Diabetes, a major lifestyle disease, is undoubtedly the most challenging public health problem of the 21st century. Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar or glucose levels are higher than normal. Blood sugar or glucose is your key source of energy and comes from the food you eat.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, which helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Insulin resistance occurs when the body has to make a lot more insulin to help glucose enter the cells. It is the main characteristic of type 2 diabetes.
People with diabetes need to control their disease to avoid complications and stay healthy. The main aim is to keep blood sugar levels well-controlled. Medication and exercise are of primary importance. A healthy diet can also improve blood-sugar control and reduce the risk of diabetes related complications. Low glycemic index (GI) foods are those that don’t raise your blood sugar levels and help you avoid a blood sugar spike. High-nutrient, low GI foods are therefore optimal foods for diabetics, and these foods may also help prevent diabetes in the first place.
Here are some of the best foods for people with diabetes:
Beans, lentils, and other legumes are low-fat, low-calorie, high-protein foods that help reduce the risk of diabetes. They have a low glycemic index and are rich in fiber, which takes a long time to digest, so blood sugar doesn’t increase as quickly. The fiber slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream, which prevents blood sugar spikes, and results in better blood sugar control.
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are low in calories, extremely nutritious, and great sources of several vitamins and minerals. They have a low glycemic index, and are low in digestible carbs. Adding more green leafy vegetables to your diet may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, such as polyphenols and vitamin C, which help reduce your risk of diabetes. They also contain magnesium, which may further reduce risk. These vegetables are also loaded with antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, that protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts, that are common diabetes complications.
Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, are low in digestible carbs and help reduce blood sugar, insulin and LDL cholesterol levels. They are low in glycemic index, promote weight loss, and have anti-inflammatory effects that may prevent the development of insulin resistance. Moreover, as they are rich in fiber and protein, nuts are slowly digested, keeping blood sugar stable. Nuts are therefore a healthy addition to a diabetic diet.
Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are all low in calories and carbohydrates, and have a low glycemic index that helps keep your blood sugar stable. Berries are full of fiber and antioxidants. The red and blue types also contain natural plant compounds called anthocyanins, which may help lower blood sugar by boosting insulin production. Anthocyanins also inhibit certain digestive enzymes to slow down digestion, which prevents spikes in blood sugar after meals.
Flaxseeds are an extremely healthy food. They are rich in fiber, protein, and good fats. They may help decrease blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Flaxseeds are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that is important to blood-sugar control, as it helps cells use insulin. The lignans present in flaxseeds lower blood sugar levels, and the high level of soluble fiber helps keep you fuller for longer and prevents any sudden spike in blood sugar levels.
Yogurt provides calcium, protein, vitamin D, and in some brands, probiotics. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that a higher intake of yogurt could lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that yogurt and other dairy foods may lead to weight loss and improved body composition in people with type 2 diabetes. Moreover, diets that contain plenty of dairy may fight insulin resistance, the main problem behind diabetes. When buying yogurt opt for low-fat or fat-free products.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables. It provides a lot of nutrition while being low on the glycemic index, so it does not have a large effect on blood sugar levels. Broccoli is filling, fiber-rich, low in calories and carbs, and full of antioxidants like vitamin C and magnesium. It is also rich in chromium, which plays a significant role in long-term blood sugar control. Studies in diabetics have found that a compound called sulforaphane, which is naturally found in broccoli, may help in lowering blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.