functional food in diabetes

Functional Foods in Diabetes and CVD

Functional Foods in Diabetes – Functional Foods Role in Diabetes and CVD

What are the different kinds of Functional Foods which can be used in Diabetes and CVD?  What role they play in Diabetes and CVD? What does research say about Functional Foods? How much Functional food is recommended daily for diabetic patients? Diabetic Expert Preeti Jain shares her knowledge and research on Functional Foods

functional foods and its role in diabetes and cvd
functional foods and its role in diabetes and cvd

Functional Food FenuGreek seeds (Methi Seeds). How Methi Seeds will help in lowering your blood sugar?

Fenugreek Seeds or methi seeds
Fuctional Food FENUGREEK SEEDS (Methi Seeds). How Methi Seeds will help in lowering your blood sugar?

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum: family Fabaceae) is a common ingredient in Indian Subcontinent. India is the largest producer of fenugreek in the world. Fenugreek has three culinary uses: as a herb (dried or fresh leaves), as a spice (seeds), and as a vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens). Fenugreek seeds are used both whole and in powdered form and are often roasted to reduce their bitterness and enhance their flavor. The active constituents in fenugreek include- saponins, dietary fiber, amino acids, galactomannan.


Role of Fenugreek Seeds (Methi seeds) in Diabetes?

The hypoglycemic effects of  fenugreek have been attributed to several mechanisms :

  • Demonstrated in vitro the amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine in fenugreek seeds increased glucose-induced insulin release in human.
  • 4-hydroxyisoleucine  in fenugreek seeds has insulin tropic activity. Fenugreek reduced the area under the plasma glucose curve and increased the number of insulin receptors in humans.
  • Fenugreek seeds exert hypoglycemic effects by stimulating glucose-dependent insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells as well as by inhibiting the activities of alpha-amylase and sucrose, two  intestinal enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism (Amin et al. 1987).
  • High content of soluble fiber, which acts to decrease the rate of  gastric emptying thereby delaying the absorption of glucose from the small intestine. This  suggest that  fenugreek reduces post-prandial hyperglycemia.
  • Galactomannan blocks intestinal absorption of glucose. Water soluble fiber increases the viscosity inside the intestine and then inhibit absorption of glucose.

The studies and research articles on how Methi seeds helps in Diabetes?

  • The study was conducted to investigate the postprandial hypoglycemic effect of fenugreek seeds on patients with T2D. Participants were instructed to drink the extract and chew the seeds. Postprandial plasma glucose level was measured before and 2-hours after the administration of the treatment. Fenugreek seeds appeared to have a significant hypoglycemic activity in T2D patients. Pharmacognosy Magazine Vol 4, Issue 18, Apr-Jun, 2009 Page 134-138 .
  • The study was undertaken to evaluate the hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of fenugreek seeds in type 2 diabetic patients. In a clinical trial study, 24 type 2 diabetic patients were placed on 10 grams/day powdered fenugreek seeds mixed with yoghurt or soaked in hot water for 8 weeks. Findings showed that FBS, TG and VLDL-C decreased significantly (25 %, 30 % and 30.6 % respectively) after taking fenugreek seed soaked in hot water whereas there were no significantly changes in lab parameters in cases consumed it mixed with yoghurt. Thus it was concluded that fenugreek seeds can be used as an adjuvant in the control of type 2 diabetes mellitus by soaking it in hot water. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2009 Jan;79(1):34-9.
  • Hypoglycemic effect of Fenugreek seed powder (Trigonella foenum graecum) was studied in 60 non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. A prescribed diet with and without fenugreek seed powder was given to patients for 7 days of a control period and for 24 weeks of the experimental period. During the experimental period twenty five grams of Fenugreek seed powder divided into two equal doses was added to the diet and served during lunch and dinner. Diet containing Fenugreek seed powder lowered fasting blood glucose levels and improved glucose tolerance. Insulin levels were also diminished. Twenty four hour urinary sugar excretion was reduced significantly (p < 0.001). Glycosylated hemoglobin measured at the end of the 8th week of Fenugreek seed powder administration was reduced significantly (p < 0.001). This shows that feeding Fenugreek seed powder is beneficial to diabetic subjects. Nutrition Research Volume 16, Issue 8, August 1996, Pages 1331–1339.
  • ‘Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose & serum lipids in type 1 diabetes’ from Eur J Clin Nutr: 1990 Apr;44(4):301-6. The study showed significant reduction in serum total cholesterol, LDL & VLDL cholesterol & triglycerides. The HDL cholesterol fraction however remain unchanged.

What is the role of Fenugreek seeds (Methi seeds) in CVD?

The protective effect of fenugreek seeds in cardiovascular diseases are attributed to its     following properties:

  • Antioxidant property
  • Anti – lipidemic property
  • It inhibits intestinal cholesterol absorption due to saponin-cholesterol complex formation, increased  loss of bile through fecal excretion due to saponin-bile complexes, thus increasing conversion of cholesterol to bile by the liver.
  • Fenugreek seeds contain antioxidants glutathione and beta-carotene. This antioxidant property prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, this in-turn stop’s inflammation of arteries, and so no plaque formation.
  • In addition, fenugreek reduces the LDL level in the blood, which in turn reduces the risk to heart diseases.


The effect of consumption of germinated fenugreek seed powder at two different levels, i.e., 12.5 g and 18.0 g for a period of one month, on the blood lipid profiles of twenty hypercholesterolemic adults of both sexes in the age range of 50–65 years was studied. The findings revealed that consumption of the seed at both the levels resulted in a hypocholesterolemic effect. Between the two levels, higher levels of consumption, i.e., 18.0 g of the germinated seed resulted in a significant reduction in total cholesterol and LDL levels. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 1999, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 359-365; P.Sowmya, et al.

METHOD OF CONSUMPTION: The best way to consume fenugreek seeds – soak it in water overnight, drink the water & chew the seeds.

SIDE EFFECTS: Generally fenugreek is regarded as safe when consumed in moderate amounts. However nausea is one of the common side effect, gastro intestinal discomfort is also reported in some individuals.


Functional Food Sunflower Seeds. How Sunflower Seeds will help in lowering your Cholesterol?

Functional Food Sunflower Seeds. How Sunflower Seeds will help in lowering your Cholesterol?
Functional Food Sunflower Seeds. How Sunflower Seeds will help in lowering your Cholesterol?

The sunflower’s Latin scientific name, Helianthus annuus, reflects its solar appearance since helios is the Greek word for sun, and anthos is the Greek word for flower. The sunflower produces grayish-green or black seeds encased in tear-dropped shaped gray or black shells. Since these seeds have a very high oil content, they are one of the main sources used to produce polyunsaturated oil. Shelled sunflower seeds have a mild nutty taste and firm, but tender texture. They are one of the first plants to ever be cultivated in the United States. They have been used for more than 5,000 years by the Native Americans.

What is the role of Sunflower Seeds in CVD?

Sunflower seeds contains a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that play a role in prevention of cardiovascular diseases:

  • A rich source of vitamin E.
  • Contains good amount of phytosterols .
  • Vitamin E travels throughout the body neutralizing free radicals that would otherwise damage fat-containing structures and molecules, such as cell membranes and cholesterol.
  • Vitamin E prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol. Only after it has been oxidized cholesterol is able to adhere to blood vessel walls and initiate the process of atherosclerosis, which can lead to blocked arteries, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts, are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol.
  • In a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers published the amounts of phytosterols present in nuts and seeds commonly eaten in the United States. Sesame seeds had the highest total phytosterol content (400-413 mg per 100 grams), and English walnuts and Brazil nuts the lowest (113 mg/100grams and 95 mg/100 grams). (100 grams is equivalent to 3.5 ounces.) Of the nuts and seeds typically consumed as snack foods, sunflower seeds and pistachios were richest in phytosterols (270-289 mg/100 g), followed by pumpkin seeds (265 mg/100 g).

What are the method of consumption: Sunflower seeds are mostly consumed as snack food which are dried, roasted & dehulled. Seeds may be used as garnishes or as an ingredient in various recipes.

Functional Food QUINOA. How it Quinoa helps in diabetes & CVD?

functional food quinoa in diabetes and CVD
How Quinoa helps in diabetes & CVD?

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) (pronounced: Kin-Wah) is a small round shaped seed which comes in a range of colors from yellow to red. It is  a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, a grain like crop grown primarily for its seeds. It is a staple food of people living in andean regions of South America.

Types of Quinoa:.There are many varieties of quinoa, but the white, black, and red are the most common (read popular) ones. All the varieties contain bitterness causing saponins but these are removed by processing the grains.

