If you are living with diabetes, you may know the challenge that comes along with choosing foods that:
1) Help keep your blood sugar under control and;
2) Minimize your risk of developing health conditions associated with diabetes.
Does this mean that your diet must be simple, boring, and one that lacks creativity? Of course not. Yes, you heard me right. This blog isn’t about convincing you to let go of all the foods you enjoy! Research shows that making a few minor but important changes to your diet—such as incorporating healthy fats, lean protein, and reducing your consumption of refined carbohydrates—helps manage diabetes. This blog discusses five foods that you may consider adding to your diet to make it one that is both healthy and satisfying.
Once you start incorporating the foods on this list, you may recognize that a diet for someone living with diabetes can be just as fun and interesting. Not only can these foods be eaten alone, but they can be incorporated in dishes and baking recipes as substitutes for other ingredients. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!
Yes, you heard me right, oatmeal. I hear some of your minds wondering: “Aren’t carbohydrates the number one thing I need to cut down, so why is oatmeal top on this list?” I understand why this question may arise, but it’s important to differentiate between carbohydrates. Oatmeal is known as a healthy breakfast food. Yes, it’s a source of carbohydrates, but they are in their complex form. The high fiber content in oatmeal takes longer to digest, meaning it will not cause blood sugar spikes right after a meal. Plus, they provide the body with long-term energy that keeps you satisfied and energetic throughout the day, all of which helps with weight management. This makes oatmeal a healthy alternative to other common breakfast foods such as refined bread, cereals, and pancakes. Even better, you can make bread and pancakes while substituting regular flour with oat flour.
Please note that oatmeal comes in a variety of forms. There are steel, rolled, quick, and instant oats – where the level of processing increases respectfully. Instant oats may be one to stay away from as they often have a lot of sugar, salt, and artificial flavours added to them. Although steel oats are the least processed version, feel free to try the other forms or do a mix and match to see which ones you enjoy the most!
Avocados are gaining popularity and there is no way to go wrong with them if eaten in moderation! They are a unique fruit; they are creamy and high in healthy fats. Although fruits are healthy due to their high fiber, they’re also high in carbohydrates. However, avocados are an exception. Healthy monounsaturated fats, in addition to fiber, keep you feeling full and satisfied for long periods of time, thus reducing your caloric intake. Weight loss, even by a small amount, is associated with increased insulin sensitivity, a term that describes the response your body cells have to insulin. Avocados can be eaten alone, as part of a meal, or substituted for butter while baking. Try to be creative in how you incorporate avocados. Make it work for you!
- Almonds: 3.5 grams
- Hazelnuts: 2.9 grams
- Pistachios: 2.9 grams
- Pecans: 2.9 grams
- Peanuts: 2.6 grams
This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the nuts out there. There are also walnuts, cashews, macadamias, brazil nuts, among many others; all of which offer special and unique benefits. The healthy fats in nuts help to lower LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as the “bad cholesterol,” and help people living with diabetes improve their cardiovascular health. Nuts are easy to incorporate into a healthy diet, and because there are several types, it is hard to get bored of them. You can pair different types of nuts to find the combination that you enjoy the most. Just keep portion sizes under control to make nuts a tasty and healthy addition to a well-balanced diet.
Berries remind me of my favorite childhood candy: Smarties. They are bright, colorful, tasty, and satisfying for those of us with a sweet tooth. Not only are they nutrient powerhouses, but the red or blue colours in berries come from compounds called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins play an important role in lowering blood glucose levels by improving your cells’ response to glucose. Berries are another one of those foods that can easily make their way into your diet. Make your bowl of oatmeal colourful by topping it up with some berries or incorporate them into healthy homemade desserts to substitute for added sugar. Bring in your creativity into this one as well!
Yes, sweet potatoes. Although they are starchy, they have a relatively low glycemic index (a value given to foods that indicate how quickly they raise blood sugar levels), and greater fiber content, making them a great substitute for regular white potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, whether they are mashed, baked, or simply boiled. Pair them up with leafy greens, healthy fats, and lean protein to make a well-balanced diet.
At first glance, you may have thought of a diet that has restrictions for diabetes as a nightmare. That may have been because you were focused on foods to avoid rather than foods to incorporate into your diet. At the end of the day, there are no foods that cure diabetes, nor are there foods only assigned for people living with diabetes. Rather, these powerhouse foods are ones that most of us can incorporate into our diets to help us manage our blood sugar levels, as well as to make our diet one that is healthy, enjoyable, and sustainable in the long run.
Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes. (2020, December 6). WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetic-food-list-best-worst-foods.
Chatterjee, S., Khunti, K., & Davies, M. J. (2017). Type 2 diabetes. The Lancet (British Edition), 389(10085), 2239-2251. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)300 58-2.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, February 15). Healthy eating for blood sugar control. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/healthy-eat ing- for-blood-sugar-control.
Sievenpiper, J.L., Chan, C.B., Dworatzek, P.D., Freeze, C., & Williams, S.L. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Nutrition Therapy. Can J Diabetes 2018;42(Suppl 1):S64-S79.
Storz, M. A., & Iraci, F. (2019). Short-term dietary oatmeal interventions in adults with type 2 diabetes: A Forgotten tool. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 44(4), 301-303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcjd.2019.08.020.