50 foods for people with diabetes and why they’re good for you

A healthy diet is one way to manage blood sugars. Here's a list of 50 foods for blood sugar management and why they work.
A healthy diet is one way to manage blood sugars. Here's a list of 50 foods for blood sugar management and why they work.
A healthy diet is one way to manage blood sugars. Here's a list of 50 foods for blood sugar management and why they work.
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50 foods for people with diabetes and why they’re good for you

A healthy diet is one way to manage blood sugars. Here's a list of 50 foods for blood sugar management and why they work.

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Managing blood sugar levels is perhaps the most basic requirement for people with diabetes.

But as you may know, diabetes comes with a range of other health complications, such as increased risk of heart disease and nerve and kidney damage.

Therefore, it’s vitally important that people with diabetes watch what we eat.

Doing so can drastically reduce the chance of complications, not to mention the impact it can have on your overall health.

To help make things a bit easier for you, here are 50 of the best foods for people with diabetes. Of course, these should be integrated into a healthy and balanced diet and

Carbohydrates

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are one macronutrient found in foods and drinks. Sugars, starches and fiber are all considered carbohydrates. Many foods, ike fruits and veggies contain carbs.

Your body uses carbohydrates as a source of energy. For people with diabetes, carbohydrates can cause blood sugar spikes. We’re typically encouraged to

1. Quinoa

Quinoa is a trendy wholegrain that’s a great combination of carbs, fiber and protein. This means it helps you feel fuller for longer, and protein helps with carb uptake.

2. Whole wheat bread

Whole wheat bread is a source of complex carbohydrates, which help keep you fuller for longer. It’s also high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

3. Lentils

Lentils are an incredible food and consist mainly of resistant starch. This has very little impact on blood sugar and is instead broken down in your gut.

4. Flax seeds

Flax seeds contain loads of fiber and protein. They also contain lignans, which are beneficial to gut health. Sprinkle them on top of oatmeal or salad for an easy way to consume them.

5. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are rich in fiber and omega-3. They’re easy to fit into your diet, will help you feel fuller for longer, and will boost brain health.

6. Oats

Oats are an often-overlooked superfood. They lower cholesterol and contain insoluble fiber and beta-glucan. In fact, this can help to actively lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

7. Wild rice

Wild rice is a good swap for white rice because it’s higher in fiber, is a more complex carb, and is a rich source of zinc, iron, folate, and manganese.

8. Couscous

Couscous is another good source of protein and fiber mixed with carbs, and is virtually fat-free. It’s super simple to prepare and is fairly versatile too.

Protein

What are Proteins?

Proteins help you build muscle and are commonly found in animal products, though is also present in other sources, such as nuts and legumes.

Proteins on their own do not cause large spikes in blood glucose, which is why they are popular in a diabetes diet.

9. Peanut butter

Peanut butter is high in protein and “good” fats, which leave you feeling fuller for longer. Opt for a natural version that only contains peanuts. You can always add a sprinkle of salt on top too.

10. Beans

Beans could have their own dedicated article. They’re a great source of protein and fiber, and are really easy to use as a meat replacement in a lot of meals (bean chili for example).

11. Salmon

Salmon is rich in omega-3, which can lower the risk of heart disease. It’s a comparatively healthy protein that won’t raise blood sugar levels.

12. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt and generally contains less sugar. It’s easy to add to a smoothie or to oatmeal, or as a snack on its own.

13. Almonds

Almonds make a great snack or food topping, and contain high levels of magnesium. Among its many benefits, this is known to improve insulin sensitivity.

14. Tuna

Tuna is high in protein and fat, but it’s “good” fat. Eating alongside carbs can help slow down blood sugar changes.

15. Edamame

A single portion of edamame contains 10g of fiber! They’re an excellent source of plant protein, and, among many other benefits, contain choline. Choline reduces homocysteine levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease.

16. Eggs

Eggs are a no-brainer in any diet. They’re arguably one of the best sources of protein and contain loads of omega-3. Opt for free-range organic eggs where possible for a cleaner, healthier option.

17. Sardines

Like the other fish mentioned, sardines are an excellent source of protein and fatty acids. If buying tinned, choose a skinless option in olive oil.

18. Tofu

Tofu is a good source of protein for non-meat eaters. On its own it’s nothing much, but it easily absorbs flavor. You can buy it in different textures, making in incredibly versatile.

19. Chickpeas

Chickpeas have long been a vegetarian’s go-to for protein. They’re very high in fiber and low in carbs.

What’s more, the liquid in the tin can be used to make vegan meringue.

20. Chicken

Chicken is a lean and versatile source of animal protein. Around an ounce is enough for a portion, and you can obviously remove the skin if you wish.

21. Tempeh

Tempeh is fermented soy protein, much like tofu. However, tempeh tastes nutty and is a bit chewier, meaning it’s potentially not as versatile. It’s still a great source of protein, though.

22. Quark

Quark is basically a yogurt-like cheese. It’s low in fat, high in protein, and contains all the essential amino acids.

Fruits and Vegetables

How do fruits and veggies fit into a diabetes diet?

