As a diabetic you need to be extra careful of what you consume and how it can affect your blood sugar levels. If it is packed with sugar and fizz you may want to rethink the choice because it can increase your risk of complications. Rooibos is a healthy alternative that can help control blood sugar levels.
Diabetics must limit sugary beverages because they can easily get more than a meal’s worth of sugar from one drink without even realizing it. This according to Prof Christo Muller, the chief specialist scientist at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
“Consuming too many sweetened drinks also results in weight-gain, which in turn increases the likelihood of diabetes. Zero- or low-calorie drinks are typically recommended for diabetics to keep blood sugar in check.
“This makes rooibos tea ideal since it’s calorie-free and its naturally sweet taste, means no sweeteners are necessary. In addition, rooibos contains active compounds that can help control blood glucose, while lowering inflammation,” he explains.
According to several studies by Harvard University, those who regularly drink sugary drinks have a 26% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. “A unique phenolic compound found only in the rooibos plant species, called aspalathin, may also help to improve blood glucose levels.”
In these studies, aspalathin improved insulin activity, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels, by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. These are both causal factors that underlie the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“Rooibos also protects the heart by suppressing vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up inside artery walls) that occurs as a result of high blood sugar levels,” he explains.
Cook with rooibos
Drinking tea and a good diet are important for keeping glucose levels stable. Those suffering from type 2 diabetes, which is primarily as a result of poor dietary lifestyle choices, can in addition to medication, benefit greatly from proper diet and exercise.
Heleen Meyer, popular cookbook author and healthy food consultant, says eating a diet rich in polyphenols (most abundant antioxidants found in food) will help the body to metabolise sugar better.
“These include brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish and drinking rooibos tea, that’s all packed with antioxidants.
“Aside from drinking the tea, there are many ways to incorporate rooibos into meals. Think of rooibos as an all-natural flavouring and cooking ingredient. It’s a wonderful cooking liquid as it’s tasty and full of goodness. Rooibos is the perfect substitute for shop-bought stock, which is often very high in salt, artificial flavourings or preservatives and even sugar.
“The flavour of rooibos goes well with so many other ingredients, ranging from tomatoes, ginger, chilli, garlic to herbs and spices, and can be used for a wide range of recipes. Add it as a liquid to soups, stews or even when oven-roasting chicken or veggies,” Meyer advises.
“Balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and a bit of olive oil, whisked into strong, cooled-down rooibos tea, is a delicious salad dressing and can be seasoned with fresh herbs of your choice.”
Meyer says the unique South African tea is also great for baking and making desserts. Milk or water in a baking recipe can often be replaced with rooibos tea, which will add flavour and a beautiful rich colour to whatever you’re making.
Try Meyer’s chicken and rooibos tray bake:
Chicken and rooibos bake
- 250 ml (1 cup) strong Rooibos tea
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
- 60 ml (¼ cup) lemon juice
- 60 ml (¼ cup) balsamic vinegar
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) finely grated lemon rind
- 10 ml (2 tsp) cumin seeds or 15 ml (1 tbsp) ground cumin
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) fresh thyme leaves
- 8-10 chicken portions, excess fat removed
- 2 onions, cut into wedges
- 300 g cauliflower, cut into florets
- 200 g baby tomatoes, whole
- 6 baby marrows, diagonally sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
- Extra fresh thyme sprigs for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
2. Rooibos marinade: Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Keep a third of the mixture aside to serve as a salad dressing.
3. Chicken: Place the chicken and veggies in a large bowl. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and veggies and toss well to coat all the ingredients. Season to taste.
4. Spoon the chicken and veggies, with the marinade, in a single layer into a large oven dish.
5. Roast for 40-45 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked, but still juicy.
6. Serve with extra fresh thyme sprigs and a simple green salad. Enjoy the salad with the remaining marinade as a healthy salad dressing.