Whether you’re newly diagnosed, or have been living with diabetes for years, you’ve definitely heard that it’s important to watch what you eat. And while there are a lot of myths surrounding just what that means, the truth is, people with diabetes don’t have to follow a special “diabetic diet.” In reality, it’s recommended that people with diabetes try to stick to the same well-balanced diet everyone else is recommended.
But what all does that entail? Well, most medical professionals suggest opting for whole foods, such as vegetables (especially the non-starchy variety) and fruits, over processed foods, when possible. Further, they recommend choosing foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin D, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals. Heart-healthy foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are also encouraged, as people with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease.
In the list below, you’ll see some of our favorite diabetes-friendly foods. Take a look!
Not only are dates delicious, they’re also loaded with fiber! Just seven dates contain up to 4 grams of fiber. Further, they contain more antioxidants than oranges, grapes, peppers and broccoli, explains Prevention. Since dates still contain sugar, they should be consumed in moderation, but they make a terrific substitute when baking! Make sure you’re eating fresh dates over dried, as it’s easy to consume a lot more sugar than you mean to when eating dried fruit.
Berries contain antioxidants known as polyphenols and provide a good source of fiber– a cup of blueberries contains 3.5 grams of fiber while blackberries contain 7.6 grams. Not only that, berries are believed to help lower blood pressure, and promote good cholesterol. The next time you’re craving something sweet, consider reaching for a serving of berries. Try making it even more convenient for yourself by spending some time meal prepping at the beginning of the week. If you have a healthy sweet option that’s ready-to-eat, you’ll be a lot more inclined to reach for it, over packaged goodies.
Flaxseed is healthy for people with diabetes because it contains alpha-linolenic acid and fiber. Linolenic acid is converted by the body to omega-3s DHA and EPA. The seeds are helpful in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. It’s also an excellent source of protein.
What’s better? Some studies indicate they’re because of their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, they’re particularly great at protecting against heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
My personal way to enjoy flaxseeds is to sprinkle some on greek yogurt with breakfast or to add a serving to a smoothie! They’re yummy and offer great texture!
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 studies have shown that it can actually help improve the body’s immune system.
If you have the stomach for it, apparently the best way to get the most out of consuming this flavorful bulb is to crush two cloves, and eat the paste raw first thing in the morning.
Apples contain just 77 calories and 21 g carbs, but they’re loaded with fiber and vitamin C. And if you’re okay with the skin, don’t bother to peel them, as it’s loaded with antioxidants. Plus, they’re easy to toss in your bag or eat on the go. That, combined with their considerable fiber content, makes them a terrific snack that will keep you full between meals!
Additionally, a study done at Ohio State University showed that eating one apple a day for a period of four weeks lowered cholesterol levels by 40 percent. It was found that apples have a specific type of antioxidant that lowers LDLs, or bad cholesterol, explains Diabetic Living.
Broccoli contains vitamin C and crucially aids in making vitamin A in the body because of the high antioxidant beta-carotene. Being a cruciferous vegetable, like kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage, broccoli promotes overall longevity and cardiovascular health, and some studies depict that it could help reduce the risk of cancer. Moreover, broccoli is high in fiber, which makes it great for people interested in weight control.
Broccoli also sulforaphanes, which research has shown help prevent, and some cases in reverse, cell damage associated with diabetes.
Oats are considered to be a diabetes “power food.” Not only is it low on the glycemic index, half a cup of instant oats contains 4 grams of fiber, and recent research indicates that oats lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and improves insulin resistance. Plus, soluble fiber oats help slow the rate at which the body breaks down and absorbs carbohydrates, leading to stable blood sugar levels. Oats are also a terrific source of long-term energy, they promote heart health, and they’re great for regulating digestion. Just make sure you’re not eating the packaged kind with added fruits and flavoring. Not only are they significantly more processed, they’re also packed with hidden sugars.
Try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon, some nuts, and fruit to your oatmeal for a yummy breakfast that will keep you full until lunch!
For a fruit that’s 92% water, it’s surprisingly loaded with essential vitamins and minerals! Watermelon is a great source of lycopene antioxidants, which studies show help in protecting the body against cell damage that leads to heart disease. With people with diabetes being at increased risk of developing heart disease, this is no small benefit.
It’s also packed with vitamins A, C,B-6, magnesium, potassium, calcium, fiber, and iron. Plus, because watermelon is comprised of so much water, it helps you stay hydrated and full longer, which is great for weight control!
As with all fruit, it’s important to consume in moderation, and be aware of the amount of carbs in sugar in your portion size. Consider cutting up some melon and putting them into tupperware containers that indicate individual portion sizes. Just remember, cut melon lasts about 3 days in the refrigerator.
Because kale is a leafy vegetable, it’s considered a diabetes super food, and if you’re pre-diabetic, or simply have a family history of type 2 diabetes, it’s great because it’s associated with reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, according to some studies, people who ate more green leafy vegetables were less likely to suffer from diabetes by 14 percent, says Diabetic Living.
It’s also packed with vitamins A and K, and glucosinolates, which are believed to contribute to the neutralization of cancer-causing substances. Further, it’s low in calories, and high in fiber and potassium!
While there are a variety of ways you can eat kale, the healthiest options are either consuming it raw or steamed, as other methods might cause it to lose some of its vitamins and minerals, and increase the calorie count.
Barley is one of those grains we’ve all heard of, but many of us haven’t eaten, or don’t consume regularly. This healthy grain contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that lowers LDL and total cholesterol in the body. A review showed that consuming 3 grams of barley in a day can lower cholesterol rates by 8 percent, says Prevention. Additionally, barley contains a fair amount of calcium, promotes weight loss, and research suggests it helps stave off heart disease!
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.