Is there anything I can take with my meals that could blunt the increases in blood sugar and insulin provoked by the meal?

Nutrition researcher Dr. David Jenkins and his colleagues at the University of Toronto have discovered that almonds may have remarkable potential in this regard. They had their volunteers consume diets on two different days that were virtually identical, differing only in that one day’s diet contained 36 grams of almonds (a little over an ounce) and the other day’s diet contained a high-carb muffin providing exactly the same number of calories as the almonds. Remarkably, total daily insulin secretion was found to be one-third lower when the volunteers ate the diet containing almonds! This benefit was at least partially attributable to a reduction in post-meal glucose rises, as shown in other studies. The fact that the almond diet was slightly lower in total carbs could only account for a small proportion of the large reduction of insulin secretion observed.

Why almonds have this remarkable effect remains mysterious, although the plant protein and monounsaturated fat provided by almonds might play a role. Almonds are very low in saturated fat, and are a good source of plant protein, fiber, minerals, and phytochemicals; studies show that almond-enriched diets have favorable effects on blood fat profiles, and are unlikely to provoke weight gain. So including a small handful of almonds in your meals may be a winning strategy.

Jenkins and collegues estimated total daily insulin secretion in their research subjects by measuring 24-hour urinary output of C-peptide, a protein fragment that is generated during insulin synthesis and that subsequently comes out in the urine intact; C-peptide excretion thus tends to be directly proportional to total insulin secretion. You’ll find an abstract of their research here.

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