nettle (urticadioica): Among the known constituents of this plant are iron, calcium, potassium, trace elements, vitamin A, and C.  It also contains vitamin.  Nettle is one of the plants used in supporting and strengthening the entire body.  When the infusion (tea) is taken regularly, it helps in lowering the blood sugar levels in diabetics and helps in preventing some of the complications arising from the disease such as recurrent boils, skin infections and nutritional deficiencies.  Nettle is a strong blood building and blood purifying herb.

Other Useful Herbs for the Management of Diabetes Mellitus Include:


Stonebreaker (Phyllanthusniruri)

Cinnamon (Cinnamomumverum)

Onion (Alliumcepa)

Garlic (Alliumsativum)

Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthusroseus)

Moringa (Moringaoleifera)

King of bitters (Andrographispaniculata)

Sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica)

Soursop (Annonamuricata)

Guava (Psidiumguajava)

Cashew (Anacardiumoccidetale)

Bitterleaf (Vernoniaamygdalina)

Scent leaf (Ocimumgratissimum)


Billy goat weed (Ageratum conyzoides), etc.