Diabetes Nutrition Tips: 6 Foods You’ll Love

By:    Published: May 25, 2012

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Diabetics face special dietary challenges in order to control their blood sugar levels and remain in good health. For a person with diabetes, these food selections not only keep their diabetes under control, they also help prevent further health complications down the road. There are even benefits to using this diet if you don't have diabetes - those who are at risk for developing diabetes may be able to prevent or delay the onset of the disease by using this health-conscious diet. Read on to find out about the best food choices available for diabetics.

(For more diabetes information, be sure to check out Diabetes in the Diseases & Conditions channel.)

1. Fish

One of the best choices for diabetics is fish. This food choice contains plenty of protein without the high fat content found in meat and poultry. Furthermore, fish contain a significant amount of omega 3 fatty acids, which are excellent for keeping triglyceride levels low and your heart healthy. Individuals with diabetes should try to eat fish at least twice a week. Almost any type of fish is a great choice, including cod, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel and tuna. The only fish to avoid are any type of fried fish or fish that have high mercury levels, like swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

2. Vegetables

Veggies are obviously a good choice for anyone who wants to stay healthy, but they offer special advantages for people with diabetes. First of all, they contain high levels of fiber, which helps you to feel full while also helping to control blood sugar levels and prevent heart disease. Vegetables are also low in calories, so they can help diabetics to avoid excessive weight gain as well. Any vegetable is a good choice, but don't overdo it on the starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn since these have more calories than other veggies. Try to focus on vegetables like spinach, broccoli or carrots. Ideally, people with diabetes should eat four or five servings of vegetables a day.

3. Fruit

Like vegetables, fruits are also considered a healthy food choice because of their nutritional benefits. For diabetics, however, fruit is something that can't be eaten in large quantities because of the natural sugar content. That doesn't mean fruit  is a bad food choice, by any means. Rather, fruit has the high fiber and low calorie content that offer many of the same benefits as vegetables. Plus, fruits contain antioxidants, like grapefruit, which can protect the heart, nerves and eyes. The best fruits for diabetics to eat are fresh produce rather than juice since the fiber in the skin, flesh and seeds are lost in the juicing process. Diabetics should try to eat no more than three or four servings of fruit per day to keep their blood sugar levels at a health level.

4. Legumes

As mentioned before, fiber has a host of great health benefits that are particularly great for diabetics. And since legumes like beans and peas are one of the very best sources of dietary fiber, it's no surprise that they are recommended for diabetics. Legumes are known to help you feel full because of this high fiber content, but there's also another hidden benefit in this food: the fiber also slows digestion, which is perfect for keeping blood sugar levels from spiking right after eating. Instead, eating legumes may even help lower blood sugar levels. Whether canned or fresh, beans are a great addition to any meal for a diabetic. Some of the best choices in this category include black beans, peas and lentils.

5. Nuts

Although they should be consumed in moderation, nuts are an excellent snack option for diabetics. They contain "good fats" which reduce insulin resistance, make blood sugar easier to regulate and even protect your heart by lowering cholesterol levels. Additionally, nuts contain fiber, magnesium and vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in the body. They do contain a lot of calories, however, so they should be eaten in smaller amounts. A few options in this category include pecans, walnuts and almonds.

6. Whole Grains

Because carbohydrates have such a significant effect on blood sugar levels, it's very important for people with diabetes to be careful to restrict their carbohydrate intake to whole grains whenever possible. Like many of the other foods on this list, whole grains have more fiber and fewer calories. Look for whole grains in cereals, breads, brown rice, flour and tortillas.

Although there are other foods that diabetics can certainly enjoy, the ones listed here are by far the best choices for a diabetic diet. A few of the key foods that should be avoided include red meat, white bread and fried foods. As always, consult your doctor about the best diet for your personal situation before making any significant diet changes.

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