The Best Food For Diabetics

No single food will make or break your diet.

I frequently say that a good diet with a bit of pie now and then is still a good diet. And a bad diet with a few bites of broccoli is still a bad diet.

What really matters is not the individual foods as much as the overall pattern of the diet.

There are many paths to a healthy plate – even for people with diabetes. Since each person’s food preferences, lifestyle, diabetes, and medications are different, it is reasonable that there is no one diabetic diet. But one thing all good diets contain is more plants than animals.

Below are a few foods to put on your shopping list for good blood glucose control, to help prevent the complications of diabetes, and for overall good health.

best foods for diabetics

Diabetics Should Eat These Best Foods

1. Oats

This breakfast favorite is rich in the fiber beta-glucan which helps lower cholesterol levels and control blood glucose. Think beyond breakfast. Mix oats into ground meat when you make meatballs or meatloaf.

2. Barley

Also rich in beta-glucan, barley may have even greater effects on blood glucose than oats have.

Related Article: 5 Health Benefits of Stevia

3. Salmon

One of my favorite foods from the animal kingdom, salmon is jam-packed with heart-protective fats. Omega-3 fatty acids tame the inflammation that precedes heart disease, lower the risk of irregular heartbeats, and make the blood less sticky and less likely to form clots. Keep a few cans in the pantry for quick, easy meals. And while you’re at it, pick up a couple of tins of sardines – also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Peanuts and Peanut Butter

A portion of perfect snack food that won’t raise your blood glucose. Research even suggests that nut and peanut butter consumption is associated with reduced risks of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Enjoy about an ounce of peanuts (~1/4 cup) or spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on celery sticks. If your snack allows for additional carbohydrate, mix peanuts with dried fruit and whole-grain cereal for an impromptu trail mix or dip apple slices into peanut butter.

Related Article: 6 Foods with Healthy Fats

Don’t limit yourself to peanuts. Choose all types of nuts and nut butter and enjoy them for their different flavors and different nutrient profiles.

5. Beans

Choose kidney, great northern, pintos, garbanzos, and more. Beans have more protein than other vegetables, and they also contain resistant starch. This type of carbohydrate does not get digested, so it doesn’t contribute to blood glucose.

Perhaps even more importantly, resistant starch is food for the healthy bacteria in our guts. When intestinal microbes feast on resistant starch, they produce compounds that improve insulin resistance.

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6. Fruits and Vegetables

Please don’t forget these. Go for all types and all colors. Put more emphasis on non-starchy vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, and green beans because they have less effect on your blood glucose and because they are low in calories.

Be sure to add these diabetes-friendly, heart-healthy foods to your shopping list. Enjoy!


Jill WeisenbergerJill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE, has counseled thousands of individuals on developing healthier habits and living healthier lives.  She is a frequent guest on radio and TV; has been quoted in Real Simple, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today; and has written for Diabetic Living and Diabetes Monitor. Her latest book is Diabetes Weight Loss – Week By Week (American Diabetes Association).

Originally published 10/18/12 and updated 7/25/13.

Featured photo by emmadiscovery

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