Trying to eat healthy when a person has diabetes can be difficult. However, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthful proteins can have significant benefits for people with diabetes, states the health website Medical News Today. Here are some foods that can help control diabetes.
This might seem counterintuitive, but chocolate is a food that’s rich in flavonoids, and research shows that these nutrients reduce insulin resistance, improve insulin sensitivity, drop insulin levels and fasting blood glucose, and blunt cravings.
But not all chocolate is created equal, states Reader’s Digest. In a 2008 study from the University of Copenhagen, people who ate dark chocolate reported that they felt less like eating sweet, salty, or fatty foods compared to volunteers given milk chocolate, with its lower levels of beneficial flavonoids. Dark chocolate also cut the amount of pizza that volunteers consumed later in the same day, by 15 percent.
Eating too much chocolate can have the opposite effect, though, since it’s high in sugar. However, a chocolate that is high in cocoa solids also contains the beneficial flavonoids. According to the European health platform Diabetes.co.uk, dark chocolate contains 45 to 80 percent cocoa solids and milk chocolate has five to seven percent.
Leafy green vegetables are extremely nutritious and low in calories, according to the medical website Healthline. They’re also very low in digestible carbs, which raise your blood sugar levels. Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are good sources of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. In one study, according to the U.S National Library of Medicine, increasing vitamin C intake reduced inflammatory markers and fasting blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. In addition, leafy greens are good sources of the antioxidant’s lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts, which are common diabetes complications.
Nuts are another excellent addition to the diet, state Medical News Today. Like fish, nuts contain healthy fatty acids that help keep the heart healthy. Walnuts are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids called alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). Like other omega-3s, ALA is important for good heart health. People with diabetes may have a higher risk of heart disease or stroke, so it is important to get these fatty acids through the diet. People can add a handful of walnuts to their breakfast or to a mixed salad.
Cinnamon is a delicious spice with potent antioxidant activity, states Healthline. Several controlled studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Long-term diabetes control is typically determined by measuring hemoglobin A1c, which reflects your average blood sugar level over two to three months. In one study, type 2 diabetes patients who took cinnamon for 90 days had more than a double reduction in hemoglobin A1c, compared to those who only received standard care.
Fatty fish is a healthful addition to any diet, states Medical News Today. Fatty fish contains important omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). People need a certain amount of healthful fats to keep their body functioning and to promote heart and brain health. The ADA report that a diet high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can improve blood sugar control and blood lipids in people with diabetes. Certain fish are a rich source of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These include salmon, mackerel, sardines, albacore tuna, and trout.
Beans are a source of plant-based protein, and they can satisfy an appetite while helping people reduce their carbohydrate intake, according to Medical News Today. Beans are also low on the GI scale and are better for blood sugar regulation than many other starchy foods. Also, beans may help people manage their blood sugar levels. They are a complex carbohydrate, so the body digests them slower than it does other carbohydrates. Eating beans can also help with weight loss and could help regulate a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol.
According to WebMD, fruits have carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits have a naturally sweet taste but actually have a low glycemic index, which means it’s unlikely to raise blood sugar levels. Raw, unprocessed fruit is more effective than canned fruit, juices, or smoothies.