Eating healthy isn't just about cutting bad foods out of our diets; it's also about adding in nutritious foods that will help us reach our health and wellness goals.
If you are looking to lower your blood sugar levels, then you may be wondering what the best foods are to eat that are low on the glycemic index, that won't spike your blood sugars, and that will provide you with nutrients to support a healthy body.
Avocados are a trendy food these days, and that is for good reason. Avocados are packed with nutrients like fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and more. They are also an important source of healthy fats called monounsaturated fatty acids.
Luckily, you can take advantage of all of the health benefits of avocados without having to worry about blood sugar spikes. The glycemic index and load of avocados is thought to be very minimal.
In fact, researchers have found that adding one-half of an avocado to your food can reduce post-meal blood sugar and insulin effects. Adding avocado to a meal can also reduce your appetite and keep you full for longer after eating – which can help you to control your weight.
Ideas for adding more avocado to your diet:
· Chop up avocado and add it to salads and soups.
· Mash it onto whole-grain bread to make a filling toast.
· Don't forget the classic favorite of guacamole made with avocado, lime, onion, cilantro, and garlic!
Beans are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. And although they do contain carbohydrates, beans also contain so much fiber that the body digests those carbs very slowly, leading to a minimal blood sugar response. Beans are another low-glycemic food.[3,4]
Eating beans can improve your insulin sensitivity and help you regulate blood sugar levels, too, which can help to protect you against diabetes.
Ideas for adding more beans to your diet:
· Sprinkle beans on salads.
· Make your own hummus by pureeing beans with flavorful spices and add ins.
· Add beans to homemade soups like chili or black bean soup.
· Sautee beans with veggies.
3. Nuts and nut butters
Nuts like almonds, pistachios, and walnuts are great blood sugar-lowering foods. They are nutrient rich and contain helpful things like fiber and healthy fats. Studies have found that eating nuts can have beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin levels. They can also help keep you full and can ultimately help to reduce diabetes risk.[6,7]
The only thing to watch for with nuts is portion sizes. Recommendations suggest about 1.5 ounces of nuts or seeds per day.
Ideas for adding more nuts and nut butters to your diet:
· Grab a handful of nuts as a snack.
· Use nut butters to spread on whole-grain bread or on sliced apples as a treat.
· Sprinkle nuts on salads.
· Chop some nuts up and add them to yogurt or oatmeal with fresh berries.
Fish is a very healthy protein source. We need plenty of healthy protein to keep our blood sugar levels in check, as it can help to prevent blood sugar swings. Fish is also free from carbs and is high in important healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids.
Oily fish, in particular, can help to keep blood sugars balanced and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Ideas for adding more fish to your diet:
· Serve fish with brown rice and a side of vegetables for a wholesome and satisfying dinner.
· Use cooked fish as a healthy addition to salads, scrambled eggs, stir fries, and other dishes.
· Grill fish on the barbecue for a summertime treat.
· Create fish "burgers" out of canned salmon or tuna with oats, egg, onion, and spices.
Spinach is well-known as a health food, and the science backs that up. Spinach is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that all support optimal body function. The benefits of spinach include helping to control insulin and blood sugar levels.
As with other non-starchy vegetables, spinach is low in carbs and low on the glycemic index so it won't cause blood sugar swings.
Ideas for adding more spinach to your diet:
· Sautee spinach in a fry pan with a little oil, salt, and pepper for an easy and nutritious side dish.
· Mix in spinach to soups, stews, pasta, stir fries, and other warm dishes – it cooks down so much you'll barely notice it is there!
· Use spinach fresh as a base for any salad recipe.
· Get creative with using extra leftover spinach in dishes like these.
Like beans, lentils are another type of legume that is a great food for keeping blood sugars low. Legumes are known to help with blood sugar control, and studies suggest that substituting lentils for other high-starch side dishes like rice can reduce blood sugar levels by 20%.[10,11]
Lentils are also high in protein, fiber, iron, potassium, and other nutrients.
Ideas for adding more lentils to your diet:
· Add lentils to soups for a hearty replacement to meat.
· Create meatless veggie burgers or meatballs with pureed lentils.
· Mix lentils into salads.
· Make your own dal – a traditional Indian dish of cooked lentils with flavorful spices.
Spices like cinnamon have incredible health benefits, including improving blood sugar control and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.[12,13]
Plus, cinnamon and other spices don't pose any problems when it comes to calories or carbs, so it is easy to add them to your diet without any extra thought.
· Make flavorful dishes like curry or mole with a touch of cinnamon.
· Add cinnamon to warming winter stews.
· Put a dash of cinnamon on fresh fruit for an extra-special touch.
8. Oats and oatmeal
Oats are a low-glycemic whole grain, and they are a wonderful source of fiber. In particular, they contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan which helps to reduce glucose and insulin responses in the human body.
Researchers have found that oats and oatmeal can help people with diabetes to better control their blood sugar levels.[14,15]
Ideas for adding more oats to your diet:
· Make warm oatmeal with regular oats and healthy toppings like nuts, cinnamon, shredded coconut, fresh berries, peanut butter, or sliced fruit.
· Create homemade granola with oats, toasted nuts, sunflower seeds, vanilla, or cinnamon.
· Soak oats in plain yogurt and milk to make a ready-to-go breakfast called overnight oats.
· Use oats in place of breadcrumbs in recipes like meatloaf, meatballs, and veggie burgers.
Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which offer many different important health benefits.
Broccoli is thought to be a superfood that has especially strong effects in people with blood sugar concerns. A 2017 study, for example, found that people with type 2 diabetes who took a supplement made up of concentrated broccoli sprout extract could reduce their blood sugar levels by up to 10%.
