A few months ago, two friends of mine were both diagnosed with pre-diabetes. One of them also has diabetes as a family trait. She immediately wanted to change her diet, which was full of bread, cereals, and sweets, but the wrong types of foods were familiar to her. She didn’t know where to begin.
A healthy diabetic diet has a high focus on fiber content and protein while keeping simple sugars at a minimum. If, like my friend, you’re wondering, “What are the best foods to eat for diabetes?”, please read and enjoy the following list. I’ve pulled together 12 of the best foods to eat for diabetes, so you can have a clear picture of where to get started on your diabetic diet.
As a bonus, at the end of the list, you’ll find a section containing a list of spices that also have properties to help keep blood sugar levels under control.
12 Fabulous Foods For A Diabetic Diet
- Sweet Potatoes
- Chia Seeds
- Cruciferous Vegetables
- Beans And Lentils
Even though oats and oatmeal are carbohydrates, they’re good for diabetes because they have a relatively low glycemic index. Oats are a high-fiber food. Fiber helps keep weight down, which is important for diabetics, and it slows down the absorption of sugars during digestion, so blood sugar levels don’t spike.
The prebiotic fiber found in oats is also good for building gut health. This is also important for diabetics because a healthy gut is linked to increased insulin sensitivity and better balance of blood sugar levels.
Oats also contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help keep the entire body working properly. For example, a cup of cooked oatmeal provides 12% of the daily recommendation for protein, as well as 15% for magnesium, 23% for selenium, and 13% for thiamin.
Like oats, yogurt is good for helping build a healthy gut microbiome. Instead of providing prebiotic fiber, yogurt contains probiotic bacteria, including strains like Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. These good bacteria help support the immune system, fight inflammation, and aid in diabetic-related issues such as balanced blood sugar levels.
It’s important for diabetics to choose yogurts that aren’t packed with sugars, though. Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is a good choice because it provides protein without overloading the body with carbohydrates. A small container of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt provides around 34% of the daily recommendation for protein, with just 2% for carbohydrates. It’s also rich in several B vitamins and some minerals, such as calcium and selenium.
Avocados are good for overall body health for several reasons. They’re a high-fiber food, low in carbs, but rich in healthy fats. Avocados contain oleic acid, which is also the main component of olive oil. Oils that are rich in oleic acid help improve risk factors for heart disease, which is a major issue for people with diabetes.
Because they’re low in carbs and contain fiber, avocados help prevent blood sugar spikes. They could also help increase insulin sensitivity, and they are associated with weight loss.
One interesting thing about avocados is they’ve been linked to changes in enzymes that digest carbs, as well as positively impacting liver enzymes. At the same time, they help decrease oxidation and inflammation in the body, and they could help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Sweet potatoes are a fiber-rich type of food, too. Although sweet potatoes contain carbohydrates, the glycemic index is relatively low compared to some other starchy foods. One cup of baked sweet potato cubes provides 11% of the daily recommendation for fiber, which helps slow digestion, builds gut health, and prevents blood sugar spikes.
Because it’s an orange food, sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A. This is important for diabetics who struggle with the effects of diabetes on their eyes. A cup of sweet potatoes provides 161% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A.
Sweet potatoes are also surprisingly rich in vitamin C, which helps with blood sugar control, boosts the immune system, and provides antioxidant support. A cup of baked sweet potato cubes contains 18% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.
Spinach is a dark green, leafy vegetable that has several benefits for diabetics. Spinach is low in calories, so eating it won’t cause a blood sugar spike. It’s also full of vitamins and minerals that help improve and maintain health in diabetic people.
A cup of raw spinach provides 16% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A and 9% for vitamin C. It’s also rich in several B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Vitamin K is interesting because it plays a role in the way sugars are metabolized, which could help prevent blood sugar spikes. A cup of fresh spinach provides 121% of the daily recommendation for vitamin K.
Spinach is also a good source of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron.
Salmon is well-known for its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats have a number of benefits, including protecting against heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also fight inflammation throughout the body, and they could help with blood sugar levels, too.
Besides being rich in healthy fats, salmon provides a carb-less source of protein. This is important for diabetics because eating protein-rich meals decreases the risk of post-meal blood sugar spikes. A small salmon fillet provides 88% of the daily recommendation for protein and 116% for vitamin D, which is often deficient in people with diabetes.
Salmon is also rich in both vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These B vitamins help maintain a healthy blood sugar balance and could help prevent anemia.
Like salmon, chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation, help protect the heart, and support a healthy blood sugar balance. Chia seeds are also rich in fiber and minerals.
