Which Foods Best Help Manage Diabetes?

Diabetes is a difficult condition to control. There are many aspects to regulating blood sugar, but diet plays a significant role and without the right foods, diabetes can quickly become unmanageable.

A balanced daily intake of carbohydrates, protein and fat is the cornerstone of a sound diabetic meal plan, but not all foods are created equal and making the wrong choices makes managing blood glucose harder than it has to be.

Lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats are the best sources of the three main macronutrients, but selecting foods that are also high in soluble fiber, low in calories, brimming with healthy fats and packed with essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals supports optimal health and make it easier to keep both weight and blood glucose in check over time. For optimal control of diabetes, consider these six nutritious and delicious food choices.

1. Nuts

Fats are an important part of healthy eating for diabetics, but it’s a struggle to control calories and still get a healthy intake. All lean meats are excellent sources of protein, but they contain saturated fat — the kind that can clog arteries. Salmon and other fatty fish add valuable Omega-3 fatty acids that not only support cardiovascular health, but may help decrease the risk of Diabetic Retinopathy — a common complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness — but they’re not on the favorites list for many.

Nuts, especially, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans and pistachios are the perfect solution. They’re loaded with protein and fiber, so they make a well-balanced snack, and they’re full of beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats that help stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol levels. To control calories, limit them to one serving per day.

2. Popcorn

Snacking with diabetes can be tough, but popcorn is an excellent source of whole grains that’s low on the glycemic index because of its high fiber and protein content. An average three-cup serving contains about one hundred calories, nearly four grams of both protein and fiber and eight percent of the daily allowance of magnesium.

To avoid too many unhealthy fat calories, stay away from theater popcorn and oil-heavy commercial brands. Air pop whole kernels at home with healthy fat like olive oil and add low-sodium, fat-free herbal toppings.

3. Greens

Vegetables are healthy mainstays in a diabetic diet, but too many starchy choices like corn and potatoes can derail glycemic control efforts. Ounce for ounce, few foods pack the nutritional power of greens for as few calories. Spinach, kale, collards, and other deep green, leafy vegetables contain less than twenty calories per cup and when combined with lean protein, make a meal that’s both well-balanced and satisfying. Since most diabetic diets are calorie controlled, packing lots of nutrition in fewer calories makes it easier to meet micronutrient needs without overeating.

4. Oatmeal

All whole grains contain fiber that helps minimize blood sugar spikes, but oats have a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan. This soluble fiber, the kind that causes oatmeal to swell in water, regulates blood sugar by slowing the breakdown of other carbohydrates in the same meal, releasing fewer into the bloodstream at the same time, keeping glucose levels steady.

Stick with whole oats instead of the processed or quick-cooking type and combine it with protein like milk or nuts for an easy-to-prepare, low-glycemic meal.

5. Beans

Like whole grains, beans are premium source of healthy fiber and protein that makes them better for diabetics than other sources of carbohydrates. One-third of a cup of black beans provides about 80 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, five grams of protein and five grams of fiber and unlike meat, contains no saturated fat.

Although beans have significant starch, the fiber and protein and mitigate its effects and put beans lower on the glycemic index than carbohydrates with equivalent grams. Have a serving of dry beans or low-sodium canned beans daily. They’re inexpensive and make great additions to vegetable-packed soups and salads.

6. Smoothies

Smoothies are a convenient way to ramp up intake of fiber and micronutrients. Start with a serving of fruit as the base, and then incorporate compatible, low-calorie vegetables to decrease the total calorie content while adding a variety of vitamins and minerals.

With smoothies, it’s important to avoid added sugar or emphasize too many sugar-heavy fruits like bananas. Aim for a variety of colors and go heavy on berries to get the highest amount of vitamin C and fiber for the fewest calories. For an on-the-go replacement meal, add a protein like milk or sugar-free peanut butter. Being diabetic doesn’t mean being stuck in the kitchen!

Eating right won’t cure diabetes, but as a controllable part of a regimen that includes doctor’s recommendations for medications and lifestyle management, it can make a big difference.

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