Living with diabetes can make mealtime challenging. According to the Centers for Disease Control, eating healthy food at home and at restaurants is important for managing diabetes, and using the “plate method” can help you know what and how much to eat.The plate method involves drawing an imaginary line down the middle of a nine-inch dinner plate and dividing one side in half. The largest section should be filled with non-starchy vegetables; one of the smaller sections should be populated with a grain or starchy food; and the other smaller section should have a protein, such as fish, chicken, tofu, or beans.
To help you fill your plate with the best foods for diabetes, here are 11 “superfoods” that have a low glycemic index, which means they are digested, absorbed, and metabolized slowly to prevent blood sugar spikes.
Beans are packed with vitamins and minerals, and they’re high in fiber. A half-cup of beans– including kidney, pinto, navy, and black beans–contains as much protein as an ounce of meat, but they have no saturated fat. According to a study published in JAMA, beans help control glycemic levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The GI score for beans is very low. Black beans have a score of 30, while chickpeas have a score of just 10. Dried, cooked beans are best, but you can use canned beans as long as you rinse them thoroughly to remove as much added salt as possible.
2. Dark green, leafy vegetables
Dark green, leafy things like spinach, kale, and collards are rife with vitamins A, C, E, and K, and they contain large amounts of iron, calcium, and potassium. They’re low in calories and carbs and are easy to sneak into soups, stews, and salads.
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and other berries are an incredible source of antioxidants and contain high levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, and fiber. They have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Eat berries straight from the container, or add them to salads, smoothies, or yogurt.
4. Whole grains
Whole grains are packed with soluble and insoluble fiber and help metabolize fats and improve digestion. Whole grains help keep your blood sugar levels stable, and they can lower your blood cholesterol. Look for grain products labeled “whole grains.”
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds provide the body with healthy fats and can help curb hunger. Walnuts and flaxseeds are particularly beneficial for people with diabetes. They contain large amounts of magnesium, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re packed with vitamin E, folic acid, and zinc, and they’re a good source of protein. Nuts and seeds generally have low GI scores–peanuts have a GI score of 7, and cashews clock in at 27.
6. Fatty fish
Fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of heart disease. Wild salmon is packed with vitamin D and selenium, and since they don’t contain carbs, they won’t increase blood sugar levels. Eating these healthy fish helps to slow the digestion of other foods eaten at the same time, helping to reduce spikes in blood sugar.
7. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit are excellent sources of fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin C. An orange has a GI score of around 40, while grapefruit’s GI score hovers around 25–one of the lowest GI scores for any fruit. But be sure to avoid fruit juices, which can cause a spike blood sugar.
8. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a starchy vegetable packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. A sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon can effectively satiate a craving for sweets, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Whether they’re cooked or raw, tomatoes are an incredible source of lycopene, which can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. A non-starchy fruit, tomatoes have a low GI score and can reduce blood pressure if you eat the equivalent of one and a half tomatoes each day. Add tomatoes to salads, soups, sandwiches, and stews; turn them into sauces; or eat them raw and whole to reduce cardiovascular risks associated with diabetes.
10. Low-fat dairy
The vitamin D found in low-fat and non-fat dairy products helps to keep the bones healthy, and dairy foods are essential for people with diabetes. Choose skim milk, which has a GI score of 32, or reduced-fat and reduced-sugar yogurt, which has a GI score of 33.
11. Non-starchy vegetables
Vegetables like artichokes, broccoli, beets, and asparagus are non-starchy vegetables that satisfy hunger, provide large amounts of vitamins and minerals, and contain high levels of fiber and phytochemicals. They’re low in carbs and calories, making them a diabetes superfood that you can eat to your heart’s content, according to the ADA.
Supplements Help Manage Diabetes
Nerveology’s Nerve Support Complex contains powerful antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals that can help those with diabetes reduce nerve pain associated with peripheral neuropathy.
Choosing diabetes-healthy foods and the right supplements can improve your overall health and quality of life while reducing damage and complications common with diabetes.