This Is the One Spice You Should Add to Your Diet if You’re Insulin-Resistant

It will add a nice kick to your meals too.

If you’re prediabetic or have Type 2 diabetes, you’re likely already familiar with the role insulin plays in the body. It’s not something most people think about—until there’s a problem. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and allows glucose to enter the body’s cells and provide energy. When muscles, fat and liver don’t respond as they should to insulin, it’s called insulin resistance. This can elevate blood glucose levels and, over time, lead to prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.

Here’s the good news: It’s possible to reverse insulin resistance through diet and lifestyle habits. This can help prevent or even reverse Type 2 diabetes. What we eat is that powerful. While it’s important to take into account your entire diet, registered dietitians who work regularly with people who are prediabetic or diabetic say that there’s one spice in particular that can be especially beneficial to add to your diet: turmeric.

Related: This Diet Is the Most Studied for Reducing Insulin Resistance—and Even Diabetes 

How Turmeric Helps With Insulin Resistance

Turmeric has long been used medicinally, with its origins dating back nearly 4,000 years to Southeast Asia, where it was used in religious ceremonies. Turmeric is still an important spice in South Asian culture, used regularly in cuisine.

Several studies have shown that turmeric has several benefits in lowering blood sugar,” says Lori Zanini, RD, a registered dietitian and author of The Diabetes Cookbook and Meal Plan for the Newly Diagnosed. Zanini explains that turmeric help improves insulin resistance by "turning off" several blood sugar-rising pathways.

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook, explains that turmeric, and its main component curcumin, decrease inflammation and decrease glucose production in the liver, other ways the spice is particularly beneficial for someone who is insulin resistant.

Related: 13 Foods That Help With Diabetes, from Raspberries and Blueberries to Tuna and Brussels Sprouts

Harris-Pincus says that while there hasn’t been a specific amount of turmeric directly linked to improving insulin resistance, she says that studies have included doses from 250 milligrams to a few grams. “Studies have also shown that doses of up to 12 grams per day of curcumin are safe, tolerable and non-toxic,” she says. Zanini adds to this by saying that it’s generally recommended to consume between 500 to 2,000 milligrams of turmeric a day if you are consuming it specifically for its health benefits.

“It's important to know that turmeric is poorly absorbed and quickly excreted, so more research needs to be done to determine appropriate doses and potential methods of delivery to improve absorption and utilization,” Harris-Pincus says. Want to ensure your body absorbs as much as possible? Scientific studies show that pairing it with black pepper can help.

Related: How You Can Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally, According to Experts

Other Benefits of Regularly Consuming Turmeric and 10 Other Herbs To Try

Both dietitians say that turmeric is a beneficial spice for everyone to consume regularly, not just those who are insulin resistant. In addition to helping lower blood sugar, Harris-Pincus says that scientific research shows that consuming turmeric regularly can help with joint and muscle soreness. So if you are an athlete or have arthritis, it’s worth it to add more turmeric to your diet.

Additionally, scientific research shows that turmeric also supports immune health and brain health. Since the curcumin in turmeric is anti-inflammatory, consuming it regularly truly benefits the whole body and can help play a role in preventing chronic diseases and dementia.

While the vast majority of people can benefit from having more turmeric in their diets, Harris-Pincus says that turmeric supplements may not be safe for people on certain medications like blood thinners or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). “They may also contribute to gastrointestinal issues with long-term use, so speak to your doctor before adding turmeric capsules to your regimen if you take prescription medications or have medical conditions, especially gastrointestinal problems,” she says.

What if you aren’t into turmeric? Both dietitians say that there are other herbs that can help with insulin resistance. “Additional spices that have shown anti-diabetic properties include cinnamon, clove, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, licorice, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano and rosemary,” Harris-Pincus says. So if turmeric isn’t for you, integrating any of these herbs into your diet will have a similar effect.

Remember, insulin resistance can be reversed. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about how you can use food to support your health and help keep blood sugar levels from rising. Incorporating more herbs into your diet is just one way to do it. And, bonus, it will make your meals taste even more flavorful too.

Next up, familiarize yourself with the top health facts you should know so you can be your own health advocate.