15 Healthy Foods For Diabetics

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Being a type 2 diabetic doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of dependence on medication. In fact, if you’ve only been diagnosed as being prediabetic, lifestyle modifications alone could help cut your risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes by as much as 58%.1 Besides that, a careful diet can go a long way in keeping your blood glucose levels in check. Needless to say, opt for fresh produce and stay off refined and processed food. Also try a low-fat vegan diet.  Research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes who switched to a low-fat vegan diet experienced an improvement in their glucose and lipid control. The latter is a promising sign since a leading cause of mortality among diabetics is cardiovascular disease.2 Eat a plant-based diet where you derive your proteins and fats from sources like nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and tofu. Cut out refined carbs and include a lot of high-fiber foods that have a low glycemic index.

Here’s a list of foods that diabetics can eat.

1. Apples

As we all know, juicy, red apples are not only delicious but also healthy. If you are diabetic, apple is one the best fruits you can eat. With a low glycemic index of 38, apples are slowly digested and absorbed by the body. And this means a reduction in the high levels of blood glucose and insulin. Apples are also high in soluble fiber, which controls blood sugar level and reduces cholesterol. Several studies observe that apple consumption is generally associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.3 4

2. Berries

A common myth surrounding diabetes is that sweet fruits increase the progression of the disease. While the fructose present in fruits doesn’t particularly affect your blood sugar levels, it’s the fruit juice you should be careful of. Whole fruits like berries – cranberry, blueberry, and raspberry – are, in fact, good for diabetics.5 6

Berries, especially blueberries, are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which might have a role to play in reducing insulin levels. Most studies observe that consumption of berries is associated with improved insulin resistance and a lower risk of diabetes. However, it’s important to note that the results are not consistent across studies and warrant further research.7

3. Avocado

Eat half an avocado every day to reduce your risk of diabetes.

Experts suggest that 25–25% of your daily calories should be met by fats, if you are diabetic. While saturated fats aren’t good for you, it’s important that you include healthy fats like monounsaturated foods like avocados in your diet. Avocados are also rich in potassium, a mineral that is essential for those with type 2 diabetes as it helps neutralize sodium levels. However, moderate your intake of avocados, as consuming excessive potassium can be as dangerous as consuming too little.8 9

4. Bitter Melon

Known as “karela” in India, this medicinal plant is used to treat diabetes mellitus in ayurveda. Bitter gourd or bitter melon has been found to lower blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Studies and trials have found the juice, dried powder, and fruit to all have moderate hypoglycemic effects. Bitter melon components are even believed to have structural similarities to insulin in animals.10

Bitter melon reduces blood glucose as effectively as standard diabetes drugs.

Both fresh and dried fruit extract powders have been found to reduce blood glucose in animal test subjects. The effectiveness of the aqueous extract powder of fresh unripe whole fruits has been comparable to a synthetic glucose-lowering drug – and without any apparent side effects.11

5. Beans

Beans are high-protein, low-fat foods that contain complex carbohydrates that keep you from putting on weight. With a low glycemic index, beans also lower high insulin and blood sugar levels and help manage diabetes. Dried beans also contain soluble fiber, which reduces cholesterol level and improves your overall heart health. Including lentils in the diet can also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in diabetics.12 13

6. Carrots

Beta-carotene, the pigment that gives carrots its delightful orange color is also responsible for its health benefits. Within your body, the pigment is converted into vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that can help in the management of type 2 diabetes, especially in individuals with a vitamin A deficiency.14

7. Non-Starchy Vegetables: Broccoli, Zucchini, And Spinach

Non-starchy vegetables are high in fiber and low in carbs. Including these vegetables in your diet will keep you from consuming too many calories, thus facilitating weight loss.15 And weight management is the key to treating type 2 diabetes.16

7. Whole Grains: Oats, Quinoa, And Whole Wheat Bread

Unlike refined grains, whole grains like oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread are good for those with diabetes. Whole grains improve insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar metabolism, and prevent blood sugar spikes. A study that surveyed 160,000 women revealed that those who received 3–4 servings of whole grains every day were 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the ones who didn’t.17

However, in people with certain genetic variations in the gene SLC30A4, while the pigment beta-carotene reduces the risk of diabetes, gamma tocopherol – a common form of vitamin E – present in whole grains is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. But a large-scale research is required to study how these genes affect a person’s risk of contracting a disease.18

8. Lean Fish: Flounder, Cod, And Sole

Lean fish are high in protein but low in fat. Proteinaceous foods facilitate weight loss and thus, manage type 2 diabetes. However, this is applicable only to lean fish and not fatty fish. Also, just eating fish won’t do the trick; along with consuming fish, you also need to follow a low-carb diet and exercise regularly.19 20

9. Unsweetened Soy

To control diabetes, eat unsweetened soy products, but avoid the sweetened ones.

Unsweetened soy products contain a group of phytoestrogens called isoflavones, which can alter insulin resistance and prevent the progression of type 2 diabetes. This especially holds true for postmenopausal women. However, sweetened soy products may actually increase the risk of diabetes.21 22

10. Walnuts

Walnuts and other tree nuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are known to improve insulin sensitivity and control type 2 diabetes. When consumed in moderation, they may also aid weight loss. Studies suggest that walnut consumption is inversely proportional to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.23 24

11. Indian Gooseberry Or Amla

This tart green berry is popular in the Indian subcontinent and is also a commonly used remedy in ayurveda. Indian gooseberry can improve your glucose metabolism due to its hypoglycemic properties.25 Its antidiabetic effects have been attributed to its free radical scavenging properties and antioxidant action.

Amla can treat various diabetes-related conditions affecting the heart, kidney, and nerves.

