By Suzanne Boothby
Rates of diabetes have been steadily rising with more than 420 million people worldwide diagnosed with this disease. Diabetes is a result of either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the body not effectively using the insulin it produces.
Most people with diabetes have type 2, which experts now refer to as a lifestyle disease. Poor food choices and lack of physical activity can lead to the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now on the rise for children too.
Thankfully, adopting a more plant-based diet can help prevent diabetes or helping those with type 2 diabetes to manage it more effectively.
In fact, research now shows that eating your veggies can help diabetics and pre-diabetics alike. Here are some of the foods that diabetics can add to their diet and why they are so helpful.
It’s hard to find any diet throughout the world that doesn’t sing the praises of leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, cabbage, lettuce and arugula.
Speaking of greens, broccoli is a great one to add to your diet. This vegetable is full of important vitamins and minerals, while remaining low in calories and carbohydrates. You can juice the stalks to get the benefits like in this Love Your Broccoli Juice.
If you’re not a fan of broccoli itself, try eating broccoli sprouts (on a salad or on your avocado toast) as one study found that broccoli sprouts can be helpful in lowering insulin levels.
Legumes are a high-fiber food and a plant-based protein. Kidney, pinto, navy, chickpeas or black beans are all packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and potassium. While beans contain carbohydrates about ½ cup can provide the same amount of protein as one ounce of meat, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
A 2012 study found that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed one cup of legumes daily showed greater decreases in hemoglobin A1c values and decreases in blood pressure.
You can use canned beans or soak them and cook them in a pressure cooker. They also make a great base for a burger like in this Quinoa & Red Kidney Bean “Chili” Burger recipe.
These seeds are a great food for diabetes as they are filling (thanks to their high fiber content) while still being relatively low on carbs. Fiber intake is a great way to reduce hunger without raising blood sugar.
In fact, the viscous fiber found in chia seeds can help lower your blood sugar levels as it slows down the rate at which food moves through your system and gets absorbed by the body. Try this Rich & Creamy Strawberry Pudding, sweetened with a touch of honey which is a lower glycemic food than sugar.
While many people fear that fruit is forbidden with diabetes there are many low-carb, low-glycemic fruits that can work well. You can enjoy blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or any type of berry because of they are low-GI.
Berries are considered a diabetes superfood packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, according to the ADA. Try making this Berry Pie Smoothie for breakfast or an afternoon snack to get more berries into your day.
Another fruit category that is helpful for diabetics is citrus. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes can help you get more fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium. Research suggests that vitamin C is linked to improved blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
One of the key ingredients in lemon peel is polyphenols, which can help minimize insulin resistance and suppress the accumulation of fat in the abdomen. So feel free to leave the lemon peel on when juicing!
While this root vegetable might taste sweet, the natural sugars don’t readily covert into glucose quickly, so it doesn’t cause a spike in blood glucose levels. Beets are another low calorie food full of essential vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. The fiber in beets may help promote weight loss or maintenance by reducing appetite.
In one study at University of Exeter Medical School, clinical trials looked at beet juice and found improved cognitive function in patients with type 2 diabetes. Try it in this Sunny Citrus Beet Juice recipe.
Yes, sweet potatoes are another food that are good for diabetics. Sweet potatoes are lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes and are full of vitamin A for (great for eye health) and fiber, which helps control blood glucose.
You can roast sweet potatoes and enjoy with other non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats or try this Chickpea and Sweet Potato Cacciatore recipe.
Two spices that are great for diabetes management are cinnamon and turmeric. Several studies have found that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Turmeric has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and anti-diabetic properties. Research shows that turmeric has the ability to suppress oxidative stress and inflammation, which can help those with diabetes.
You can sprinkle cinnamon on your morning oats or on top of a smoothie and use turmeric in soups, stews, salad dressings and more.