The best foods for diabetics

The best foods for diabetics

For most of us, cutting back on sugar and simple carbohydrates is an effective way to speed up weight loss. But for those living with diabetes, it can be a matter of life and death. That’s why it’s important to know the best foods for diabetics (and which foods diabetics should consider).

According to the American Heart Association, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely than people without diabetes to die from heart disease or have a life-threatening stroke. And for those who do not adequately control their condition, the risks of health problems, from cardiovascular problems to nerve damage to kidney disease, are increasing exponentially.

Fortunately, many delicious foods are compatible with diabetes.

The best foods for diabetics are macronutrients that are low in carbohydrates, sugar, and fiber, which slow digestion, like healthy fats and proteins, and are high in flavor. These diabetes foods are recommended by registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators:

These superfoods will keep your blood sugar under control without skimping on flavor. Bonus: Most of these foods also contain essential vitamins and antioxidants for fighting inflammation and maintaining high energy levels.


This trendy, nutty whole grain is a good source of fiber and protein, making it a good choice for a diabetic diet, says Sarah Koszyk, RDN. “With the combination of fiber and protein found in quinoa, you’ll feel fuller and have better blood sugar control. Protein also helps in the absorption of carbohydrates so the body can process them more easily. I suggest. to enjoy quinoa in a salad or casserole dish. “

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Elizabeth Snyder, RD, LD, CDE says you can still eat carbohydrates if you have diabetes. You just have to pay attention to portion sizes: “The problem [with consuming carbohydrates as a diabetic] is eating more carbohydrates than we need because the body will choose to store any extra energy in the form of fat, ”he says. So instead of cutting out carbohydrates altogether, Snyder recommends switching to complex carbohydrates, like 100% whole wheat bread, which are richer in vitamins, minerals, and fiber that manage blood sugar than their simple, refined counterparts.


“Beans provide a remarkable combination of plant protein and soluble fiber that can help increase feelings of fullness and control blood sugar,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. . “Replacing meat with beans can play a useful role in heart health,” which is especially important for people with diabetes since heart disease is one of the most common complications of diabetes. Consider adding red beans to soups and black beans to your stews to increase your legume intake.

Greek yogurt

Looking for a high-protein way to fuel your morning? Greek yogurt is the answer. “It naturally contains both carbohydrates and protein, which is a perfect combination to help control hunger and blood sugar,” says Koszyk. “Plus, choosing Greek yogurt will give you more protein and fewer carbohydrates than regular yogurt, which can help you better control your blood sugar. Enjoy the yogurt in a smoothie or as a snack with berries and chia seeds.


Leafy vegetables, like spinach, are great non-starchy vegetable options because they contain lutein, an important nutrient for eye health. This nutrient is essential for people with diabetes because they have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. ”Newgent explains. . That’s not all spinach has. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that adults who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium per day had a 37% lower risk of heart disease compared to those who consumed only 1,793 milligrams. A single cup of cooked spinach contains 839 milligrams of potassium (which is equivalent to what’s in 2 medium bananas) or 20 percent of that target intake.


Do you want a treat? Think of berries as your go-to when you have a sweet tooth. “Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries have a low glycemic index and are considered superfoods for diabetics,” says Koszyk. The combination of low sugar and high fiber content contributes to its diabetes-friendly ability to gradually raise blood sugar. A bonus: According to two recent animal studies, a diet rich in polyphenols, a natural chemical found in abundance in berries, can reduce fat cell formation by up to 73%.

Ground flax seeds

Add a satisfying crunch to your favorite oatmeal, salads, soups, or smoothies using ground flax seeds, a potent superfood for people with diabetes. “Ground flaxseeds contain lignans (a plant-based chemical compound) and fiber that help maintain blood sugar and blood sugar control,” says Koszyk.

Raw almonds

“I often recommend an ounce of almonds as a snack,” Zanini tells us. “Almonds do not increase blood sugar levels and are an excellent source of magnesium, a nutrient that improves insulin sensitivity.”

Peanut Butter

“When living with diabetes, a hearty breakfast is an essential way to start the day,” says Erin Spitsbergen, MS, RDN, CDE, and author of Eat Like a Normal Person. “Adding a little fat for satiety can help,” he explains. She recommends combining your favorite carbohydrates for breakfast, whether it’s a slice of whole-grain toast, a bowl of chopped oatmeal, or high-fiber cereal, with 1 scoop. of natural peanut butter. “Peanut butter adds about five grams of fat, which will help slow digestion and keep you full a little longer.”


