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With diabetes, your diet is very important in not only helping to manage your symptoms, but also aiding in your overall health. Creating a healthy diet while managing diabetes can seem difficult, but with the right knowledge and, most importantly, the right types of foods, you can create a simple and effective diet that will improve your health and help you manage your symptoms.
As you are creating a diet, it is important to know which foods are best for diabetics. Once you know which types of foods are best and why, you can easily build your diet around these key foods. When you are creating your grocery list or meal plan, the bulk of your items should be based on the best types of foods for you. Some of the best types of foods for diabetes are: healthy fats, especially Omega-3 fats, foods rich in fiber, rich in vitamins and minerals, high in antioxidants, lower in carbohydrates, and foods with a low glycemic index.
Make sure to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian/nutritionist when creating a meal plan and diet that works for you, or if you have any questions regarding which foods you should or should not eat. Everyone’s body and dietary needs are different, so while general guidelines are a good starting point, it is important to remember that you will ultimately need to create a diet that works best for you.
According to the American Diabetes Association, some of the most powerful superfoods for diabetics includes beans, dark leafy greens, citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, berries, fatty fish, nuts, whole grains, and yogurt. As a general guideline, look for foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. We’ve listed a few of these foods below and why they are great for those with diabetes.
Fish – Fatty fish are a great source of natural fats, plus omega-3 fatty acids, which improve heart health. Healthy fats can also help keep you full for longer. For those with diabetes, it is important to eat foods that offer heart health benefits. Fish also provides a good source of protein.
Avocado – Avocados are another great source of healthy fats, plus they are low in sugar. While you don’t necessarily need to cut out sugar completely, it is important to watch your blood sugar levels and incorporate foods that are low in sugar. They are also low in carbohydrates, and have been proven to provide powerful health benefits to maintaining a healthy weight and your overall health.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Good-quality extra virgin olive oil provides many heart-health benefits. Extra virgin olive oil contains oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that has been proven to improve glycemic management. If you have diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels can be difficult. These types of fatty acids can drastically help maintain healthy levels.
Nuts – A great plant-based source of protein, nuts have a good amount of fiber and are low in carbs. Nuts also contain healthy fats and are great for improving heart health. While a variety of nuts will all offer similar nutrients, walnuts are one of the best types of nuts for diabetics as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are not only a great source of fiber, but they are also a great plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. These little seeds are extremely high in fiber, in fact, most of the carbs in each seed is fiber. With their rich amount of fiber, chia seeds can help with maintaining a healthy weight and proper glycemic control.
Flax Seeds – Flaxseeds are another plant source that is high in both fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. The insoluble fibers in flaxseeds comes partly from lignans. These fibers can help improve heart health and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Beans – Beans are actually an incredibly healthy food. They are packed with plant-based protein and are also rich in vitamins and minerals. Their low glycemic index makes them a great source of protein for diabetics.
Leafy Greens – Leafy greens, especially dark leafy greens, provide many vitamins and minerals, making them very nutritious. The darker the green, the more nutrient dense it will be. Greens such as spinach, kale, and chard are great foods to incorporate into your diet, as they include vitamins A, C, E and K, along with iron, calcium and potassium. Many leafy greens are high in Vitamin C, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Eggs – Eggs are another great source of protein and can help with healthy cholesterol levels. Eating eggs on a regular basis has been found to promote heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Greek Yogurt – Another good source of protein, Greek yogurt is great for those who can eat dairy. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, which helps improve your gut health. The majority of the body’s immune system is housed in the gut, so eating foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics is important to your overall health. Greek yogurt, and other yogurts, are also high in calcium. While other yogurts can still be good options, it is important to look for yogurts that are lower in sugar. Greek yogurt and Skyr and usually lower in sugar than traditional yogurt.
Berries – With a wide variety to choose from, all berries are high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Berries are a great alternative to sugary or processed foods that still satisfy your sweet tooth. You can look for fresh berries when they are in season in the summer months, and use frozen berries any other time of the year for a convenient way to get in your antioxidants and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Whole Grains – Whole grains are important to any diet. The key is to use quality, whole grains such as oats, quinoa, barley, farro, brown rice, whole-wheat, and others. Whole grains include vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, B vitamins, iron, folate and are high in fiber. Pair your whole grains with vegetables, protein, and healthy fats for a balanced meal.
No two people are the same, and this applies to your dietary needs as well. However, there are a few key guidelines that are great starting points to guide you in eating healthy. First, try to eat primarily fresh fruits and vegetables and whole foods, as opposed to processed or packaged foods. A good variety of whole and fresh foods are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and many other nutrients that are essential to good health.
Another good guideline is to base your meals on the Plate Method. The Plate Method is a way to plan your meals and the ingredients you are going to use for each meal. For diabetics, there is a specific Diabetes Plate Method which can be very helpful in planning your meals. When creating your plate, try to make half of the plate non-starchy vegetables, a fourth protein, and a fourth carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are better for your body than simple carbohydrates, as they take longer for your body to break down and digest and contain more nutrients. Carbohydrates affect your blood sugar, so choosing the right carbohydrates is key. Also, look for foods rich in healthy fats and fiber. Foods high in healthy fats and fiber can help make you feel full for longer and reduce feeling hungry often, which can be very important in managing your hunger and blood sugar levels.
As a diabetic, watching your sugar intake is also very important. There are many hidden sugars in packaged foods that you would not even think to look for. When buying packaged foods, make sure to read the ingredient list to see if there are any added sugars or a high sugar content. These hidden sugars can add up quickly in your overall diet. Another general rule when buying packaged foods is to look for a small ingredient list. The longer the ingredient list, the more likely there are unhealthy and processed ingredients.
Cooking more at home is also another great step to take in creating a healthy diet. Buying whole, fresh food and cooking at home allows you to easily control all of the ingredients that are involved. You can choose ingredients that are low in or do not contain sugar, use healthy fats, include a good variety of nutrients and minerals, and prepare the food in a healthy way. Eating out often means you are consuming more foods that are not as healthy for you.
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