Not all lettuce is created equal. Romaine lettuce is far superior to its popular rival, iceberg lettuce, when it comes to vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and dietary fiber — all necessary for people with diabetes. Romaine lettuce — and iron-rich lettuces like red leaf — helps metabolize glucose and stabilize blood sugar levels, combats the damage done by free radicals and helps prevent heart disease, a serious complication of diabetes.
1. Chromium in romaine breaks down glucose. Two cups of romaine lettuce contain 13% of the Daily Value (DV) for chromium. The body uses this essential mineral to manufacture glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which breaks down blood sugar and keeps it from accumulating in your bloodstream.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, chromium works by resensitizing the insulin receptors on the surface of every cell. Chromium not only helps lower your blood sugar but also lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well, thus reducing your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, the precursor to diabetes. Refined carbohydrates such as white sugar and white flour are not only low in chromium but also deplete it from your body. No wonder many Americans are chromium-deficient.
2. Romaine lettuce is packed with fiber. Unprocessed, high-fiber foods are essential in the Diabetes Healing Diet because they slow the metabolism of glucose, increase insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar levels. Fibrous foods like romaine also help your body eliminate toxins, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and lose weight. Two cups of romaine lettuce contain almost 8% of your RDA for dietary fiber.
3. Vitamin K may strengthen weak diabetic bones. Did you know that diabetics suffer a much higher rate of bone fractures – even if their bone density appears normal? Animal studies suggest that Vitamin K helps improve bone quality and reduce the risk of fracture. Of course we won’t know if this helps until studies are done on humans, but it can’t hurt to add more romaine to your diet. A healthy 2 cup serving has a hefty 143% of the daily value for Vitamin K.
Those same two cups have 45% of the daily value of Vitamin C. That’s important because Vitamin C is an antioxidant that help reduce inflammation caused by free radicals. And since inflammation is suspected to be a primary cause of diabetes, that’s great news.
Make your salads bigger. If you grew up with tiny side salads, it may never occur to you that you can eat far larger salads. But big salads are lip-smacking good, filling, and won’t spike your glucose. Top a big bowl of romaine and spinach with chopped veggies, fresh herbs, eggs, canned salmon or leftovers from last night’s dinner and call it a meal.