Five Foods to Keep Diabetes at Bay

"I thought I'd got away with it..."

That's what 55-year-old Colin Rattray told The Sun, recalling the amputation of two toes on his right foot in 2011. Rattray said he ignored his doctor's advice about eating better. He thought his condition couldn't get worse.

But it did. In 2018, an infected ulcer in his right foot led to a below-the-knee amputation of his leg. Now Rattray gets around with the help of a prosthetic leg, and he shares his story to warn others about the dangers of diabetes.

Diabetes is a serious health condition. It occurs when a person's pancreas doesn't make enough of a hormone called insulin – which helps your body convert food into energy – or when the body doesn't respond to insulin properly. This dysfunction leads to high levels of sugar (or "glucose") in the blood. Over time, high blood sugar can cause other health complications like kidney disease, nerve damage, and heart disease. And it shaves years off your life.

There are more than 37 million people in the United States living with diabetes... and of those folks, eight and a half million are unaware that they have it. What's more, 96 million adults in the U.S. have "prediabetes," a condition that often – but not always – turns into full-blown diabetes. That's more than one-third of the population.

And it's not just an American problem. Around 10% of the global population has diabetes. That number is likely to rise to more than 12% by 2045, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

Diabetes doesn't have to be a death sentence. There are many things you can do to help manage – and even improve – your blood sugar levels, like exercising regularly, managing stress, and choosing your food wisely.

But there's a lesser-known way to help keep your blood sugar levels healthy – an essential mineral called magnesium.

Magnesium is a key player in making sure your body systems are running smoothly. And when it comes to blood sugar levels, studies show that folks with higher intakes of magnesium are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people with very low daily intakes of magnesium.

A meta-analysis of cohort studies from the Swedish National Institute of Environmental Medicine found that increasing your magnesium intake by 100 milligrams ("mg") per day was associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Studies show that anywhere between 50% and 75% of Americans aren't getting the magnesium they need.

So during your next grocery store visit, reach for magnesium-rich foods that will support your blood sugar management. Here are five foods that are high in magnesium:

  1. Green leafy veggies – One cup of raw kale has 7 mg of magnesium. Five cups of raw arugula has 47 mg of magnesium. And three and a half ounces of raw spinach has 93 mg of magnesium.
  2. Avocado – One medium-sized avocado contains 58 mg of magnesium.
  3. Beans – One cup of canned pinto beans contains 51 mg of magnesium. One cup of canned kidney beans has 69 mg of magnesium. And one cup of canned black beans has 84 mg of magnesium.
  4. Whole grains – One regular slice of multigrain bread has 20 mg of magnesium.  Two-thirds of a cup of brown rice contains 124 mg of magnesium. And half a cup of cooked quinoa has 164 mg of magnesium.
  5. Nuts – Three-fourths of a cup of dry roasted peanuts has 178 mg of magnesium. One cup of dry roasted cashews contains 356 mg of magnesium. And one cup of dried Brazil nuts has 500 mg of magnesium.

Do what I do and choose foods throughout the day that provide enough magnesium to support your health. The recommended daily allowances are 400 mg to 420 mg for men and 310 mg to 320 mg for women. And improving your blood sugar with an additional 100 mg of magnesium is as simple as eating an avocado with two pieces of whole-grain toast.

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 7, 2023