Making healthy diet choices is one of the keys to managing and preventing diabetes. The list below contains some of the best foods for diabetics to eat.
Asparagus is a non-starchy vegetable with only 5 grams of carb, 20 calories, and almost 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving. It's especially high in an antioxidant called glutathione, which plays a key role in easing the effects of aging and many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
One of the specific types of antioxidants found in blueberries are anthocyanins, which give them their blue color. Recent research links eating foods rich in anthocyanins with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that people who ate two or more servings of blueberries weekly reduced their risk of developing type 2 by 23 percent, even after adjusting for age, weight, and lifestyle factors. While these results are promising, it should be noted that further studies are needed to determine the causal relationship between eating blueberries and decreased chances of developing diabetes.
This nonstarchy vegetable makes just about every superfood list, and it's easy to see why. For starters, it has more vitamin C per 100 grams than an orange, plus it's high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A. This dark green vegetable's vitamin A power promotes healthy vision, teeth, bones, and skin. It is also rich in folate and fiber, all with minimal calories and carbs.
While cooked carrots have the rich texture of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, they are classified as nonstarchy veggies because they don't contain a lot of carbohydrates. A 1-cup serving of raw carrots has about 5 grams of carb, as does a 1/2-cup cooked serving. According to the American Diabetes Association, five baby carrots are considered a "free food" and do not need to be counted in a meal plan.
Like spinach, kale is one of those green leafy veggies associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. In one meta-analysis of several studies, people who ate the most green leafy vegetables were 14 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those consuming the least amounts.
In a 30-day test of 57 people with heart disease, those who ate one red grapefruit daily decreased their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 20 percent and triglycerides by 17 percent. This vitamin-C-rich fruit contains soluble fiber and also makes the American Diabetes Association's list of superfoods. Enjoy it plain and in salads and salsas.
Word of caution: grapefruit interacts with certain medications so ask your doctor if it’s okay to eat.
Little know fact: red peppers are actually just green peppers that have been ripened longer. They’re loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants. In fact, in the NIH's eating guide for seniors, red sweet peppers are listed as one of four veggies with the highest amounts of antioxidants; the others are spinach, carrots, and tomatoes.
Spinach really is a superfood. One serving of spinach has over 50% of the daily value for vitamin C and folate. It’s also really high in vitamin K, so you’ll want to avoid it if you’re on a medication like Warfarin.
The ADA (American Diabetes Association) did a study showing that people who ate more green leafy vegetables (including spinach in particular) reduced their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.
It’s recommended you eat fish at least 2x a week. It’s low in saturated fat, plus it’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (a healthy type of fat).
According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids lower the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death. Omega-3s also decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, lower blood pressure, and curb inflammation.
Lean Meats & Poultry
Lean proteins like poultry (without the skin), pork tenderloin, bison, and lean ground beef are low in saturated fat. Try to limit red meat to 2-3 times a week.
Yogurt is rich in calcium, vitamin B2, and protein. It also contains healthy probiotic bacteria that promote digestive health. Many people who have irritable bowel syndrome or are lactose intolerant can still eat yogurt.
A study published in 2012 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming cheese or yogurt might help prevent type 2 diabetes. In studying the diets of thousands of adults with and without diabetes, investigators found those who ate at least 55 grams (about 2 ounces) of yogurt a day were 12 percent less likely to develop type 2. The researchers theorized that probiotic bacteria in yogurt lowers cholesterol and produces certain vitamins that prevent diabetes. They thought the vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium found in yogurt could play a role, too.
Eggs are the most complete protein out there and will help keep you full without affecting your blood sugar. Protein not only slows digestion, it also slows glucose absorption. This is very helpful if you have diabetes.
Of course, you probably know that beans are high in fiber and a good source of protein, but now there are even more reasons to include them in a diabetic diet. In a 2012 study, researchers found that eating about a cup of legumes daily resulted in better blood sugar control (for both blood glucose and A1C) and lower blood pressure.
In a study reported in the Journal of Dietary Supplements in 2011, researchers found that when people with type 2 diabetes supplemented their diets with ground flaxseed, fasting blood glucose levels decreased ~20 percent, total cholesterol decreased more than 14 percent, triglycerides lowered 1.5 percent, and low-density LDL (bad) cholesterol declined ~22 percent.
Ground flaxseed is a great addition to smoothies, muffins, and other baked goods.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most nuts contain at least one or more of these heart-healthy substances: unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols, and L-arginine, which makes artery walls more flexible and less prone to blood clots.
There was also a 2012 study conducted in Canada showing that type 2 diabetics that ate 2oz of nuts daily improved their blood sugar control.
When it comes to nutrient density per dollar, you can’t beat the health benefits of old-fashioned oats. Oatmeal is high in soluble (digestible) fiber, which has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol. Avoid individually packed quick oats, which are typically loaded with sugar.
Quinoa is an ancient grain consumed as far back as the when Inca civilization was in full swing. It was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 1970s. While this "ancient grain" cooks up like rice, it's actually a nutrient-rich seed.
Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids (amino acids the body cannot make), making it a complete protein. That’s very rare for a plant-based food. Like other whole grain, high-fiber foods, quinoa can also help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Tea is rich in antioxidants that can reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s also been shown to help reduce cholesterol and stress levels. For diabetics, it’s probably best to drink unsweetened tea to avoid the sugar.