Amla may also help prevent hyperglycemia or reduce instances of the problem in diabetics. It has also been found to help lower diabetic nephropathy, neuropathy, protein wasting, and cardiac problems – all of which plague diabetics and are responsible for many medical complications they grapple with.26

12. Fenugreek Seeds

You can have soaked or sprouted fenugreek seeds or roast and powder them. You may even try fenugreek tea to lower insulin resistance.

Reduce insulin resistance and improve your glycemic control with the help of exotic spice/seed fenugreek. Having the extract for a couple of months alongside regular treatment improved glycemic control and lowered insulin resistance of test subjects with type 2 diabetes.27 Fenugreek seeds have many other benefits for your health.

13. Cinnamon

You can improve your insulin sensitivity and keep your blood sugar in check by adding a little cinnamon to your daily diet. It can not only help prevent insulin resistance but also ward off type 2 diabetes and keep you from developing metabolic syndrome.28 29

Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity and can lower fasting blood glucose by up to 29% in 40 days.

One study found that daily intake of 3 gm of cassia cinnamon on average brought down fasting glucose numbers by 10.3% in just 4 months. Other research has found that intake of anywhere from 1 to 6 gm of cassia cinnamon powder for as little as 40 days saw fasting serum glucose come down by 18 to 29%.30

14. Turmeric

Turmeric has been seen to reduce HbA1c and blood glucose levels. Keep adding it to all your cooked food.

Haldi or turmeric, a golden yellow spice used in Asian cooking, helps lower oxidative stress experienced by the body. Tests have shown the ability of curcumin, the active component of turmeric, to also lower blood sugar and levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) – another indicator of how much in control your diabetes really is over the last 3 months.31

15. Apple Cider Vinegar

Have apple cider vinegar mixed with water before meals to use up blood glucose efficiently.

Apple cider vinegar is especially useful to those who are prediabetic or trying to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you have been told you have insulin sensitivity, taking about 20 gm of apple cider vinegar dissolved into water before meals can improve your post-meal insulin sensitivity.32

Also Try A Low-Fat Vegan Diet

Going vegan and consuming low-fat food may not be something everyone’s willing to consider, but the results may be worth it. Research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes who switched to a low-fat vegan diet experienced an improvement in their glycemic control and lipid control. The latter is a promising sign since a leading cause of mortality among diabetics is cardiovascular disease.33

References   [ + ]

1. At a glance – Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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3, 8, 12, 20. Diabetes Diet. University of Maryland Medical Center.
4. Guo, Xiao-fei, Bo Yang, Jun Tang, Jia-Jing Jiang, and Duo Li. “Apple and pear consumption and type 2 diabetes mellitus risk: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.” Food & Function 8, no. 3 (2017): 927-934.
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18. Beta carotene may protect people with common genetic risk factor for type-2 diabetes, researchers find. Stanford Medicine News Center.
19. Rylander, Charlotta, Torkjel M. Sandanger, Dagrun Engeset, and Eiliv Lund. “Consumption of lean fish reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a prospective population based cohort study of Norwegian women.” PloS one 9, no. 2 (2014): e89845.
21. Mueller, Noel T., Andrew O. Odegaard, Myron D. Gross, Woon-Puay Koh, C. Yu Mimi, Jian-Min Yuan, and Mark A. Pereira. “Soy intake and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in Chinese Singaporeans.” European journal of nutrition 51, no. 8 (2012): 1033-1040.
22. Jayagopal, Vijay, Paula Albertazzi, Eric S. Kilpatrick, Elaine M. Howarth, Paul E. Jennings, David A. Hepburn, and Stephen L. Atkin. “Beneficial effects of soy phytoestrogen intake in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care 25, no. 10 (2002): 1709-1714.
23. Pan, An, Qi Sun, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, and Frank B. Hu. “Walnut consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women.” The Journal of nutrition 143, no. 4 (2013): 512-518.
24. Gadgil, Meghana D., Lawrence J. Appel, Edwina Yeung, Cheryl AM Anderson, Frank M. Sacks, and Edgar R. Miller. “The Effects of Carbohydrate, Unsaturated Fat, and Protein Intake on Measures of Insulin Sensitivity.” Diabetes Care 36, no. 5 (2013): 1132-1137.
25. Joseph, Baby, and D. Jini. “Insight into the hypoglycaemic effect of traditional Indian herbs used in the treatment of diabetes.” Res J Med Plant 5, no. 4 (2011): 352-376.
26. D’souza, Jason Jerome, Prema Pancy D’souza, Farhan Fazal, Ashish Kumar, Harshith P. Bhat, and Manjeshwar Shrinath Baliga. “Anti-diabetic effects of the Indian indigenous fruit Emblica officinalis Gaertn: active constituents and modes of action.” Food & function 5, no. 4 (2014): 635-644.
27. Gupta, A., R. Gupta, and B. Lal. “Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fenugreek) Seeds on Glycaemic Control and Insulin Resistance in Type 2 Diabetes.” J Assoc Physicians India 49 (2001): 1057-1061.
28. Qin, Bolin, Kiran S. Panickar, and Richard A. Anderson. “Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.” Journal of diabetes science and technology 4, no. 3 (2010): 685-693.
29. 4 Superfoods for People with Diabetes. University of Utah.
30. Dugoua, Jean-Jacques, Dugald Seely, Dan Perri, Kieran Cooley, Taryn Forelli, Edward Mills, and Gideon Koren. “From type 2 diabetes to antioxidant activity: a systematic review of the safety and efficacy of common and cassia cinnamon bark This article is one of a selection of papers published in this special issue (part 1 of 2) on the Safety and Efficacy of Natural Health Products.” Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology 85, no. 9 (2007): 837-847.
32. Johnston, Carol S., Cindy M. Kim, and Amanda J. Buller. “Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care 27, no. 1 (2004): 281-282.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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