For the 26 million people in the U.S. with diabetes and the estimated 79 million American adults with pre-diabetes, there has never been a better time to start managing and improving your diabetes. Researchers know more today than they did just five years ago about diet, insulin, medications and complications.
Each person with type 2 diabetes needs to work out his/her particular eating, exercise or medical plan so it translates into normal blood sugars in his/her particular body. In general food and meal choices that work best for these people are lower sugar, lower sodium, higher fiber, lean meats and plant protein, fruits and vegetables and sources of monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. Beyond that there are some specific and even surprising foods that may help lower blood sugars in people with diabetes. Information and recipes for the following can be found in the new edition of my best-selling book, Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Diabetes.
Foods with little to no carbohydrate
The following foods, when eaten alone, even in large amounts, are not likely to cause a significant rise in blood sugar because they contain few carbohydrates:
- Dark green veggies and salad vegetables
Some Nuts (a 2-ounce serving of these nuts contain 5 grams or less net carbs: almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts).
Foods with synergy
In my book, FOOD SYNERGY, I looked at research that suggested synergy within and between certain foods or food components—where components seemed to work together for maximum health benefit. Foods with synergy that seemed to keep insulin levels steady include:
- Whole grains
- Soluble fiber in oats
- Soy protein
- Ground flaxseed
Foods and food partnerships with synergy that might improve blood sugar control include:
- Whole grains
- Soluble fiber in oats
- Ground flaxseed
I’m a big green/white tea advocate because of all the antioxidant plant compounds (polyphenols) it provides, but there are possibly bigger benefits for people with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. More investigation needs to be done, but a review of 17 randomized clinical trials suggests green tea consumption was associated with lower fasting blood sugar levels and lower fasting insulin levels.
There’s a lot more to beans than helping fill burritos! It’s the whole nutritional package (both types of fiber, carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals and assorted plant compounds) that may help improve blood sugars in people with type 2 diabetes. The plant protein and fiber in beans slow digestion (releasing carbs into the bloodstream slowly), which can help lessen the rise in blood sugar. The protein may help stimulate the release of insulin after the meal, while the protein and fiber also enhance the feeling of fullness.
Buckwheat does appear to be a potentially “magical” intact whole grain for people with diabetes; new research suggests buckwheat extract lowered meal-related blood sugar levels by 12-19 percent when given to rats. Look for buckwheat soba noodles and start experimenting with buckwheat groats.
Whey protein hydrolysates may prove to be helpful anti-diabetic agents, according to new research with obese diabetic mice. The whey protein improved blood glucose clearance, reduced elevated insulin levels, and remarkably restored the ability of pancreas cells to release insulin in response to glucose. These amazing potential benefits aren’t totally out of the blue, past research has linked lowfat dairy with a reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes and specific amino acids in milk have been reported to stimulate insulin secretion.
Several studies suggest cinnamon has a possible blood sugar lowering effect. For example, one study suggested less than a half-teaspoon of cinnamon a day might reduce blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Another study found 2 teaspoons helped lower blood sugar levels after meals. More research needs to be done but in the meantime, sprinkle some cinnamon in your morning cereal, yogurt, smoothies, or coffee/lattes.
Stay tuned as more research trial results become available, but put mushrooms on our list of potential foods with anti-diabetic properties. So far, preliminary data from human trials appear to mirror the encouraging results in diabetic animal research, which includes potential in helping to lower plasma glucose, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and serum triglycerides. Polysaccharides (possibly both alpha- and beta- glucans) are the plant compounds in mushrooms that are thought to be responsible for these desirable effects. The mechanism needs to be confirmed, but some researchers suspect they work directly with insulin receptors on target tissues.
Diet soda can be a great alternative for soda lovers because they don’t contribute carbohydrates or calories. Recent intervention studies point toward a beneficial effect of low or no calorie sweeteners on fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels as well as insulin levels, energy or calorie intake and body weight—all things that people with diabetes care about. Certainly, it is important to drink water most of the time, but there is definitely room within a healthy diabetic lifestyle to enjoy a diet soda when a flavored beverage is preferred.
