Managing blood sugar (blood glucose) is important for people living with diabetes. Some of the best foods for people with diabetes are high protein, low sugar options like avocados and fatty fish.

Figuring out the best foods to eat when you have diabetes doesn’t have to be tough. To keep things simple, your main goal should be managing your blood sugar levels. It’s also important to eat foods that help prevent diabetes complications like heart disease.

Your diet can have a major role in preventing and managing diabetes. Here are the 16 best foods for people living with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2.

1. Fatty fish

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.

Getting enough of these fats on a regular basis is especially important for people with diabetes, who have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

DHA and EPA protect the cells that line your blood vessels, reduce markers of inflammation, and may help improve the way your arteries function.

A 2021 research review indicates that people who eat fatty fish regularly have a lower risk of heart attack and overall cardiovascular disease.

Research also indicates that regular fish consumption can help manage blood pressure and body weight, which can help prevent diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Fish is also a great source of high quality protein, which helps you feel full and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.


Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation and other risk factors of heart disease and stroke. Plus, it’s a great source of protein, which is important for managing blood sugar.

2. Leafy greens

Leafy green vegetables are extremely nutritious and low in calories.

They’re also very low in digestible carbs, or carbs that the body absorbs, so they will not significantly affect blood sugar levels.

Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are good sources of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C.

Another 2021 review of research suggests people with diabetes can significantly benefit from vitamin C therapy.

Vitamin C acts as a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory qualities.

Increasing dietary intake of vitamin C-rich foods may help people with diabetes increase their serum vitamin C levels while reducing inflammation and cellular damage, according to a small 2017 study.


Leafy green vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C as well as antioxidants that protect your heart and eye health.

3. Avocados

Avocados have less than 1 gram of sugar, few carbohydrates, a high fiber content, and healthy fats, so you don’t have to worry about them raising your blood sugar levels.

Data provided via the 2019 Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) suggests that avocado consumption is also associated with significantly lower body weight and body mass index (BMI). The study involved participants consuming a specific amount of avocado and self-reporting their height and weight at scheduled intervals. Participants had to meet certain criteria to join the research cohort.

This makes avocados an ideal snack for people with diabetes, especially since obesity increases the chances of developing diabetes.

Avocados may have properties specific to preventing diabetes.

A 2019 study in mice indicated that avocatin B (AvoB), a fat molecule found only in avocados, inhibits incomplete oxidation in skeletal muscle and the pancreas, which reduces insulin resistance.

More research is needed in humans to establish the connection between avocados and diabetes prevention.


Avocados have less than 1 gram of sugar and are associated with improved overall diet quality. Avocados may also have properties specific to diabetes prevention.

4. Eggs

Regular egg consumption may reduce your heart disease risk in several ways.

Eggs may decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and modify the size and shape of your LDL (bad) cholesterol.

A 2020 study showed that eating 12 eggs a week over 4 weeks for breakfast helped lower blood pressure in adults with prediabetes.

A 2017 research review indicated that eating 6–12 eggs per week as part of a nutritious diet and health-promoting lifestyle did not increase heart disease risk factors in people with diabetes. Experts noted that research limitations prevented being able to provide definitive conclusions.


Eggs may improve risk factors for heart disease, promote blood sugar management, protect eye health, and keep you feeling full.

5. Chia seeds

Chia seeds may be a healthful food for people with diabetes.

They’re extremely high in fiber, yet low in digestible carbs.

In fact, 11 of the 12 grams (g) of carbs in a 28-g (1-ounce) serving of chia seeds are fiber, which does not raise blood sugar.

The viscous fiber in chia seeds can actually lower your blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which food moves through your gut and is absorbed.

A different 2017 study involving 77 adults with overweight or obesity and a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes showed that eating chia seeds supported weight loss and helped maintain good glycemic control.

Additionally, chia seeds have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and inflammatory markers.


Chia seeds contain high amounts of fiber, which may help you lose weight. They also help maintain blood glucose levels.

6. Beans

Beans are a type of legume rich in B vitamins, beneficial minerals (calcium, potassium, and magnesium), and fiber.

They also have a very low glycemic index (GI), which is important for managing diabetes.

In an older study involving more than 3,000 participants at high risk of cardiovascular disease, those who had a higher consumption of legumes had a reduced chance of developing type 2 diabetes.


Beans are cheap, nutritious, and have a low glycemic index (GI), making them a healthy option for people with diabetes.

7. Greek yogurt

An older long-term study involving health data from more than 100,000 participants found that a daily serving of yogurt was linked to an 18 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Research shows yogurt and other dairy foods may lead to weight loss and improved body composition in people with type 2 diabetes.

The high levels of calcium, protein, and a special type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in yogurt may help keep you feeling full for longer.

What’s more, Greek yogurt contains only 6–8 g of carbs per serving, which is lower than regular yogurt.

It’s also higher in protein, which may promote weight loss by reducing appetite and thus decreasing calorie intake.


Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, may promote healthy blood sugar levels, reduce risk factors for heart disease, and help with weight management.

