9 of the Best Foods for Diabetics
According to research, a healthy diet including these foods can help manage blood sugar levels, or even reverse early-stage high blood-sugar problems.
By Diana Kelly
High in soluble fiber, oats are slower to digest than processed carbs. Eat them and you’ll release glucose into the bloodstream more slowly, which will prevent spikes in your blood-sugar levels. In a 2012 study from Sweden’s Karolinska University, researchers found that eating four servings of whole grains daily reduced the risk for developing prediabetes by 30 percent. Other research shows that if you eat whole grains you experience less inflammation, which could lower the odds of your developing insulin resistance, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
This sweet seasoning contains a compound called hydroxychalcone, which may stimulate insulin receptors on cells and, in turn, improve your body’s ability to absorb blood sugar. Researchers from the University of California-Davis recently reviewed eight different studies on cinnamon and reported that about half to one teaspoon a day lowered fasting blood sugar levels by an average of nine points among people with diabetes. Sprinkle the fragrant spice onto oatmeal or add a dash to a cup of coffee.
Eating more whole fruits, particularly grapes, blueberries, and apples, was significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a Harvard study published in the British Medical Journal in 2013. People who ate at least two servings each week of certain whole fruits reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 23 percent when compared to those who ate less than one serving per month. Eating the whole fruit seems to be key, though; researchers found that fruit juice drinkers faced as much as a 21 percent increased risk of developing diabetes.
This Mediterranean staple is rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which may improve insulin sensitivity. A Spanish study found that people who ate plenty of these good fats at breakfast had better insulin sensitivity throughout the day than those whose morning meal rich was in saturated fat or carbohydrates. MUFAs may also help zap belly fat, which can contribute to inflammation and increase type 2 diabetes risk.
These little legumes pack a powerful punch for diabetics, with a winning combination of high-quality carbohydrates, lean protein, and soluble fiber that helps stabilize the body's blood-sugar levels and keeps hunger in check. An Archives of Internal Medicine study found that type 2 diabetes patients who ate more legumes had improved blood sugar control and reduced their risk of heart disease.
Eggs provide a great dose of satiating protein (6 grams per whole egg), and are a healthy choice compared to many meats. For people with diabetes, nutrition experts do recommend limiting yolks to about three times a week, but you can have whites more often. One large egg white has about 16 calories and 4 grams of protein, notes nutritionist Joy Bauer, RD on her website, making them a “perfect food for blood sugar control, not to mention weight-loss or maintenance.”
The calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D in milk, cheese, and yogurt make your body more sensitive to insulin, according to the 2-Day Diabetes Diet. In fact, Harvard Medical School researchers have found that every daily dairy serving reduces risk for insulin resistance by more than 20 percent. French research has also found that people who consume two daily dairy servings are about 26 percent less likely to develop high blood-sugar problems.
All vegetables are crucial to a healthy diabetes diet, but leafy greens pack a particularly powerful punch. Rich in nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin K, kale and its cousins have been linked to better blood sugar control, according to the Reader’s Digest 2-Day Diabetes Diet book. Cruciferous veggies also contain a compound called sulforaphane, which has anti-inflammatory properties that help control blood sugar and protect blood vessels from cardiovascular damage.
Ample research shows people with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids—fish is one of the best sources—have less body-wide inflammation, which leads to and worsens diabetes and weight problems. Since fatty meats can raise your risk for high blood sugar, according to a 2008 study from the University of Minnesota, swap them out for leaner options, like fish or skinless poultry.