Fruits and vegetables are important for a diabetic diet. Both contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and hydration. All things people with diabetes need for a balanced diet.

23. Spinach

Spinach is a low-carb green that’s very high in iron. It also contains lutein, important for eye health, and potassium. What’s more, it cooks down to almost nothing so is super easy to hide in meals.

24. Berries

Berries are great sources of antioxidants. They’re relatively low in sugar, high in fiber, and contain polyphenols. These can lower the risk of heart disease, among other benefits.

25. Broccoli

Along with having plenty of fiber and protein, broccoli contains more vitamins and minerals than you’d realize. Broccoli is also linked to better heart health.

There are also many ways to prepare broccoli to make it taste delicious!

26. Avocado

Avocado is a source of “good” fat that can help to regulate blood sugar levels. It’s really easy to integrate into both sweet and savory recipes too.

27. Kale

A single portion of kale contains 60% of your daily fiber intake. Also, as a brassica, it’s naturally high in iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Kale has become a favorite around here and I have lots of great kale salad recipes like my Massaged Kale salad with goat cheese and pomegranates and Kale Caprese Salad

28. Garlic

Garlic is rich in powerful antioxidants and is known for its positive impact on blood health. What’s more, it’s a great way to add flavor to dishes if you’re reducing your salt and sugar intake.

29. Asparagus

Asparagus is rich in folate, linked to folic acid, which can help lower the risk of heart disease in diabetics.

30. Red onion

Red onions are a surprisingly beneficial food. They contain insoluble fiber, a hunger-controlling hormone, and sulfur compounds that can lower blood cholesterol.

31. Zucchini

Zucchini is a great alternative to spaghetti and noodles as it’s much lower in carbs than both options.

32. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is high in sulforaphane, which can inhibit glucose production. You can eat it as itself or use it as an alternative to rice.

33. Broccoli sprouts

Sprouted broccoli seeds contain the same nutrients as broccoli but in super concentrated amounts. They’re powerful antioxidants that are easy to add to salads.

34. Carrots

Carrots are a great snacking food if you want a crunch. They’re naturally high in vitamins C, D, E, and K, and the antioxidant beta-carotene.

35. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are also high in beta-carotene, and lycopene. You can obviously eat them raw or cooked and they’re an incredibly versatile fruit.

36. Sweet potato

Sweet potatoes have a lower GI rating than white potatoes, making them a good alternative. They also contain beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A.

37. Pumpkin

Pumpkin can be enjoyed sweet or savory and is an excellent source of dietary fiber.

38. Bok choy

Bok choy is in the brassica family and contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate, iron, calcium, and plenty of fiber. They’re also low GI and taste great.

39. Celery

Celery is another good choice for snacking. It’s almost calorie-free and provides a satisfying crunch when you need it.

40. Bell peppers

Bell peppers are great raw or cooked. They’re sweet but without the sugar content, and are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Spices, Fats, Condiments and Snacks

41. Olive oil

Cooking oil is a difficult one, but olive oil is a good choice. High in monounsaturated fats, it can help lower your levels of LDL cholesterol.

42. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is rich in polyphenols, and can help stabilize blood sugar and prevent insulin spikes. Adding it to oatmeal or smoothies is an easy way to ingest it.

43. Green tea

Green tea is hydrating and full of antioxidants. It increases metabolism and helps you to feel full for longer.

44. Hummus

Hummus is a must for snacking. It’s high in protein and can be flavored in any way you want. Plus, it’s super easy (and cheap) to make your own.

45. Dark chocolate

Even diabetics need dessert. Dark chocolate (with a cocoa content of 70% or more) is rich in antioxidants and can help overcome that sweet craving.

46. Walnuts

Walnuts are high in fiber and healthy fat, such as omega-3. They are higher in calories than other nuts, so enjoy in moderation.

47. Soy milk

Soy milk is a good dairy alternative that’s often fortified with vitamins. It’s lower in calories than cow milk, but you could also opt for almond or oat milk too.

48. Popcorn

Popcorn has a low calorie density and is high in fiber. A portion looks great but usually weights less than ¼ ounce, making it a good snacking option.

49. Canola oil

Canola oil is up there with the healthiest cooking oils. It helps to lower LDLs in your blood and contains, on average, only 7% saturated fat.

50. Shirataki noodles

Shirataki noodles are made from yam flour, making them lower in carbs and calories than traditional options. You can use them in place of normal noodles in a range of meals like pasta alla vodka, or ramen.

To sum it up

Hopefully this list of 50 of the best foods for diabetics will give you some inspiration for your next culinary venture.

Remember, it’s important to enjoy everything in balance and moderation. Also, pay attention to important antioxidants and minerals linked to heart health, as it can be easy to overlook these.

Recipes for better blood sugars

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Mila Clarke Buckley

Hi! I'm Mila.

I’m a millennial woman living with LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) after a type 2 diabetes misdiagnosis.  I love food, travel and my kitchen!

Hangry Woman is for anyone with diabetes – regardless of type.

I’m here to help you live your best life possible diabetes by showing you how to create simple, blood-sugar friendly and delicious meals

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