8. Nuts

Research on a variety of different nuts has shown that regular consumption may reduce inflammation and help prevent weight gain.

Nuts may also help people with diabetes improve their heart health.

Research from 2019 involving more than 16,000 participants with type 2 diabetes found that eating tree nuts — such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios — lowered their risk of heart disease and death.

Research also indicates that nuts can improve blood glucose levels.

An older research review involving people with type 2 diabetes found that eating walnuts daily improved blood glucose levels.

This finding is important because people with type 2 diabetes often have elevated insulin levels, which are linked to obesity.


Nuts are a healthy addition to a balanced diet. They’re high in fiber and can help with heart health, blood glucose levels, and weight management.

9. Broccoli

Broccoli is a highly nutritious vegetable.

A half cup of cooked broccoli contains only 27 calories and 3 grams of digestible carbs, along with important nutrients like vitamin C and magnesium.

One 2024 study in mice found that consuming broccoli led to a reduction in blood glucose.

This reduction in blood glucose levels is likely due to sulforaphane. The body converts glucosinolates, which are found in broccoli, to sulforaphane and then uses it in metabolic processes.


Broccoli is a low calorie, low carb food with high nutrient value. It’s loaded with healthy plant compounds that may help protect against various diseases.

10. Extra-virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil contains oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that may improve glycemic management reduce fasting and post-meal triglyceride levels. It also has antioxidant properties.

This is important because people with diabetes tend to have trouble managing blood sugar levels and have high triglyceride levels.

Oleic acid may also stimulate the fullness hormone GLP-1.

In a review of 32 studies looking at different types of fat, olive oil was the only one shown to reduce heart disease risk.

Olive oil also contains antioxidants called polyphenols.

Polyphenols reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels, keep oxidation from damaging your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure.

Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined, so it retains antioxidants and other properties that make it so healthy.

Be sure to choose extra-virgin olive oil from a reputable source, since many olive oils are mixed with cheaper oils like corn and soy.


Extra-virgin olive oil contains healthy oleic acid. It has benefits for blood pressure and heart health.

11. Flaxseeds

Also known as common flax or linseeds, flaxseeds have a high content of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, and other unique plant compounds.

A portion of their insoluble fiber is made up of lignans, which may help decrease heart disease risk and improve blood sugar management.

A review looking at 25 randomized clinical trials found a significant association between whole flaxseed supplementation and a reduction in blood glucose.

Flaxseeds may also help lower blood pressure.

A 2016 study involving participants with prediabetes showed that a daily intake of flaxseed powder lowered blood pressure — but it did not improve glycemic management or insulin resistance.


Flaxseeds may help reduce inflammation, lower heart disease risk, decrease blood sugar levels, and improve insulin sensitivity.

12. Apple cider vinegar and vinegar

Apple cider vinegar and plain vinegar have many health benefits.

According to findings from a research review involving six studies with 317 people with type 2 diabetes, vinegar showed beneficial effects on fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) results.

Apple cider vinegar may have many other healthful properties, including helping improve blood sugar spikes and insulin sensitivity. However, more studies are needed to confirm its health benefits.

To incorporate apple cider vinegar into your eating plan, begin with 4 teaspoons (tsp) mixed in a glass of water each day before each meal. Note that you may want to put 1 tsp per glass of water so that the taste is not as strong. Increase to a maximum of 4 tablespoons per day.


Apple cider vinegar may help improve fasting blood sugar levels, but more research is needed to confirm its health benefits.

13. Strawberries

Strawberries are high in antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which give them their red color.

They also contain polyphenols, which are beneficial plant compounds with antioxidant properties.

A 2017 study showed that a 6-week consumption of polyphenols from strawberries and cranberries improved insulin sensitivity in adults with overweight and obesity who did not have diabetes.

This is important because low insulin sensitivity can cause blood sugar levels to become too high.


Strawberries are low sugar fruits that have strong anti-inflammatory properties and may help improve insulin resistance.

14. Garlic

For its tiny size and low calorie count, garlic is incredibly nutritious.

One clove (3 grams) of raw garlic, which is roughly 4 calories, contains:

  • Manganese: 2% of the daily value (DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 1% of the DV
  • Selenium: 1% of the DV
  • Fiber: 0.06 grams

An older review of research indicates that garlic contributes to improved blood glucose management and can help regulate cholesterol.


Garlic is highly nutritious and can help improve cholesterol and blood pressure in people with diabetes.

15. Squash

Squash, which has many varieties, is one of the healthiest vegetables around. The dense, filling food is fairly low in calories and has a low GI.

Like most vegetables, squash contains beneficial antioxidants. Squash also has less sugar than sweet potatoes, making it a great alternative.

Research published in 2018 shows that pumpkin polysaccharides, which are also found in squash, improved insulin tolerance and decreased levels of serum glucose in rats.

Although there’s very little research involving humans and squash benefits, a small 2018 study showed that squash decreased high blood glucose levels quickly and effectively in people with diabetes who were critically ill.


Summer and winter squash contain beneficial antioxidants and may help lower blood sugar.

