Following a healthy eating plan is essential to managing diabetes. “Diabetes is a complex disease in which people experience high blood sugar levels either due to a lack of insulin produced by the pancreas or due to insulin resistance,” says Bernstein Pankonin, MS, RD, LMNT, registered dietitian and owner of food blog Stirlist. “Foods that contain added sugar and high amounts of carbohydrates can cause glucose levels to rise.”
Eating a diabetes-friendly diet that provides a healthy and balanced source of carbohydrates can help keep people with diabetes nourished and satisfied.
“Eating a diabetes-friendly diet can help lower blood sugar and reduce your risk of chronic complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes,” says Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD, Spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition LLC. Here are 13 of the best foods that nutritionists say help with diabetes.
Food for diabetes
“Sweet potatoes not only contain vitamins and antioxidants, they also contain fiber,” says Pankonin. “Fiber can help prevent blood sugar spikes and also increase fullness, which is important if you have diabetes.”
“Beans of all kinds – black beans, kidney beans, cannellini, and garbanzo – are made from both vegetable protein and fiber, which promote gradual increases in blood sugar compared to increases and better appetite control,” says Beth Stark, RDN, LDN, a Registered Nutritionist and Nutrition and Culinary Communication Consultant based in Pennsylvania. “They’re also high in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, and magnesium. It’s also easy to incorporate more beans into meals! Add your favorite flavor to casseroles, salads, stir-fries, power bowls and even breakfast! Remember to choose beans with no added salt and drain and rinse them before using to reduce sodium levels by up to 41%!
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“Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, so they don’t affect blood sugar,” says Al Bochi. “They also provide many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and help you stay full.”
“Brussels sprouts are low in carbohydrates, but they are a good source of fiber,” says Pankonin. “Brussels sprouts also contain other nutrients and antioxidants, such as alpha lipoic acid, that could help improve insulin resistance.”
“When it comes to controlling blood sugar, high-fiber fruits are the best choice,” says Stark. “All kinds of berries – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries – are full of fiber as well as health-protecting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus they are all in season now! Enjoy pure berries, as part of a fruit skewer with cheddar cheese cubes or on whole grain toast with nut butter. “
Extra virgin olive oil
“Extra virgin olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels,” says Al Bochi. “It’s high in antioxidants, especially vitamin E, which helps reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease.”
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Amniotic fluid or sparkling water
“Staying hydrated is very important for diabetics,” says Pankonin. “Drinks like infused water or sparkling water can provide moisture and be a source of antioxidants with no added sugar.”
“Diabetes increases the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke. Heart-smart omega-3 fats from fish like trout, sardines and tuna play a role in lowering cholesterol and inflammation, resulting in an overall lower risk of life-threatening heart disease, “says Stark. “Make an effort to include at least 2 (4-ounce) servings per week in your diet to meet the recommendation. Not sure where to start? Just swap fresh, frozen or canned fish rich in omega-3s for your favorite dishes like tacos, pasta, stir-fries and even pizza! “
Al-Bochi adds, “Fish is also high in protein, which can help lower your blood sugar and keep you full.”
“Nuts like walnuts, pistachios and almonds contain healthy fats and proteins and have been shown to help lower blood sugar,” says Al Bochi. “They’re a great blood sugar-friendly snack.”
Stark adds, “Not only are nuts an abundant source of the blood sugar that vegetable protein and fiber control, they also provide hearty unsaturated fats. Choose lightly salted or unsalted varieties and keep the serving to around 1/4 to 1/3 cup when snacking. Nuts are also a delicious topper for salads, cereal bowls, oatmeal and Greek yogurt. “
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“Salmon is a fatty fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids,” says Pankonin. “Diabetics are at risk for other complications such as heart disease, so a diet high in heart-healthy fats is important for diabetics.”
“Blueberries are high-fiber fruits and rich in antioxidants,” says Al Bochi. “One cup of fresh blueberries contains 4 grams of fiber. They have been shown to help improve insulin sensitivity, which helps lower blood sugar. “
“Not only do peanuts contain protein and fiber that can contribute to fullness, but there is also evidence that peanuts can improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes,” says Pankonin.
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“Chickpeas are high in protein and fiber that help slow the rise in blood sugar when consumed with a balanced meal,” says Al Bochi. “Half a cup of chickpeas contains 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. They can easily be added to salads, sandwiches, stews or enjoyed as a snack as roasted chickpeas. “
Next, here are the best and worst edible oils for heart health.
- Amber Pankonin, MS, RD, LMNT, registered nutritionist and owner of the Stirlist food blog
- Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD, spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition LLC
- Beth Stark, RDN, LDN, a Registered Nutritionist and Nutrition and Culinary Communication Consultant based in Pennsylvania.