  • White quinoa is the most common variety found in the stores, and generally, white quinoa is just called quinoa.
  • Red quinoa holds its shape after cooking a bit better than white quinoa, and is therefore more suitable for salads or other recipes where a distinct grain is especially desirable.
  • Black quinoa keeps its striking black color when cooked and is sweeter than the white quinoa.


  • Quinoa is loaded with essential nutrients. The protein it supplies is a complete protein, which means that it contains a full profile of all nine essential amino acids. Therefore, a popular food among vegans.
  • It is gluten- free.
  • In addition to protein, quinoa is high in fiber.
  •  Quinoa also contains minerals such as manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.
  • Quinoa contains significant amounts of tocopherols (vitamin E) and riboflavin (vitamin B2). Some consider it an oil crop, because of its high omega-6 content.
  • The grain contains compounds like polyphenols, phytosterols, and flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol.
  • Hence, quinoa is a food with proteins of high biological value, carbohydrates of low glycemic index, phytosteroids, & omega- 3 & omega- 6 fatty acids which brings benefits to the human health.


  • Helps Reduce Cholesterol-related Diseases – A study on lab animals revealed that quinoa seeds significantly decreased the level of total cholesterol in comparison to control group.
  • Improves Cardiovascular Health – Studies have shown that deficiency in magnesium increases the angiotensin II that is responsible for increasing blood pressure. Therefore, the magnesium-rich quinoa prevents high blood pressure and related conditions. Also, quinoa is rich in quercetin that is beneficial in atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), circulatory disorders, and heart disease.
  • Diabetes – Quercetin, present in quinoa, is also beneficial in diabetes. Reports on quinoa’s effect on diabetes are, however, contradictory. Research has revealed that quinoa has no alpha-amylase inhibitory activity that is necessary to control diabetes. Also, quinoa is a good carbohydrate source for individuals with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, though it is said that all whole grains are helpful.
  • Since there are not many studies showing the benefits of quinoa in diabetes & CVD, quinoa must be just considered as one of the whole grain cereals.

The study and research article on how Quinoa helps in Diabetes?

One of the study indicated that quinoa had beneficial effects on biochemical parameters & showed reduction in levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides & LDL cholesterol. The study concluded that , the use of quinoa in diet can be considered beneficial in prevention & treatment of risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases.

Functional Food Couscous.How Couscous helps in diabetes and CVD?
Functional Food Couscous.How Couscous helps in diabetes and CVD?
  • It is made from durum wheat (hard wheat).
  • It consists of small balls of durum wheat or semolina flour.
  • It is the staple food of North Africa
  • It is commonly used in cuisines in the same way that rice or pasta is used.
  • The mineral & vitamins include selenium, thiamine, niacin, folic acid, and manganese.

Role of coucous in diabetes and CVD

  • Couscous is rich in selenium which is an antioxidant. Selenium helps in scavenging free radicals & preventing lipid peroxidation. In turn preventing atherosclerosis.
  • The high fiber content of couscous helps in controlling blood glucose levels by releasing the glucose slowly & also by improving insulin sensitivity.
  • However the data available is not enough & further studies are required to show the health benefits of couscous.
functional food chia seeds
Functional Food Chia Seeds. How it helps in Diabetes & CVD?

Salvia hispanica L. a biannually cultivated plant, is categorized under the mint family (Labiatae), super division of Spermatophyta, and kingdom of Plantae . Prominently grown for its seeds, Salvia hispanica also produces white or purple flowers. The seed contains from 25% to 40% oil with 60% of it comprising (omega) ω-3 alphalinolenic acid and 20% of (omega) ω-6 linoleic acid (Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology ). Both essential fatty acids are required by the human body for good health, and they cannot be artificially synthesized.

Locally known for its medicinal uses, Salvia hispanica L. acquired the common name chia from the indigenous South American people of the pre-Columbian and Aztec eras. Chia seed color varies from black, grey, and black spotted to white, and the shape is oval with size ranging from 1 to 2mm.

Chia seed is composed of protein (15–25%), fats (30– 33%), carbohydrates (26–41%), high dietary fiber (18–30%), ash (4-5%), minerals, vitamins, and dry matter (90–93%). It also contains a high amount of antioxidants. Another key feature of chia seed is that it does not contain gluten . chia seed also contains phenolic compounds like Myricetin (flavonols and phenolic acids), Quercetin (flavonols and phenolic acids), Kaempferol (flavonols and phenolic acids) and Caffeic acid (flavonols and phenolic acids).

