10 best foods for diabetes: What to eat and avoid

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What are the best foods for people with diabetes?

A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthful proteins can have significant benefits for people with diabetes.

Balancing certain foods can help maintain health, improve overall well-being, and prevent future complications.

A healthcare professional, such as a doctor or dietitian, can work with people who have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes to find the most beneficial food choices that work for them.

This article looks at some of the best foods for people with diabetes to eat, as well as which foods to limit or balance in the diet.

Diet for diabetes

Living with diabetes does not have to mean feeling deprived. People can learn to balance meals and make healthful food choices while still including the foods they enjoy.

Both sugary and starchy carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels, but people can choose to include these foods in the right portions as part of a balanced meal plan.

For those with diabetes, it is important to monitor the total amount of carbohydrates in a meal. Carbohydrate needs will vary based on many factors, including a person’s activity levels and medications, such as insulin.

A dietitian can recommend specific carbohydrate guidelines to best meet a person’s needs. However, as a general rule, people should try to follow the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ MyPlate guidelines and include no more than a quarter plate of starchy carbs in one meal.

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.

Leafy greens, including spinach and kale, are a key plant-based source of potassium, vitamin A, and calcium. They also provide protein and fiber.

Some researchers say that eating green leafy vegetables is helpful for people with diabetes due to their high antioxidant content and starch-digesting enzymes.

Green leafy vegetables include:

  • spinach
  • collard greens
  • kale
  • cabbage
  • bok choy
  • broccoli

One small-scale study suggested that kale juice may help regulate blood sugar levels and improve blood pressure in people with subclinical hypertension. In the study, people drank 300 milliliters of kale juice per day for 6 weeks.

People can include green leafy vegetables in their diet in salads, side dishes, soups, and dinners. Combine them with a source of lean protein, such as chicken or tofu.

2. Whole grains

Whole grains contain high levels of fiber and more nutrients than refined white grains.

Eating a diet high in fiber is important for people with diabetes because fiber slows down the digestion process. A slower absorption of nutrients helps keep blood sugar levels stable.

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
  • buckwheat
  • quinoa
  • millet
  • bulgur
  • rye

People can swap white bread or white pasta for whole-grain options.

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