If you’re looking to lower your diabetes risk or manage existing diabetes, eating a healthy diet is essential. Now, experts are highlighting one food in particular that they say could lower your blood sugar and help prevent Type 2 diabetes. This simple food staple can be prepared in a variety of ways, but experts say eating it daily as part of your breakfast can help ensure maximal benefits. Read on to learn which type of cereal can help slash your diabetes risk, and how to incorporate it into a broader diabetes-fighting diet.
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If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, it’s essential to manage the condition with the help of a healthy diet. “A diabetes diet simply means eating the healthiest foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes,” explains the Mayo Clinic.
This healthy-eating plan should be “naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories,” the health organization explains. “Key elements are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In fact, a diabetes diet is the best eating plan for most everyone,” they add.
Foods with a low glycemic index—a measure of how fast the body converts food into sugar—are especially beneficial for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
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According to a 2021 study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, eating cereal made with millets, a group of grains which includes sorghum and other seeded grasses, can help lower your type 2 diabetes risk. In fact, the study found that the glycemic index of millet grains was 36 percent lower when compared with other grains such as milled rice and refined wheat. Millets that are minimally processed are most effective in lowering one’s glycemic index, the researchers wrote.
Millets also come with a range of other nutritional benefits: experts say they are rich in protein, fiber, and micronutrients such as zinc, iron, and calcium. However, sustained consumption appears to be the key to sustained benefits. “Millets should be part of our staple. The results will not last if people go back to junk food and refined foods,” Anitha Seetha, PhD, study author and nutrition scientist, told the newspaper The Hindu.
In addition to slashing diabetes risk in healthy individuals, millets may also help those with known cases of diabetes manage their condition. The researchers behind the study—a team of agricultural experts from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Aric Tropics (ICRISAT)—found that over the three-month study period, these grains helped people with diabetes lower their A1C, or average blood sugar levels.
In fact, study subjects with diabetes who regularly consumed millets saw their blood glucose levels drop between 12 and 15 percent (fasting and post-meal). This suggests that regularly eating millets can make a healthy addition to the daily diet of people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
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Scientists say there are also environmental benefits to eating millet, which is considered a more sustainable crop than other comparable grains. For instance, ICRISAT points out that a single rice plant requires roughly two and a half times as much water as a single millet plant to grow.
Millets may also be more adaptable to the effects of climate change, given that they can withstand higher temperatures. “Crops like rice and wheat cannot tolerate temperatures more than 38 degrees Centigrade (100.4 Fahrenheit), while millets can tolerate temperatures of more than 46 degrees C (115 F),” S.K Gupta, PhD, the principal scientist at the pearl millet breeding program at ICRISAT, told NPR. This may mean you’ll be seeing more of millet in the future, as climate factors force farmers to adapt.
Speak with your doctor or nutritionist about integrating millet into your diet, especially if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.