Type 2 Diabetes
Top 10 Diabetes Super Foods
Non-starchy vegetables—varieties that don’t cause a spike in blood sugar—include everything from artichokes and asparagus to broccoli and beets. This category of veggie goes a long way in satisfying your appetite and boosting your intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. These vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates, making them some of the few foods that people with diabetes can enjoy almost with abandon.
In fact, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) identifies most non-starchy vegetables as low glycemic index (GI) foods with a ranking of 55 or less. What’s more, research conducted by Newcastle University found that a low-calorie diet consisting of non-starchy vegetables and liquid diet drinks successfully reversed type 2 diabetes in patients in the trial.
Non-Fat Milk and Yogurt
Vitamin D is essential for good health. One of its roles is to keep bones healthy, yet many of us don’t get as much as we need. Non-fat dairy foods, including milk and yogurt, are fortified with Vitamin D and an easily accessible way to get your daily dose of this vital nutrient. These dairy products are smart choices for diabetics because they have low GI scores.
According to Harvard Medical School, skim milk has a GI score of 32, while reduced fat yogurt with fruit averages a GI score of 33. Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that dairy intake was associated with a 9 percent lower risk for type 2 diabetes. The study concluded that low-fat dairy in particular may lower the risk for type 2 diabetes in men.
Tomatoes are full of lycopene, a powerful substance that may reduce the risk of cancer (especially prostate cancer), heart disease, and macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes blurred vision. Enjoy them raw or prepared—tomatoes are nutritious in both their natural and cooked states.
The ADA lists tomatoes as one of the non-starchy fruits that a diabetes patient can eat more of to satisfy his or her appetite. Like other non-starchy fruits, tomatoes have a low GI ranking of 55 or less. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that 200 grams of raw tomato each day reduced blood pressure; researchers concluded tomato consumption might help reduce cardiovascular risk that’s associated with type 2 diabetes.
Blueberries and Other Berries
From vision-protecting vitamin C to filling fiber, blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses. They have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit or vegetable and may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Other good-for-you berries include strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Diabetics can reap special benefits from berries. Unlike some fruits like pineapple and raisins, berries are low GI fruits, according to the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that blueberry and blackberry wines may be effective in helping people with diabetes control their blood sugar.
Oranges and Other Citrus
The pulpiness of oranges and grapefruit provide a great source of fiber. Eat the whole fruit rather than drink the juice for the maximum benefit of fiber and vitamin C. According to Harvard Medical School, the average orange has a GI score of only 40. Other citrus fruits, such as the grapefruit, have even lower GI scores: a 120-gram grapefruit GI score is a rock-bottom 25.
However, be sure to choose the fruit and not the juice. A study published in Diabetes Care suggests that while eating fruit like oranges lowered diabetes risk in women, drinking fruit juice increased diabetes risk in the same population.
Wild Salmon and Other Fish with Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Wild salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which lower risk of heart disease if you eat it regularly. It’s also full of vitamin D and selenium for healthy hair, skin, nails, and bones. If you don’t prefer salmon, similarly nutrient-dense fish include herring, sardines, and mackerel.
The GI index only ranks foods containing carbohydrates, so you won’t find a GI number associated with fish. Diabetes UK notes that there is scientific evidence both for and against the use of fish oil supplements for diabetics. Consult with your doctor to determine which types of fish and/or supplements may be best for your condition.
Walnuts, Flax Seeds, and Other Nuts/Seeds
Walnuts and flax seeds contain magnesium, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts also contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that boosts heart health and lowers cholesterol. Walnuts also contain vitamin E, folic acid, zinc, and protein. Many other nuts provide healthy fats and can curb hunger, but these two are particularly powerful.
Nuts generally have very low GI scores. Cashews, for example, have a score of 27, and peanuts have a score of only 7, according to Harvard Medical School. Plus, according to Current Diabetes Reports, multiple studies have shown those who eat nuts regularly have less risk of developing diabetes.
Beans are among nature’s most nutritious foods. They’re high in fiber and protein, and they deliver essential minerals like magnesium and potassium. They’re also low on the GI—black beans, for example, have a GI score of only 30.
According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, beans may be a good way to control your glycemic levels in people with type 2 diabetes and reduce risk in coronary heart disease.
Kale and Other Leafy Green Vegetables
Kale contains chemicals called glucosinolates, which activate enzymes in the liver to neutralize cancer-causing substances. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse because it provides more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A and Vitamin K. Collard greens are another leafy green vegetable that packs a ton of nutrients into a small package.
Leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard are non-starchy veggies with low GI scores. The ADA lists kale among five “superfoods” for diabetics, because it’s been shown to lower high blood pressure.
Barley, Lentils, and Other Whole Grains
Whole grains are full of antioxidants and soluble and insoluble fiber, helping to metabolize fats and also keep the digestive track healthy. People who eat hulled barley regularly have lower blood cholesterol and the grain also keeps blood sugar levels stable. Lentils are another good option; they provide B vitamins, iron, complex carbohydrates, and protein.
The ADA lists 100 percent stone-ground whole wheat bread as a low GI food, with a ranking of 55 or less. However, other types of whole wheat bread may have medium GI rankings, with scores between 56 and 69. PLoS Medicine reports that eating whole grains can help decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes Super Foods
Not all good-for-you foods are created equal. Just compare the nutrients in, say, iceberg lettuce with those found in a sweet potato. A single serving of lettuce has less than 1 gram of fiber and nothing else to make it special. The same serving of potato has 7 grams of fiber, plus vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.
In addition to kale, the ADA lists pumpkin seeds, beets, sardines, and Brussels sprouts as “superfoods” for diabetics. Beets, for example, have been shown in studies to help heal nerve damage in diabetics, according to the ADA. For those with diabetes, it's important to know the foods that are both nutritious and have a low glycemic index, making them helpful in managing blood glucose levels.