You probably know that maintaining a steady blood sugar level is crucial to your health and well-being. Your endocrinologist will recommend a range of glucose levels to keep you energized and lower your chance of developing health problems.
Vandana Sheth RDN, CDCES is a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. She says, “I encourage my diabetes clients to think of blood glucose as an instrument that can help them feel better.” The rollercoaster ride of high and low blood sugars can affect your mood, energy levels, and ability to perform at your peak.
Sheth says there are many things you can do to control your blood sugar. Balanced meals and snacks with a mixture of vegetables, protein and fat are the best ways to maintain stable blood sugar.
There are no foods that can magically stabilize blood sugar. Diabetes management is not about avoiding certain foods. According to the American Diabetes Association, everyone reacts to different foods and eating habits, so there is no one right or wrong food for diabetes.
However, it can be easier to make balanced meals and snacks by adding certain foods to your grocery shopping list. Here are nine recommendations from dietitians.
It’s time to get started. “Nuts are a good choice for diabetics, as they provide a great source of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids,” Kari Garner, RDN, a certified diabetes education and care specialist and owner of Springtime Nutrition. These heart-healthy fats help to reduce low-density cholesterol (LDL), and also provide essential omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Nuts are a good snack option when you’re short on time. They also have low levels of carbohydrates so they won’t spike blood sugar. Nuts are a great addition for any meal because the fats and fiber slow down the absorption glucose into the bloodstream. For Sweet and Salty Roasted Nuts, choose the nut you love best.
2. Peanut butter (and other nuts butters)
Nut butters are a great choice if you prefer whole nuts. Rebecca Jaspan M.P.H. RD, CDCES says that peanut butter is rich in healthy fats which, when combined with a carbohydrate help slow down the absorption of sugar [from it].
Garner states that berries are a great choice for diabetics who want to enjoy fruits without having to worry about their blood sugar. Berries are high in fiber, lower in sugar than other fruits, and a great way to add sweetness to a snack or meal. She says that berries are high in antioxidants, which can be linked to cognitive and cardiovascular health. According to a review in Advances in Nutrition, research has shown that eating foods rich in anthocyanins, which are the main antioxidants in berries, is associated with lower heart attacks and reduced hypertension. This is a significant risk factor for developing heart disease.
4. Plain Greek Yogurt
The creamy and tangy flavor of this versatile food is a great way “to increase the protein content in a variety recipes or foods to help lower the impact on blood glucose,” Erin PalinskiWade, RD CDCES, a New Jersey-based dietian who also wrote 2 Days Diabetes Diet. “Adding Greek yogurt into carbohydrate-containing meals, such as a fruit smoothie or mixed into overnight oats, can help to reduce the glycemic load of the food and the overall impact on blood sugar levels,” she says.
Palinski-Wade states that chickpeas are a good source both of fiber and protein. This can balance blood sugar and promote satiety for many hours. She suggests that chickpeas can be used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, soups, salads and chili, as well as roasted for crunchy snacks. Palinski-Wade says that eating chickpeas with meals can help reduce blood glucose levels after meals and regulate appetite.
Chickpeas are not the only beans that can help manage blood sugar. Other beans, including pinto, kidney and black beans, also have similar effects. Justine Chan, a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian based in Toronto, says that beans and legumes are excellent for managing diabetes. Research suggests that beans should be cooled after being cooked to increase their resistant starch content. She explains that beans are good for the gut and can be used to feed your good bacteria. Beans also contain soluble fiber which can slow down digestion and lower LDL cholesterol.
Palinski-Wade states that rolling oats are a great addition to your diet when you’re trying to balance blood sugar. She says that whole grains such as oat beta glucan and resistant starch have the potential to improve gut health, balance blood sugar, and lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol. According to a 2021 meta analysis in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming oat beta glucans decreases blood sugar and insulin responses to a carbohydrate-containing meal in people with or without diabetes.
8. Chia Seeds
Sprinkle some seeds on top! Sheth states that chia seeds are rich in fiber and a good source of plant-based omega-3 oils. They also contain some protein. Because of their slower digestion rate, chia seeds contain soluble fiber that can lower blood sugar. You may feel fuller for longer if you combine fat, protein, and fiber.
Chia seeds can be used in a variety of ways. You can either stir them into your breakfast oatmeal or yogurt or add a teaspoon to your salad.
Nonstarchy vegetables are recommended by dietitians to increase the nutritional and fiber content of your food. Sheth believes broccoli is a great choice of non-starchy vegetables. She says, “It provides nutrients like magnesium, vitamin C as well as plant compounds like sulforaphane.” Sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous veggies like broccoli, has potential cancer-protecting qualities. A broccoli-and-chicken stir fry, sauteed broccoli with salmon, or some broccoli florets dipped into hummus are all good options. These broccoli recipes will make you reconsider your view of the vegetable.