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Healthy eating for type 2 diabetes is about losing weight and preventing dangerous spikes in blood sugar. Nutrition and health expert Joy Bauer explains how these nine foods can help.
If you’re looking for foods that raise blood-sugar levels slowly and gently, choose high-quality carbohydrates instead of low-quality carbs like refined grains and sugary foods. Whenever possible, you’ll want to couple these carbs with protein and/or healthy fat. Beans (including black, white, navy, lima, pinto, garbanzo, soy, and kidney) are a winning combination of high-quality carbohydrates, lean protein, and soluble fiber that helps stabilize your body’s blood-sugar levels and keeps hunger in check. Beans are also inexpensive, versatile, and virtually fat-free.
Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in whole grains and high-fiber foods may reduce the risk of diabetes by between 35 and 42 percent. An excellent source of both is heart-healthy oatmeal: It’s packed with soluble fiber, which slows the absorption of glucose from food in the stomach — keeping blood-sugar levels under control. High-fiber foods like oatmeal also keep you feeling full longer, which can help with weight management. Top oatmeal with 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts to add protein and healthy fat, which stabilize blood sugars further. Plus, the nuts add great crunch and flavor to your morning meal.
An outstanding source of lean protein is fresh fish. Choose an environmentally friendly variety like catfish, cod, or tilapia; all are mild-flavored, white-fleshed fish that can be healthfully prepared by baking, grilling, or roasting. Pair fish with the high-quality carbs found in vegetables, lentils, or beans for another balanced meal combination that will keep your blood sugar from rising.
Fat-free yogurt naturally contains both high-quality carbohydrates and protein, making it an excellent food for slowing or preventing an unhealthy rise in blood sugar. Studies also show that a diet high in calcium from yogurt and other calcium-rich foods is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Be sure to stick to low-fat or nonfat brands; Greek nonfat yogurt is my favorite choice because it has twice as much protein as regular nonfat yogurt.
Unsalted almonds provide a healthy, low-carb mix of monounsaturated fats plus magnesium, which is believed to be instrumental in carbohydrate metabolism. A large study out of Harvard University found that high daily magnesium intake reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 33 percent. Therefore, including more magnesium-rich foods like almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and Swiss chard in your diet is a smart move.
Chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, nonstarchy vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and peppers) are an ideal source of high-quality carbohydrates. Because these low-calorie, nutrient-dense veggies have a low-impact on blood sugar, they’re an integral component of your diabetes food plan. For most people (including those looking to lose weight), this is one food group that’s okay to eat as much as you like!
Omega-3s from food help reduce your risk of heart disease, which is important for those with type 2 diabetes, whose risk of cardiovascular disease is already elevated. (Over time, high blood glucose levels can lead to increased deposits of fatty materials in blood vessels, which contributes to clogging of arteries.) Wild salmon or sardines are not only rich in omega 3s but also contain a healthy-fat-and-protein combination that slows the body’s absorption of carbohydrates, keeping blood sugars on an even keel.
Rich in high-quality lean protein and low in carbs, egg whites are another healthy choice for controlling or preventing type 2 diabetes. One large egg white contains about 16 calories and 4 grams of high-quality, filling protein, making egg whites a perfect food for blood sugar control, not to mention weight-loss or maintenance.
Avocado is high in monounsaturated fats, which are generally considered among the healthiest of fats. Researchers have found that a diet high in monounsaturated fats and low in low-quality carbs may improve insulin sensitivity. Monounsaturated fats also improve heart health — an especially important benefit for people with diabetes, who are at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Add a few thin slices of avocado to your sandwiches in place of mayonnaise, or mash a ripe avocado with cilantro, lime juice, and diced tomatoes for a delicious guacamole dip.
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