Diet for diabetes
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthful proteins can have significant benefits for people with diabetes.
For people who have diabetes, the key to a beneficial diet, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), is as follows:
- Include fruits and vegetables.
- Eat lean protein.
- Choose foods with less added sugar.
- Avoid trans fats.
Below is a list of some fruits, vegetables, and foods with less added sugar.
1. Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They also have minimal impact on blood sugar levels.
Green leafy vegetables include:
- collard greens
- bok choy
Whole grains contain high levels of fiber and more nutrients than refined white grains.
Whole wheat and whole grains are lower on the glycemic index (GI) scale than white breads and rice. This means that they have less of an impact on blood sugar.
Good examples of whole grains to include in the diet are:
- brown rice
- whole-grain bread
- whole-grain pasta
People can swap white bread or white pasta for whole-grain options.
3. Fatty fish
Fatty fish is a healthful addition to any diet. Fatty fish contains important omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Certain fish are a rich source of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are:
- albacore tuna
People can eat seaweed, such as kelp and spirulina, as plant-based alternative sources of these fatty acids.
Beans are an excellent food option for people with diabetes. They are source of plant-based protein, and they can satisfy the appetite while helping people reduce their carbohydrate intake.
There is a wide range of beans for people to choose from, including:
- kidney beans
- pinto beans
- black beans
- navy beans
- adzuki beans
These beans also contain important nutrients, including iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Nuts are another excellent addition to the diet. Like fish, nuts contain healthful fatty acids that help keep the heart healthy.
People can add a handful of walnuts to their breakfast or to a mixed salad.
Research has shown that citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, have antidiabetic effects.
Eating citrus fruits is a great way to get vitamins and minerals from fruit without the carbohydrates.
Citrus fruits are also a great source of:
- vitamin C
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries all contain high levels of antioxidants and fiber. They also contain important other vitamins and minerals, including:
- vitamin C
- vitamin K
People can add fresh berries to their breakfast, eat a handful as a snack, or use frozen berries in a smoothie.
8. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes have a lower GI than white potatoes. This makes them a great alternative for people with diabetes, as they release sugar more slowly and do not raise blood sugar as much.
Sweet potatoes are also a great source of:
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
People can enjoy sweet potatoes in a range of ways, including baked, boiled, roasted, or mashed. For a balanced meal, eat them with a source of lean protein and green leafy vegetables or a salad.
9. Probiotic yogurt
Probiotics are the helpful bacteria that live in the human gut and improve digestion and overall health.
Some research from 2011 suggested that eating probiotic yogurt could improve cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. This could help lower the risk of heart disease.
People can choose a natural yogurt, such as Greek yogurt, with no added sugar. A probiotic yogurt will contain live and active cultures called Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.
People can add berries and nuts to yogurt for a healthful breakfast or dessert.
10. Chia seeds
People often call chia seeds a superfood due to their high antioxidant and omega-3 content. They are also a good source of plant-based protein and fiber.
People can sprinkle chia seeds over breakfast or salads, use them in baking, or add water to make a dessert.
Foods to limit
One way to manage diabetes with diet is to balance high- and low-GI foods. High-GI foods increase blood sugar more than low-GI foods.
When choosing high-GI foods, limit the portions and pair these foods with protein or healthful fat to reduce the impact on blood sugar and feel full for longer.
Foods high on the GI scale include:
- white bread
- puffed rice
- white rice
- white pasta
- white potatoes