A comparative study using flaxseed, rapeseed, and chia seed as chicken feed had been conducted. Eggs from hens fed with chia had the highest ω-3 ALA content as compared to hens fed with flaxseed or rapeseed (British Poultry Science, vol. 52, no. 6,pp. 750–760, 2011).

Chia seed feeding was tested in pigs and rabbits, which resulted in an increase of PUFA in meat fats as well as aroma and flavor

Role of Chia Seeds in CVD :

Chia seed contains omega-3, which itself have a several benefits in human health. It`s benefits are:

  • Lowering Triglycerides and cholesterol levels, which in turn results in low blood pressure and heart-related diseases.
  • Anti-inflammatory activity.
  • Cardioprotective and Hepatoprotective activities by redistributing lipid away from visceral fat and liver.
  • Antidiabetic action
  • Protection against arthritis, autoimmune disease, and cancer.Essential fatty acid also have a properties like inflammatory, hypertensive, and thrombotic activities. Eicosanoid produced from LA has been associated with CVD and cancer. It works inversely with ALA; thus a balanced ratio of ALA to LA is important in maintaining good health.
  • It contains Myricetin (flavonols and phenolic acids), Quercetin (flavonols and phenolic acids), Kaempferol (flavonols and phenolic acids) and Caffeic acid (flavonols and phenolic acids), these compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antithrombotic activities.Hence because of all these properties chia seed is a good choice of healthy oil to maintain a balanced serum lipid profile.

The studies and research articles on how Chia  seeds helps in CVD?

In a 7 weeks trial study , 10 postmenopausal women were given about 25 g chia seed/day.
Researchers found that Polyunsaturated fatty acid content particularly ALA, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) was elevated after supplementation with milled chia. ( F. Jin, D. C. Nieman,W. Sha et al., “Supplementation of milled chia seeds increases plasma ALA and EPA in postmenopausal women,” Plant Foods For Human Nutrition, vol. 67, pp. 105–110, 2010.)

In a 2 months Randomized trial, subjects were divided in to two group one with control diet (500 kcal for 2 weeks), 67 metabolic syndrome subjects (placebo 35; beverage 32), and another with Beverage of 235 kcal that contains soy protein, nopal, chia seed, and oat. Researchers found weight loss and reduction of triglyceride and blood glucose levels in those subjects.(G. C. Martha,R. T. Armando, A. A. Carlos et al., “A dietary pattern including Nopal, Chia seed, soy protein, and oat reduces serum triglycerides and glucose intolerance in patients with metabolic syndrome,” Journal of Nutrition, vol. 142, no.1, pp. 64–69, 2012)

Role of Chia seeds in Diabetes:

It contains soluble fiber, which give it a ability of gel forming ,Soluble fiber slows the digestion of CHO and their breakdown into sugar, keeping blood sugar level stable. This seeds gives the feeling of fullness, which keep appetite down Also create a bulk and improves elimination helps to keep hydrated .

The studies and research articles on how Chia  seeds helps in Diabetes?

In a 12 weeks study of health effects of chia seeds for diabetes, researchers at st.Micheal`s Hospitals in Toronto fed 21 patients about 37gms of either chia seeds and wheat bran. They found that eating chia seeds had reduced systolic blood pressure, c-reactive protein and all risk factors for heart disease.
From the university of Toronto, found adding chia seeds to the diet of the diabetic people for 3 months resulted in an important reduction(40%) of certain inflammation markers & a significant blood pressure reduction.
The university of Toronto, indicates when type 2 diabetic patients , ate up to 4 tsps of chia seeds in a day , it had major impact on blood pressure readings & another effects was an increase in EPA level, a beneficial n-3 fatty acid.

By Preeti Jain

About Preeti Jain

Academically Preeti is a graduate in food science and nutrition with specialization in dietetics. She is currently pursuing her post graduation in clinical nutrition and dietetics with a specialization in cardiac and diabetes nutrition. Along with this, Preeti is also a certified diabetes educator. She has worked as health manager, diabetes educator and weight loss counselor at cheenykum (project by exemplar healthcare pvt limited). Currently Preeti is working on the biggest Zumba Fitness Research Work - To Study The Effects Of Zumba Fitness and Dietary Modifications on Weight Loss and Other Health and Fitness Parameters. Apart from this, Preeti is also working as a Diabetic Educator at Shreya Diabetes Centre. Preeti’s vision is to help people stay healthy by following a healthy diet and active lifestyle along with educating people about lifestyle disease and ways to overcome it.

1 Comment

  1. wow! really informative.

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