Eating a diabetes-friendly diet is extremely important to help keep your blood sugar levels under control. Diabetes that is not controlled or properly managed increases your risk of several serious health conditions, including heart disease, obesity and macular degeneration. However, eating foods that help you control your blood sugar, insulin and inflammation can dramatically reduce your risk of developing complications.
Here is a list of 16 foods that have substantial health benefits for people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, provided by Healthline. If you are diabetic, we urge you to follow these guidelines so you can be as healthy as possible, now and in the years to come.
Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel are great sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which have major benefits for heart health because they reduce inflammation and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Getting enough of these fats on a regular basis is especially important for diabetics, who have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are good sources of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. In one study, increasing vitamin C intake reduced inflammatory markers and fasting blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes. In addition, leafy greens are good sources of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts, which are common diabetes complications.
Several controlled studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. It can also improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in type 2 diabetics.
Eating eggs decreases inflammation, improves insulin sensitivity, increases your “good” HDL cholesterol levels and modifies the size and shape of your “bad” LDL cholesterol. In addition, eggs are one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect the eyes from disease.
Chia seeds are great for people with diabetes. They’re extremely high in fiber but low in digestible carbs. Additionally, chia seeds have been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammatory markers.
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can lower inflammation and blood sugar levels while reducing heart disease risk. It also supports kidney health in diabetics. This is important, as diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney disease.
Greek yogurt is a smart dairy choice for diabetics. It’s been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce heart disease risk, partly due to the probiotics it contains. It contains only 6–8 grams of carbs per serving, which is lower than conventional yogurt, and is higher in protein, which promotes weight loss by reducing appetite and decreasing calorie intake.
Nuts are a good food choice for diabetics because they’re low in digestible carbs and help reduce blood sugar, insulin and LDL levels. In one study, people with diabetes who included 30 grams of walnuts in their daily diet for one year lost weight, had improvements in body composition and experienced a significant reduction in insulin levels. This is particularly important because people with type 2 diabetes often have elevated levels of insulin, which are linked to obesity.
Broccoli is a low-calorie, low-carb food with high nutrient value. Studies in diabetics have found that broccoli may help lower insulin levels and protect cells from harmful free radicals produced during metabolism. It’s also a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help prevent eye diseases.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that has been shown to improve triglycerides and HDL, which are often at unhealthy levels in someone with type 2 diabetes. It also contains antioxidants called polyphenols which reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels, keep your LDL cholesterol from becoming damaged by oxidation and decrease blood pressure.
Flaxseeds reduce inflammation, lower heart disease risk, decrease blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. They are very high in viscous fiber, which improves gut health, insulin sensitivity and feelings of fullness.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower fasting blood sugar levels. It may also reduce blood sugar response by as much as 20% when consumed with meals containing carbs.
Strawberries are high in antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol and insulin levels. They also improve blood sugar and heart disease risk in type 2 diabetes.
Several studies have shown that garlic can reduce inflammation, blood sugar and LDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. It may also be effective at reducing blood pressure.
Many types of winter squash are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect against cataracts and macular degeneration. Both summer and winter squash contain beneficial antioxidants and may help lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
Shirataki noodles have been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and improve heart disease in people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In addition, the glucomannan in shirataki noodles can improve blood sugar control and cholesterol levels.
Read our blogs on the subject
We’ve written several informative blogs about diabetes which you can read here.
Helpful websites we recommend
- American Diabetes Association
- National Diabetes Education Program
- Children’s Diabetes Foundation
Want to know more about controlling your diabetes? Please come see us.
If you have diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, or are worried that you’re at risk of developing it and would like guidance about managing this condition, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health endocrinologists. We’ll examine you, evaluate your symptoms, possibly perform some tests, and together with you, decide on the best course of treatment and lifestyle changes that can improve your health and reduce your risk of complications. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Joan DiMartino-Nardi, MD, pediatric endocrinologist with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners