Inulin — super nutrient against diabetes
There’s a new kind of fiber in town, and its name is inulin. Actually, it’s not new at all — it’s been a nutritional ingredient in your onions and garlic forever. But inulin is getting new respect for what it can do.
Inulin is a natural soluble fiber that’s also a sugar. It’s in a class of plant compounds called fructans — they store energy as fructose rather than as glucose. And it may be just the ticket for controlling blood sugar. This wonder fiber might even be called a miracle food for people with diabetes.
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Maintains balanced blood sugar
People with type 2 diabetes need to get a handle on blood sugar, which can get too high after eating. Unlike other sugars, inulin doesn’t raise your blood sugar. That’s because it’s not broken down in the stomach or small intestine. Instead, it moves right through to your colon. Research found that people with and without diabetes who ate inulin had less rise in their blood sugar. The change was likely due to the way inulin slows the absorption of carbohydrates.
Holds the line on cholesterol and triglycerides
Inulin keeps your cholesterol down like other soluble fibers, such as beta-glucan in oats. That’s because inulin changes the population of bacteria in your intestines, which in turn affects how cholesterol is made. Some studies hint that inulin may work better in people with type 2 diabetes than in healthy people. Inulin also helps lower triglycerides, another form of fat in your blood that you need to keep a lid on.
Keeps your weight under control
Inulin has a twin among sugar molecules called oligofructose, which does similar things in your body. Researchers have tested both kinds of sugars to see how they affect weight. Both inulin and oligofructose seem to help people eat less and lose weight. It may be that these sugars fill you up faster, or it may be that they change your digestive bacteria to help you lose weight. Yet another theory is that inulin changes the hunger hormones your body produces so you don’t feel as hungry.
However it works to balance your blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight, inulin is a good addition to your diabetes diet.
While a common source of inulin is chicory root, long used as a coffee substitute, you’ll also find it in leeks, onions, garlic, bananas, asparagus, wheat, and Jerusalem artichokes.
Want more inulin than you get from eating onions and other veggies? You can buy it in the form of powders or supplements. Fibersure and other brands make clear-mixing inulin that can be added to foods and baked recipes — supposedly leaving no taste or grittiness. And many food manufacturers add inulin to granola bars, breakfast bars, yogurt, and other foods to improve the taste and texture without adding calories. You may also notice the package mentions the food contains prebiotic, or nutrition to feed helpful bacteria in your gut. Look for inulin on the label of some Yoplait and Stonyfield Farm yogurts, Luna and PowerBar nutrition bars, and other foods.
- FC&A Staff Writer