People with diabetes are constantly bombarded with foods they should avoid. So much of our diets seem to be based around exclusion, rather than inclusion, and sometimes it can feel like we’re required to deprive ourselves of all the foods we love the most.
All of that emphasis on what we can’t have, can often lead us to obsess over those foods. When we do this it usually makes us a lot more likely to break our good habits and overindulge in the things we know are going to send our blood sugar levels through the roof. And if there’s one thing we’ve heard a lot: it’s all about moderation.
So, what if instead of talking about all of the foods we can’t have, we reverse it? What if we spend some time taking a look at some of the delicious foods we can incorporate into our diets without significantly raising our blood sugar levels? Some of the foods on the list below can stand alone as delicious snacks, and others are yummy ways to spice up a healthy meal. Most even boast some added health benefits!
Just remember: every person’s body is different and may react differently to certain foods. If you have diabetes, exercise caution when trying a new food. Keep a close eye on your blood glucose levels until you know how each of these foods will affect you.
Check it out, and let us know what you think in the comments below!
Not only are onions widely available and relatively inexpensive, they’re flavor is an excellent addition to a variety of meals. These low-cal, low-carb vegetables are full of antioxidants, fiber, manganese, folate, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Recent studies show that they are likely beneficial in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, and others have shown they could help reduce risk of certain cancers.
14. Fish, Poultry, and Meats
In addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals, fish, poultry, and meats are all considered “protein foods.” Protein is considered a building block for nearly every part of the body, and a deficiency can cause fatigue, slow metabolism, moodiness, and fluctuations in blood sugar levels. But moderation and portion control are important, as these sources of protein also contain fat. It is currently recommended that people with diabetes follow a diet that allows for 10-35% of their daily caloric intake to be made up of protein. It’s also important to try to fill those calories with healthy choices. Tuna, sardines, mackerel, salmon, and trout are all great options as they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids. When selecting poultry, it’s best to opt for skinless and limit sources that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Meats should be lean cuts, and fatty varieties like bacon and hot dogs should be limited or avoided.
To get the most out of these foods, don’t forget to consider the preparation. The healthiest ways to cook include baking, grilling, steaming, broiling, poaching or roasting. Make sure to take into account the sauces you’re using. Watch out for those that are high in sugar and/or sodium.
Chia, pumpkin, flax, sunflower… all of these pack a pretty substantial amount of fiber, allowing you to stay fuller longer and also have some pretty amazing health benefits! Chia seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can offer some much-sought after good cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are high in iron and unsaturated fats, which are good for the heart! Some research suggests that flax seeds can actually lower blood sugar levels after meals, and sunflower seeds are rich in copper, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E. Try adding chia or flax seed to your yogurt, or topping off your salad with some sunflower seeds for some extra crunch! Just remember to pay attention to portion sizes.
12. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is already a popular breakfast food and snack as it’s a quick and easy option that can be eaten on-the-go. You’re probably aware of the probiotics in yogurt that help with digestion, but did you know it’s also loaded with protein, magnesium, calcium, and potassium and can also lower your risk of heart disease? The lactic-acid is even good for your skin! Just make sure you opt for the plain, low-fat varieties, as others are often hiding a lot of sugar!
11. Leafy Greens
We all know we should eat our veggies, but seriously. Eating plenty of green veggies is one of the best things you can do for your health! Leafy greens, like lettuce, collards, kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, spinach, asparagus, and chard are low in fat and full of vitamins (A, B, C and K), calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber, and protein.
While this can be a little trickier than other items on this list, as you have to be extra careful with portion control, fruit contains a lot of essential vitamins, minerals, and plenty of fiber, which is great for any diet. There are, however, fruits that are better than others. Berries, for instance, are full of antioxidants and also low on the glycemic index. Tart cherries have similar health benefits, and are also good at combatting inflammation. Try peaches for potassium, apricots for fiber, pears for vitamin K, oranges for vitamin C, and, of course, an apple a day to keep the doctor away!
9. Olive Oil
Not only does olive oil add delicious flavor to your meals, it is also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are considered to be “healthy fats.” Research has also been mounting that olive oil helps reduce blood-glucose levels, as well as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Garlic is low in calories and offers a whole lot of flavor to a savory dish. These delicious bulbs actually belong to the Allium (onion) family, and are rich in selenium, fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B6. Studies show it could actually help reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressure, as well as lower the risk of atherosclerosis. Garlic is also loaded with antioxidants and has shown to help improve the body’s immune system.
Avocados are low in carbohydrates, but high in potassium, fiber, and monounsaturated fats, which qualifies it as a healthy fat. Research shows that diets hight in these types of fats promote cardiovascular health, which is crucial for people with diabetes, as they are at increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Studies also suggest avocados can help improve insulin sensitivity and metabolism over time.
Eggs are low in carbohydrates and high in protein, making them ideal for a diabetic diet. They are also high in potassium for cardiovascular health, biotin, promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails, lutein for protection against macular degeneration, and choline, which improves liver function and brain health. Eggs are also a great source of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. However, they should be consumed in moderation, as it’s currently recommended that people with diabetes limit their daily cholesterol intake to 200 mg.
Nuts are another excellent example of a food high in healthy fats. They’re also high in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Because their high in calories and fat, portion control is important, but their high fiber content is helpful in making you feel full faster and longer. But which nuts are best? Well, cashews, almonds, and pistachios are lowest in calorie, while peanuts are best for your brain and walnuts are great for your heart. If you’re eating anything packaged, make sure to check out the nutrition label! A lot of nuts are heavily salted and candied nuts are high in sugar.
Vegetables are low in calories (making them ideal for weight management), high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and most are low on the glycemic index. The nutrients found in veggies are good for your skin, digestive system, and immune system, and according to the American Diabetes Association, the non-starchy variety typically pack about 5 grams of carbohydrates for 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables and 1 cup of raw. The best veggies for any diet are are fresh, frozen, or cooked, and while they’re still healthy from a can, you should look out for those high in sugar, fat, and sodium.
Herbs are a great way to season your food without adding a lot of calories and fat to your meal! In addition to being high in vitamins and minerals, studies have shown some even have medicinal properties. For instance, basil is thought to be good for immunity, peppermint helpful for relieving nausea, parsley for protection against free radicals and cholesterol control, thyme for disease prevention, and sage beneficial to memory and cognition.
We’ve all seen “miracle cures” for diabetes that rely on this yummy spice. And while those ridiculous claims should be tossed aside, studies do show that cinnamon can improve glucose control. Chromium, which cinnamon is full of, is said to reduce the body’s resistance to insulin, and the antioxidants it possesses can help reduce inflammation.
Coconut is a great low-carb source of fiber. It is also said to be beneficial in improving brain health, cholesterol levels, and the body’s ability to burn fat. While recent studies suggest the saturated fats are “mostly harmless,” it is important to account for these in your meal plan, and consume in moderation if you’re struggling to lose or maintain weight.
As mentioned early, it’s important to remember that moderation is key. A diabetic diet doesn’t have to look any different than the diet that’s recommended to everyone: a healthy balance of veggies, fruit, lean protein, and whole grains. We should all shoot for a diet that is low in calories and saturated fat, and high in fiber, and it’s a good idea to try to maintain consistent meal times.
Of course, there are other important elements of a diabetes management plan, including exercise and medication. Just remember, that if you slip up and make a mistake, do what you can to correct it, and try to move on and do better next time! Guilt only holds you back!
L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.