Despite what you may think, rejecting sugar or salt is not necessarily synonymous with bland dishes like cardboard. “A lot of times we think about what we can’t eat when we start breaking down the sugar. Instead, let’s focus on ways to add more flavor to the food you eat,” suggests Zanini. “There are so many great ways to add flavor without adding sugar or salt.” Add a few crushed garlic cloves to your marinara sauce or sauté the broccoli in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.


A series of reviews published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to a starchy meal like oatmeal overnight could help stabilize blood sugar levels, prevent spikes in insulin and lower fasting blood sugar levels. Experts believe the spice’s powerful antioxidants, known as polyphenols, are at work; These active compounds have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and, in turn, the body’s ability to store fat and control hunger signals.

Red onion

Trust us: crying is worth it. A Canadian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a type of gut-healthy insoluble fiber found in onions called oligofructose can increase levels of ghrelin, a hormone that controls hunger, and lower blood sugar levels. This allium can also help diabetics in another way. Thanks to their bioactive sulfur-containing compounds, onions can help lower cholesterol, prevent hardening of the arteries and maintain healthy blood pressure, according to a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.


Check the potency of the cauliflower. Roll it up and cauliflower rice is a great low-carb substitute for refined white rice, which can help keep your blood sugar levels more stable. In addition, cauliflower is rich in sulforaphane: a compound that, according to a Science Translational Medicine study, can inhibit the production of glucose in cells and improve glucose tolerance in rodents on a high-fat diet or in fructose.

Broccoli sprouts

You might not think much of broccoli sprouts when they appear in your salad or sandwich, but these little sprouts are a powerful anti-inflammatory. They’re full of sulforaphane, which may help protect against cancer according to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research. Rich in fiber, broccoli sprouts are “a powerful detoxifier and play a role in reducing cancer risk”, explains Nicole Anziani, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, and Fit4D Clinical Manager.


“Edamame offers a unique nutritional profile that could provide multiple benefits for people with diabetes,” Jenna Braddock, RDN, CSSD, Sports Dietitian and Blogger for MakeHealthyEasy. “Firstly, the fiber content in one cup is 10 grams, which could be very helpful in regulating spikes in blood sugar and also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Second, as a source of vegetable protein, can help reduce risk factors for disease when replacing meat in the diet. Finally, edamame is a good source of choline, an essential nutrient, and research shows 9 in 10 Americans are not getting enough Choline is important in helping to reduce levels of homocysteine ​​in the blood, a marker linked to an increased risk of heart disease and linked to vascular disease in diabetes.


“Oats contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which appears to have an anti-diabetic effect,” Newgent explains. Specifically, a review published in Vascular Health and Risk Management concluded that beta-glucans help lower blood sugar and blood pressure, adding: “I advise people with diabetes to stay away from added sugars while savoring. salty oatmeal instead of sweet. ”Try making oatmeal overnight with one of our overnight oatmeal recipes for weight loss.


Rather than looking for pretzels, fries, or another high-carb, calorie snack, carrots are a healthy, low-calorie alternative. They’re high in vitamins C, D, E, and K and the antioxidant beta-carotene, and make a good low-carb snack when dipped in hummus or guacamole.


Rather than choosing vegetables that are higher in starch which can raise blood sugar, Anziani likes tomatoes to add to a salad or as a snack for a tasty, low-calorie option. They are also a good source of the antioxidant lycopene, which can help fight inflammation.

Dark chocolate

Watching your blood sugar doesn’t mean you have to give up dessert altogether. Dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa may have health benefits without increasing blood sugar; just pay attention to the ingredients and the nutrition label. “You can consume an ounce or a square a day to strategically reduce the stress hormone cortisol and avoid milk chocolate cravings,” says Anziani. Cocoa is also rich in antioxidants, which can help fight inflammation.


Stock up on fresh pumpkin and pumpkin puree during the fall season. This super squash is high in beta carotene and adds a touch of seasonal flavor. “It can be a good addition to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, or baked as a starch component of dinner,” says Anziani.


Anziani says that although sweet potatoes are starchy, they are high in beta-carotene, which becomes the essential vitamin A. Sweet potatoes also have a lower glycemic index than regular white potatoes, which solidifies their place among the best foods for diabetics. . Treat sweet potatoes as the starch of your main meal and stick to the serving size, about ½ cup baked or roasted. Save the skin for more fiber.


Celery is an alkaline food that makes an easy snack; Anziani likes celery to be almost calorie-free. Cut celery to soak in hummus or fill it with almond or peanut butter.

Bitter melon

Bitter melons are not that common; after all, as the name suggests, they are very bitter, says Anziani. However, he adds that it has been shown to lower blood sugar. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that 2,000 milligrams of bitter melon per day lowered blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.


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