Diabetes is a difficult condition to control. Regulating blood sugar has many aspects, but diet plays an important 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 solid diabetic eating plan, but not all foods are created equal and making the wrong choices makes controlling blood sugar more difficult than it needs to be.
Lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats are the best sources of the three most important macronutrients, but choosing foods that are also high in soluble fiber, low in calories, high in healthy fats, and packed with essential micronutrients like vitamins and minerals will support optimal nutrition health and make it easier to manage both weight and blood sugar over time. For optimal diabetes control, consider these six nutritious and delicious foods.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet for diabetics, but controlling calories while still maintaining a healthy intake is a struggle. 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, which not only support cardiovascular health but may also help reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy — a common complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness — but they are not on the favorite list for many.
Nuts, especially almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and pistachios are the perfect solution. They’re high in protein and fiber for a balanced snack, and they’re packed with beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats that help stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol levels. To control calories, limit them to one serving per day.
Snacking with diabetes can be difficult, but popcorn is an excellent source of whole grains, which have a low glycemic index due to their high fiber and protein content. An average three-cup serving contains about a hundred calories, nearly four grams of protein and fiber, and eight percent of the daily intake of magnesium.
To avoid eating too many unhealthy fat calories, stay away from theater popcorn and oil-heavy store brands. Air pop whole kernels at home with healthy fat like olive oil and add low-sodium, fat-free herb toppings.
Vegetables are a healthy mainstay in a diabetic diet, but too many starchy choices like corn and potatoes can thwart efforts to control blood sugar. Ounce for ounce, few foods pack the nutritional power of greens for so few calories. Spinach, kale, collards, and other deep green leafy vegetables contain less than twenty calories per cup and combine with lean protein for a balanced and filling meal. Since most diets for diabetics are calorie controlled, packing a lot of food into fewer calories makes it easier to meet micronutrient needs without overeating.
All whole grains contain fiber, which helps minimize blood sugar spikes, but oats contain a special type of fiber called beta-glucan. This soluble fiber, which causes oatmeal to swell in water, regulates blood sugar by slowing the breakdown of other carbohydrates in the same meal, releasing less into the bloodstream at the same time, and keeping glucose levels stable.
Stick to whole oats rather than the processed or quick-cooked variety, and pair them with proteins like milk or nuts for an easy-to-prepare, low-glycemic index meal.
Like whole grains, beans are a prime source of healthy fiber and protein, making them better than other carbohydrate sources for diabetics. One-third of a cup of black beans provides about 80 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber, and unlike meat, it contains no saturated fat.
Although beans contain significant starch, fiber, and protein, they mitigate their effects and place beans on a lower glycemic index than equivalent gram carbohydrates. Consume one serving of dried, low-sodium beans or canned beans daily. They are inexpensive and make a great addition to vegetable soups and salads.
Smoothies are a convenient way to boost your fiber and micronutrient intake. Start with a serving of fruit as a base, then add compatible low-calorie vegetables to lower the overall calorie content while adding a variety of vitamins and minerals.
When it comes to smoothies, it’s important to avoid adding sugar or emphasizing too many sugar-rich fruits like bananas. Aim for a variety of colors and lots of berries to get the highest amount of vitamin C and fiber with the fewest calories. For an on-the-go meal replacement, add a protein like milk or sugar-free peanut butter. Being diabetic doesn’t mean being stuck in the kitchen!
Proper nutrition will not cure diabetes, but as a manageable part of a regimen that includes physician recommendations for medications and lifestyle management, it can make a world of difference.