Managing blood glucose levels effectively can be challenging, but it’s essential to preventing serious long-term health problems. This is true whether you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, prediabetes, or if your pancreas is perfectly functional. Healthy eating can have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels, in both the short- and long-term. Here’s how to make the most of it.
The goal is to stay within your target range as recommended by your healthcare provider and avoid blood sugar spikes or crashes. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day helps regulate your energy and keeps the organs functioning properly. One way to achieve this is by slowing down the digestive process that turns carbohydrates into energy.
Yes, your blood sugar will naturally rise in response to the carbs you eat. But it’s important to keep in mind that not all carbs were created equal. Some have a higher glycemic index (GI) than others. Refined carbs are in the high GI category. Minimally processed carbs with high fiber content are in the low GI category. Eating more low GI carbs in place of higher GI carbs can help diabetics more easily control blood sugar levels. Pairing your carbs with foods that have plenty of protein and fiber can also help.
We’ve put together a list of nutrient-rich foods with low glycemic scores that won’t spike your blood sugar and will help you feel full.
In This ArticleLeafy Green Vegetables | Legumes | Olive Oil | Nuts | Oatmeal | Eggs | Chia Seeds | Plain Yogurt | Seafood | Garlic | Other Tips for Blood Sugar Control
Leafy Green Vegetables
This superfood group includes things like kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, chard, and salad greens. They have very low levels of carbohydrates so they won’t spike your blood sugar. Rich in antioxidants, studies have shown that eating these powerhouse foods may reduce your risk for cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The USDA recommends eating at least 2-3 servings of green leafy veggies per week to take advantage of these health benefits.
Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and black beans may contain starch, but they also have protein, magnesium, and a high level of soluble fiber. This means they are slower to digest than simple carbohydrates, providing a steady energy supply to your body as opposed to a quick rush. The high fiber content found in beans is associated with lower risk for obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Canned beans are affordable and convenient, but make sure to check the label for added sugars before you buy.
Olive oil has long been an essential part of a traditional Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, and low in red meat and refined carbohydrates. Eating this type of diet, including olive oil, may have unique benefits for diabetics. A 2015 study found that extra virgin olive oil helps lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol more than other types of fat.
Low in carbs but high in protein and healthy fats, nuts are a solid choice for diabetics looking for something to snack on. They help to regulate blood sugar and and help you feel fuller, which could aid in weight loss. There are multiple studies that link nuts with improved health benefits, including lower risk for type 2 diabetes, and slowed blood sugar response. Just be sure to eat nuts in moderation, since they are high in calories.
High in carbs but also rich in soluble fiber, oatmeal can be a good alternative to high sugar cereals for those with type 2 diabetes. But beware; the more processed the oats, the quicker they are to digest and increase your blood glucose levels. Stick with old-fashioned or steel cut oats (as opposed to instant oatmeal) and eat with a protein or healthy fat.
Speaking of proteins and healthy fats, eggs are packed with both, especially the yolks. Eggs are a wonderful addition to a healthy diabetes diet, having been linked with improved insulin sensitivity and reduced fasting blood sugar in adults with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. They also help you feel full, which makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. While early research suggested that the high cholesterol content in eggs may be bad for the heart, more recent studies have found that eating eggs regularly as part of a healthy diet did not increase heart disease risk factors.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants (noticing a trend?) and they also contain high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. These nutrient-packed seeds may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and diabetes complications. Much like the other high-fiber foods on this list, chia seeds help to slow digestion, reduce insulin resistance, and help prevent high blood sugar. It’s easy to sprinkle in chia seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, and baked goods for a nutritious boost.
Rich in protein and probiotics, plain, unsweetened yogurt is one of the best dairy products diabetics can eat. A 2017 study found that people who ate probiotic yogurt daily had lower blood glucose levels and blood pressure than people who did not. While you’ll find a vast array of yogurt at the grocery store nowadays, make sure to watch for added sugars, which are especially prevalent in low fat yogurt. Greek yogurt is an especially good choice since it contains fewer carbs and more protein than conventional yogurt.
Seafood is an excellent source of protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Like the other high-protein foods on this list, seafood helps you feel full and slows digestion. Fatty fish that is rich in omega 3’s may be particularly healthy for people with diabetes. It has been shown to help overweight adults improve their post-meal blood sugar levels more than people who consumed other types of fish. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna are just a few of the options to choose from.
Garlic is widely used as a way to punch up the flavor of many a recipe, but it also has health benefits for people with and without diabetes. The compounds found in garlic give it a strong antibacterial and antifungal property, and it has been associated with cancer prevention, reduced blood pressure and improved blood sugar management. Keep in mind that it can be quite potent and when eaten raw or in large quantities, causing side effects like heartburn and and nausea.
Exercise helps increase our body’s sensitivity to insulin, which lowers blood sugar. According to the American Diabetes Association, physical activity can result in reduced blood sugar for up to 24 hours after your workout. Keep track of your blood sugar levels to see how your body responds to exercise.
Water helps flush all kinds of toxins from our system, and it can also remove excess glucose. One study found that not drinking enough water put people at risk for high blood sugar levels.
Carrying extra weight is linked with insulin resistance and a higher risk for developing diabetes. If you’re reading this, you’re already exploring how to eat healthier, which is a major factor in weight loss, so good for you! Keep in mind that even losing a modest amount of weight can result in major gains for blood sugar management.
Get Enough Sleep
Having unstable blood sugar levels can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle and lead to insomnia and frequent urination during the night. This in turn can lead to fatigue the next day, which increases insulin resistance and makes it harder to stick to healthy diet and lose weight.
What is Glycemic Index? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dark Leafy Green Vegetables, USDA
Love Those Legumes, Harvard Health Publishing
Extra virgin olive oil use is associated with improved post-prandial blood glucose and LDL cholesterol in healthy subjects, Nutrition & Diabetes
Walnut Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women, Journal of Nutrition
Almonds and postprandial glycemia—a dose-response study, Metabolism Journal
Egg consumption may improve factors associated with glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in adults with pre- and type II diabetes, National Library of Medicine
Impact of Egg Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes and at Risk for Developing Diabetes: A Systematic Review of Randomized Nutritional Intervention Studies, National Library of Medicine
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds, WebMD
The Effect of Probiotic Yogurt on Blood Glucose and cardiovascular Biomarkers in Patients with Type II Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Evidence Based Care Journal
High intake of fatty fish, but not of lean fish, improved postprandial glucose regulation and increased the n-3 PUFA content in the leucocyte membrane in healthy overweight adults: a randomised trial, National Library of Medicine
Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects, National Library of Medicine
Low Water Intake and Risk for New-Onset Hyperglycemia, Diabetes Care Journals
Information provided on the Aeroflow Diabetes blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care. Aeroflow Diabetes recommends consulting a doctor if you are experiencing medical issues or concerns.