These benefits may be due in large part to the fiber content in broccoli, which is about 3.8 g per serving. Broccoli is also rich in antioxidants like vitamin C.
Ideas for adding more broccoli to your diet:
· Steam broccoli for a simple side at dinnertime.
· Stir fry broccoli with other vegetables and healthy sauces and spices. Serve the stir fry with chicken and a whole grain like brown rice.
· Roast broccoli in the oven with olive oil and salt to make a crispy snack.
As discussed earlier, beans are fiber-packed foods that do great things for blood sugar control.[3-5] But if you are only thinking about eating beans in their whole form, then you are missing out. Pureeing beans turns them into hummus, which is another excellent blood sugar-lowering food that is low on the glycemic index.
Hummus is a classic dish in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It is usually made up of garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), along with other healthy ingredients like tahini (ground sesame), lemon juice, garlic, olive, and salt.
The versatility of hummus is really where this food shines, and it can be a great substitution for everything from mayo to ranch dip to salad dressing.
Ideas for adding more hummus to your diet:
· Dip veggie sticks in hummus for a healthy snack.
· Add dollops of hummus to fresh salads for a hearty topping.
· Make your own hummus with a variety of different beans and flavor combinations – get creative!
· Put hummus on whole-grain bread in place of mayo.
Kale belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables. This family of veggies are nutrient powerhouses and have been well-researched for their extensive health benefits, which include protection against chronic diseases like heart disease and even cancer.
Kale is a non-starchy vegetable that is low in carbs but high in nutrients. Not only will it not spike your blood sugar, but it also can help to suppress blood sugar spikes after a meal.
Ideas for adding more kale to your diet:
Sautee kale with chicken sausage and other veggies to create a savory breakfast.
· Toss ripped up kale with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a hot oven to make kale "chips."
· Put kale into soups, stews, stir fries, and other warm dishes and cook it down for a nutrient boost.
12. Plain yogurt?
Yogurt is a fermented food made from milk and active bacteria cultures. The fermentation process is what gives yogurt both its sour flavor and its incredible health benefits.
As long as it isn't sweetened with added sugars, yogurt can help you to keep your blood sugars stable and prevent diabetes. In fact, people who regularly eat yogurt are at a reduced risk for diabetes.
Just be sure to look for plain, unsweetened yogurt. The flavored varieties you may be used to buying (especially fruit-flavored yogurts) are usually very high in sugar and should be avoided if you have any concerns about your blood sugar levels.
Ideas for adding more yogurt to your diet:
· Build your own breakfast parfait with layers of yogurt, oats, and colorful berries.
· Use yogurt in dips and sauces in place of sour cream or cream cheese.
· Experiment with creative recipes like these to incorporate yogurt into a wide range of dishes.
Berries are the #1 fruit to consume if you have blood sugar concerns and want to keep your blood glucose low. Like other fruits and vegetables, berries are high in fiber and important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. In fact, berries are one of the top sources of powerful antioxidants called flavonoids.
The great thing about berries is that they are much lower in sugar compared to other fruits. When you eat berries, it can actually help to moderate your blood sugar responses. This is good for you whether you are healthy, have insulin resistance, have prediabetes, or have type 2 diabetes.
Ideas for adding more berries to your diet:
· Mix berries into oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast.
· Sprinkle fresh berries on top of a salad for a tasty treat.
· Slice or mash berries and put them on whole-grain bread in place of jam.
· Freeze berries in ice cube trays and add the ice to sparkling water.
14. Whole grains
Anytime you can switch out a refined grain for a whole grain, you are doing yourself a favor. Refined grains are high on the glycemic index and will rapidly raise your blood sugars, while whole grains contain natural fiber that helps to slow and reduce the glucose response. While refined grains increase your diabetes risk, whole grains can protect you against diabetes.
Just be sure to take into account the carbohydrate content and watch your portions – a good goal is to eat a few servings of whole grains per day (a serving is about 1 ounce of bread or 1/2 cup of cooked grain or pasta).
Ideas for adding more whole grains to your diet:
· Eat oatmeal instead of a sugar-sweetened cereal for breakfast.
· Choose whole-grain bread, pasta, or crackers instead of white flour alternatives.
· Serve dinner entrees with a side of quinoa, brown rice, farro, or another whole grain.
· Build a bowl out of a whole grain topped with beans, chopped vegetables, sautéed greens, nuts or seeds, and a healthy dressing or sauce.
Now we know that water isn't exactly a food, but drinking water is so important that we wanted to be sure to add it here.
There are plenty of tempting beverage options out there that are horrible for blood sugar levels. Sodas, fruit punch, flavored coffee drinks, sports drinks, sweet tea, cocktails, and others usually have sky high levels of added sugars. These drinks all raise your risk for diabetes and can make diabetes worse.
So whenever you can, cut back on those unhealthy drinks and add in more glasses of good old fashioned water instead.
Ideas for adding more water to your diet:
· Keep a reusable water bottle on hand so that you can stay hydrated throughout the day.
· Freeze berries or herbs in ice cubes to liven up your glass of water.
· Add fresh citrus juice to carbonated water for a refreshing drink.
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels for any reason, then the 15 foods listed above are great choices to add to your diet. Try to give these foods starring roles in your meals to help crowd out other, less healthy foods that can be problematic for blood sugar levels.
Want to add more healthy foods like these to your diet? With Lark, get support in learning how to do just that. With our program, you can log your eating habits and get instant feedback on whether or not those foods will help you reach your health goals. You'll also get suggestions for what to try next time so you can learn and improve along the way.
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