If you have type 2 diabetes, your diet can have a profound effect on your blood sugar. The typical high-carb diet can make your blood sugar skyrocket, while dramatically cutting back the carbs lowers it. There’s no question that controlling carbs is vital to controlling your blood sugar. But once you get beyond the question of high-carb vs. low-carb and processed vs. unprocessed food, how do you know what to eat?
The best foods are nutrient-dense and low-carb. Many have anti-inflammatory properties or improve gut health. Below are some of the best foods for type 2 diabetics.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards, and mustard or turnip greens are packed with vitamins and minerals. They’re an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and B-6, and of both potassium and magnesium. They’re a rich source of antioxidants, containing not only high levels of vitamins A and C but also the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, an important component of diabetes.
The humble egg is also a nutritional powerhouse. A staple of the typical low-carb diet, the provide a healthy dose of protein and “good” fat and are a good source of both potassium and vitamin D. Like leafy greens, they’re a good source of antioxidants and help reduce inflammation. Eggs can also increase your levels of “good” cholesterol while changing the size and shape of the “bad” kind, improving your cholesterol profile. Just make sure you eat the whole egg—most of the health benefits are found in the yolk, not the white.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut can have a positive effect on your gut bacteria, which play a role in many aspects of your health. Gut bacteria can influence your weight, your digestion, and even how many calories are absorbed from your food, and a healthy gut is an important part of a healthy you. When buying fermented foods, look for yogurt or kefir which say they contain active or live cultures, and don’t contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. For sauerkraut, kimchi, and the like, choose the fresh versions stored in the cooler section of your supermarket. Processing by canning kills the bacteria which ferment the food, destroying the health benefits.
Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which most of us get far too little of. Omega-3s reduce inflammation and protect against cardiovascular disease, which type 2 diabetics are at greater risk for than others. They’re also an excellent source of protein.
Regular consumption of nuts—particularly walnuts and almonds—can help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and even improve insulin levels. Nuts are a good source of healthy fats, protein, and trace minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
Virtually all low-carb, nutrient-dense whole foods are suitable for type 2 diabetics, but these stand out from the crowd.