An ounce of chia seeds provides 35% of the daily recommendation for fiber. It also contains 15% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, and it’s rich in several minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. These tiny black seeds are a good source of protein, too.
Cruciferous vegetables include all the vegetables in the cabbage family, including cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but low in calories that could spike blood sugar levels. While each type of vegetable has a unique nutrient profile, as a group, they’re excellent for supplying the nutrients that promote overall body health.
Cruciferous vegetables are also known for containing a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, and it could help protect the body from cancer. This compound also improves fasting blood sugar levels and A1C, which indicates long-term management of blood sugar levels.
Celery is an excellent detox food, because it’s loaded with fiber, helps alkalize the body, and restores liver health. Eating it won’t spike blood sugar levels, and because of its fiber content, it could prevent blood sugar spikes from other foods eaten with it.
Celery also contains nutrients that help control blood sugar levels and improve health in diabetics. A cup of raw celery provides 2% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, 6% for vitamin B6, 9% for vitamin C, and 25% for vitamin K. Celery also provide minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Beans And Lentils
Beans and lentils are rich in both carbohydrates and protein. In spite of their natural sugar content, they’re great for diabetes because they are packed with fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. The rich protein content also helps prevent blood sugar spikes.
Each type of beans and lentils have their own nutrition profile, so they offer varying amounts of nutrients. For example, a cup of black beans provides 107% of the daily recommendation for fiber, 84% for protein, 43% for vitamin B6, 61% for potassium, and 84% for magnesium. A cup of lentils provides 75% of the daily recommendation for fiber, 94% for protein, 80% for vitamin B6, and 69% for iron.
Like beans and lentils, each type of berry has its own nutrient profile, with some key things in common. Berries are rich in vitamins and minerals. Dark berries, such as blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries, also contain pigments called anthocyanins, which act as strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Anthocyanins help protect against cancers and heart disease, and they could aid in weight loss, too. Anthocyanins also help protect the eyes, which can be another immense relief for people suffering from diabetes.
Berries are also rich in vitamin C. A cup of blueberries provides 16% of the daily recommendation of vitamin C, but strawberries top the list. A cup-sized serving of strawberries contains 99% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.
Blueberries are particularly interesting for people with diabetes. Some sources indicate that eating blueberries daily for eight weeks could help lower blood sugar levels. Blueberries also have the ability to turn off genes that cause people to store fat, and they’re associated with reduced fat in the abdomen and liver.
Kiwi is emerging as a very diabetic-friendly food. As a fruit, it contains natural sugars, but it also has plenty of fiber to help control blood sugar spikes and build gut health.
Kiwi is especially interesting because one of the natural sugars it contains, inositol, helps increase insulin sensitivity, and it could also balance hormone levels in women. Overall, it helps improve metabolic syndrome, which includes blood pressure, belly fat, and blood sugar levels.
One kiwi fruit contains 62% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C, 8% for fiber, and 25% for vitamin K. Kiwi is also a good source of several B vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Five Diabetes-Friendly Spices
Now that we’ve answered the question, “What are the best foods to eat for diabetes?”, let’s discuss some interesting herbs that have several health benefits. All of these herbs are also thought of as spices that make food just as delicious and distinctive as it is nutritious.
Spice #1: Cinnamon
Cinnamon is well-known for its ability to help people balance their blood sugar levels. It’s also been associated with weight loss and reduced inflammation.
Spice #2: Ginger
Ginger is a root herb that’s often used as a flavoring in Asian dishes. Like cinnamon, ginger is well-known for its ability to help people lose weight. It also helps with stomach problems, improves insulin sensitivity, and helps maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Spice #3: Turmeric
Turmeric is a yellow-orange root herb in the same family as ginger. It’s the spice that provides the taste and brilliant color of yellow curry. Turmeric helps with diabetes mainly because of a compound it contains, called curcumin, that acts as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s helpful for reducing the risk of heart disease and reducing metabolic syndrome.
Spice #4: Garlic
Garlic is also a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food, and it could also help prevent infections by fighting the microorganisms that cause them. When it comes to diabetes, it helps prevent heart disease, and some sources indicate it may help improve fasting blood sugar levels.
Spice #5: Cayenne
Cayenne and other peppers like it add a spicy heat to foods. This is mainly because of a compound called capsaicin, which has several health benefits. This compound boosts the immune system, increases the metabolic rate, and helps prevent diabetes as well as treat it. Cayenne is especially good at increasing circulation and lowering blood sugar levels.