7 Must-Eat Foods For Diabetes To Keep Your Blood Sugar In Check
- Poorly managed diabetes increases the risk of several life-threatening diseases and complications.
- A chronically unbalanced diet could be the underlying reason for your diabetes.
- A balanced diet for diabetes includes a mix of vegetables like avocado, nuts, fatty fish and low-sugar fruits like strawberries.
Before getting right to pressing questions like 'What is the best evening snack for diabetics?', 'What is the best breakfast for a diabetic to eat?' or 'What foods are high in protein for diabetics?', let us understand why it is essential to have a good diet and how to create a robust diet plan if you have diabetes.
Your body produces an unfavorable spike in blood glucose when you consume an excess of calories and fat. If blood glucose levels aren't controlled, high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) may occur, leading to long-term complications such as kidney, nerve, and heart damage, if left untreated.
Making smart food choices and keeping track of your eating habits will help you maintain healthy blood glucose level.
How to create a good diet plan for people with diabetes
The plate method is a simple and efficient strategy to support healthy blood sugar levels without tracking or measuring your meal.
To make a nutritionally balanced dinner, you must change the portions of specific food groups on your plate.
- Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies like leafy greens, squash, broccoli, or cauliflower to start.
- For vegetarians and vegans, your plates should contain proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, green peas, soy milk, oats, and nut butter.
- A good source of carbs, like whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, fruit, or dairy products, should make up the remaining quarter of the plate.
- According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, fruits and vegetables must take up at least half of your meal plate, similar to whole grains and fiber.
- Finally, drink a low-calorie beverage like water, herbal tea, sugar-free lemonade, or kombucha with your meal to stay hydrated.
Glycemic Index (GI)
The glycemic index can be a valuable tool for keeping blood sugar levels in check. It measures how much different foods raise blood sugar levels and classifies them as high, medium, or low based on their glycemic index.
If you follow this strategy, try to eat foods with a low or medium GI whenever possible, and avoid those with a high GI.
Here are some examples of foods with:
- Low GI: Broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, chickpeas, plain yogurt
- Medium GI: Bananas, sweet corn, raw pineapple, raisins, oat breakfast cereal
- High GI: Soda, burgers, mashed potatoes, French fries, sweetened cereals
Carb counting is a popular technique for controlling blood sugar levels by tracking your daily carbohydrate intake. It entails monitoring carbohydrate intake in the meals you eat.
The amount of carbohydrates you should consume in each meal and snack will vary depending on your age, size, and activity level.
As a result, a registered dietitian or doctor can assist you in developing a carb counting strategy tailored to your specific needs.
Whole grains and fiber
The body does not absorb all of the carbs found in whole grains. Carbs that are absorbed go through the body more slowly than refined carbohydrates. Because of this, whole grain carbohydrates are less likely to raise blood sugar levels. They make a person feel fuller for a longer time.
Whole grains are:
- Brown or wild rice
A study examined the risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in individuals who consumed more than 59.1 grams of whole grains daily.
It was discovered that these participants had a 34% lower risk of glucose intolerance or the inability to dispose of excess glucose from the body than those who consumed less than 30.6 grams of whole grains each day.
7 Must-have foods for all diabetics
1. Leafy greens
- Green leafy vegetables are highly nutritious and low in calories. They don't affect blood sugar levels significantly as they are deficient in digestible carbs or carbs absorbed by the body.
- Some examples include spinach, kale, and other leafy greens, which are also good sources of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. A study suggests that people with diabetes have lower vitamin C levels than healthy people and so, may have greater vitamin C requirements.
Increasing the dietary intake of these foods can help people with diabetes increase their vitamin C levels and reduce inflammation and cellular damage.
- Beans are inexpensive, wholesome, and extremely healthy. They are a type of legume that is high in B vitamins, fiber, and essential minerals (calcium, potassium, and magnesium).
- They also have a low glycemic index, which is crucial for diabetes management.10 Beans may also aid in the prevention of diabetes.
- In a study with over 3,000 people at high risk for cardiac disease, those who ate more beans had a lower risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes.
- Avocados contain less than one gram of sugar, fewer carbohydrates, high fiber content, and lots of healthy fats. Hence, you don't need to worry about avocados raising your blood sugar levels.
- Avocados are also known to improve the overall diet quality and significantly reduce body weight and body mass index (BMI). They make an ideal snack for people with diabetes, especially since obesity increases the chances of developing diabetes.
- In a recent study, avocados were shown to have some diabetes-preventing properties. A fat molecule named avocatin B (AvoB), found only in avocados, inhibits incomplete oxidation in skeletal muscle and the pancreas, reducing insulin resistance.
- Simply put, AvoB makes the body's cells respond to insulin better, thus controlling blood glucose levels. More research is needed to understand this mechanism, but till then, it may be a good practice to start adding avocados to your diet.
4. Greek yogurt
- A long-term study involving more than 100,000 participants showed that a daily serving of yogurt reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18%.
- Consuming yogurt also helps you lose weight if that's a personal goal. It also improves body composition in type 2 diabetics.
- Yogurt contains high levels of calcium, protein, and a special kind of fat named conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which helps you stay full for longer.
Fun fact: A single serving of Greek yogurt contains only 6 to 8 grams of carbs, which is lower than conventional yogurt. It is a food high in protein for diabetics, which may aid in weight loss by reducing appetite and thus decreasing excess calorie intake.
- Nuts are delicious and nutritious, contain fiber, and are low in carbs, although some have more than others.
- Regular consumption of nuts has been linked to reduced inflammation and lowered blood sugar levels, HbA1c (a useful biological marker for long-term blood sugar management), and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
- Nuts may also help people with diabetes improve their heart health. A study with more than 15,000 people with diabetes found that eating tree nuts — such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and hazelnuts — lowered heart disease and death risk. These tree nuts are, in fact, one of the healthiest nuts for diabetics.
- Another study found that including walnut oil in daily diet improved blood glucose levels.
- Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables on planet earth. Though many may not like it, but no one can ignore the benefits of consuming it.
- Half a cup of cooked broccoli has only 27 calories and 3 grams of digestible carbs, as well as essential nutrients such as vitamin C and magnesium.
- Broccoli may also help manage blood sugar levels. A study found that consuming broccoli sprouts reduced blood glucose in diabetics.
- Sulforaphane, a chemical in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli sprouts, aids in lowering blood glucose levels.
- Ever wonder why strawberries are red? This is due to the pigment anthocyanin (polyphenol), which has potent antioxidant properties.
- A study demonstrated that consuming polyphenols in the form of strawberries and cranberries for 6 weeks improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese adults who didn't have diabetes.
- This is particularly important for people with diabetes because low insulin sensitivity can shoot up when the blood sugar levels very high.
- A cup of strawberries has around 53.1 calories and 12.7 grams of carbs-three of which are fiber. This meal also contains more than 100% of the reference daily intake (RDI) for vitamin C, which has anti-inflammatory benefits for heart health.
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, your doctor will most likely refer you to a nutritionist to assist you in developing a healthy eating plan.
The plan with must-eat foods for diabetes will help in blood sugar (glucose) control, weight management, and the management of heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and blood fats.
In summary, you now know what risks entail when diabetes is not controlled properly. As per the famous quote, 'you are what you eat' holds very true for people with diabetes.
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