Other Books from Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
- Tell Me What to Eat if I Have Acid Reflux, Revised Edition
- Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Nutrition You Can Live With
- Tell Me What to Eat As I Approach Menopause
- Tell Me What to Eat if I Have Headaches and Migraines
- Tell Me What to Eat to Help Prevent Colon Cancer
- Tell Me What to Eat to Help Prevent Breast Cancer: Nutrition You Can Live With
- If I Suffer from Heart Disease: Nutrition You Can Live with (Tell Me What to Eat)
- Food Synergy: Unleash Hundreds of Powerful Healing Food Combinations to Fight Disease and Live Well
- The Flax Cookbook: Recipes and Strategies for Getting the Most from the Most Powerful Plant on the Planet
- The Good News Eating Plan for Type II Diabetes
- Alphabet Cooking: From Angel-In-A-Cloud to Zebra Pudding Cups: Fun Recipes for Children, from A to Z
- Comfort Food Makeovers: Healthy Alternatives to Your Favorite Homestyle Dishes
- The Change of Life Diet and Cookbook
- Lighten Up: Low-Fat Versions of More Than 100 of America’s Best-Known and Best-Loved Recipes
- Fry Light, Fry Right: Fried-Food Flavor Without Deep Frying
- Eat Well for a Healthy Menopause: The Low-Fat, High Nutrition Guide
- Someone’s in the Kitchen with Mommy: 100 Easy Recipes and Fun Crafts for Parents and Kids
- The Recipe Doctor
- The Fight Fat and Win Cookbook: Timesaving Recipes for a Low-Effort, Low-Fat Lifestyle
- Chez Moi: Lightening Up Recipes from Famous Restaurants
EK Lester says
Diet drinks are poison.
Diet drinks can’t be poison! We would all be dead. Thanks for the list of Healthy Choices.
I wasn’t very surprised…..
Thanks for the information
Gary Moore says
Diet drinks give you diabetes so much for a nutritional expert they effect the gut bacteria
Gary Moore says
Eating eggs are life shortening especially for diabetics
Diet drinks are not good for you they have that apsrertame in it and that s not good for you cause if you get a large amount you will get issues in your body
I agree on that diet soda is bad for anyone, especially diabetic! The aspartame is bad because it causes brain chemistry changes, and Splenda is just as bad because it causes inflammation in the body.
cheryl seymour says
something are good and somethings are bad do everything in moderation cause you damn if you do and you’re damn if you don’t
You started out great but then contradicted yourself.
Don’t eat high carb foods
And then you suggested
No-one can truthfully disagree that these foods are healthier than refined carbs but we must think critically here.
Diabetes is nothing more than an abnormal glucose metabolism.
The diabetic metabolism no longer properly metabolizes carbs.
You do no favors by eating foods your body cannot metabolize properly.
If diabetes is a fire
Carbs are the gasoline
You do not control a fire by continuing to add gasoline to the fire.
The glucose impact of high carb foods is NOT countered or balanced by nutrient content.
Let’s remember the physiology of metabolism here
Energy comes first
Nutrients are released and absorbed second.
Glucose fuels the body
Nutrients feed the body
The body is going to release glucose first during digestion and nutrients later during absorption.
You, no doubt would not suggest celiac patients fat gluten.
You, no doubt, would counsel lactose intolerant patients to avoid dairy.
Why would you tell diabetics continue eating high carb foods?
You ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT
would tell nut allergen patients to eliminate nuts
Why tell diabetics to continue eating high carb foods?
True, diabetes is not as immediately life threatening but it is no less life threatening and worse
Diabetes is a MUCH GREATER threat to the health and function of the body and THEN it takes the life.
To the guy who says eating high carb foods like oats and soy. Better think again they are not so much high in carbs as they are higher in fiber and better for you than a refined carb. The refined carbs are the ones you need to watch out for. It’s just like any food we eat. We have to moderate our intake of junk and work on better eating of fruits and vegetables. And since when is fruit ever been considered high in carbs. Yes there are a few that are higher in natural sugars but compared to artificial sugars this is way better. I should know I have type 2 diabetes and am working with a doctor who has had type 1 since he was 11. Please do a better job of researching before you start saying things that are wrong. It’s also about exercising and portion control as well.
Diet soda sendsmy blood sugar soaring, the same as a regular soda. As for fruit, I only eat berries for the anthocianins (?), and Granny Smith apples for the fiber. Each person is different so make sure you measure your response to the foods suggested by testing your blood sugar. That’s the only way you will know what is good or bad for you. Even differences from manufacturers can be good or bad depending on how YOUR body responds.
Lynette Devries says
Diet drinks and anything with aspartame in it is bad., just ask Michael J Fox. He drank lots of Pepsi Max Check YouTube videos on it. Soy is not good either as it tends to give guys breasts and girls get their periods earlier.
Please, NO diet soda, it contains aspartame which leads to memory lost!