16. Shirataki noodles

Shirataki noodles are wonderful for diabetes and weight management.

These noodles are high in the fiber glucomannan, which is extracted from konjac root.

This plant is grown in Japan and processed into the shape of noodles or rice known as shirataki.

Glucomannan is a type of viscous fiber, which helps you feel full and satisfied.

What’s more, research has shown that it can reduce blood sugar levels after eating and improve heart disease risk factors in people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

In one fairly recent study, glucomannan significantly reduced levels of fasting blood glucose, serum insulin, and cholesterol in rats with diabetes.

However, these noodles are typically packaged with a liquid that has a fishy odor. You need to rinse them very well before use.

Then, to ensure a noodle-like texture, cook the noodles for several minutes in a skillet over high heat without added fat.


The glucomannan in shirataki noodles promotes feelings of fullness and can improve blood sugar management and cholesterol levels.

Just as important as figuring out which foods to include in a diabetes-friendly eating plan is understanding which foods you may need to limit.

Many foods and drinks are high in carbs and added sugar, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Other foods could negatively affect heart health or contribute to weight gain.

Here are a few foods to consider limiting or avoiding if you have diabetes.

1. Refined grains

Refined grains like white bread, pasta, and rice are high in carbs but low in fiber, which can increase blood sugar levels more quickly than their whole grain counterparts.

One research review published in 2018 showed that whole grain rice was significantly more effective at stabilizing blood sugar levels after eating a meal than white rice.

2. Sugar-sweetened beverages

Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sweet tea, and energy drinks lack important nutrients, and they also contain a concentrated amount of sugar in each serving, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike.

3. Fried foods

Fried foods have a lot of trans fat, a type of fat that has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Fried foods like potato chips, french fries, and mozzarella sticks are also typically high in calories, which could contribute to weight gain if overconsumed.

4. Alcohol

People with diabetes are generally advised to limit their alcohol intake. Alcohol can increase the risk of low blood sugar, especially if consumed on an empty stomach.

5. Breakfast cereal

Most varieties of breakfast cereal are very high in added sugar. Some brands pack as much sugar into a single serving as some desserts.

When shopping for cereal, be sure to check the nutrition label carefully and select a variety that is low in sugar. Alternatively, consider opting for oatmeal and sweeten it naturally with a bit of fresh fruit.

6. Candy

Candy contains a high amount of sugar in each serving. It typically has a high GI, meaning it’s likely to cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels after you eat it.

7. Processed meats

Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, salami, and cold cuts are high in sodium, preservatives, and other harmful compounds. Furthermore, processed meats have been associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

8. Fruit juice

Although 100% fruit juice can be enjoyed from time to time in moderation, it’s best to stick to whole fruit whenever possible if you have diabetes.

Fruit juice contains all the carbs and sugar found in fresh fruit, but it lacks the fiber needed to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

There are several strategies you can use to create a diabetes-friendly, health-promoting, and balanced eating plan.

Plate method

The plate method is a simple and effective way to support healthy blood sugar levels without tracking or measuring your food. It involves you adjusting the portions of certain food groups on your plate to create a nutritionally balanced meal.

To get started, simply fill half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, squash, or cauliflower.

One-quarter of your plate should consist of proteins, like chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, tofu, and lean cuts of beef or pork.

The remaining quarter of the plate should contain a good source of carbohydrates, including whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, fruit, or dairy products.

Finally, be sure to pair your meal with a low calorie beverage, such as water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, or club soda, to help you stay hydrated.

Glycemic index (GI)

The GI can be an effective tool for maintaining blood sugar levels. It’s used to measure how much certain foods increase blood sugar levels and group them as a high, low, or medium GI food based on their effect on blood sugar levels.

If you use this method, stick to foods with a low or medium GI whenever possible, and limit your intake of foods that have a high GI.

You can find more information about the glycemic index and how to use it to improve blood sugar management in this article.

Carb counting

Carb counting is a popular method used to manage blood sugar levels.

It involves tracking the grams of carbs in the foods you eat daily. In some cases, you may also need to adjust your insulin dosage based on the amount of carbs you consume.

The number of carbs you should eat for each meal and snack can vary quite a bit depending on factors like your age, size, and activity level.

A registered dietitian or doctor can help you create a customized plan for carb counting based on your needs.

Following a diabetes-friendly eating plan doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.

Here’s a 1-day sample menu with some easy meal ideas to help get you started:

  • Breakfast: omelet with broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers
  • Morning snack: a handful of almonds
  • Lunch: grilled chicken salad with spinach, tomatoes, avocado, onions, cucumber, and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Afternoon snack: Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries and walnuts
  • Dinner: baked salmon with herb quinoa and asparagus
  • Evening snack: sliced veggies and hummus

When diabetes is not well managed, it increases your risk of several serious conditions.

Eating foods that help keep blood sugar, insulin, and inflammation in check can dramatically reduce your risk of complications.

But remember, although these foods may help manage blood sugar, the most important factor in healthy blood sugar management is following an overall nutritious, balanced eating plan.

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