It's no surprise that nuts are heart-healthy but it's also possible that they are beneficial foods for individuals with diabetes. Research suggests that that consuming tree nuts, in conjunction with other dietary changes, can improve blood sugar levels in individuals with non-insulin dependent, or type 2, diabetes and also improve blood cholesterol levels in these individuals. If you have diabetes, be careful of nuts with added sugar in any form, such as honey or chocolate, since these components are high in simple carbohydrate.
Mixed Nuts and Diabetes
Several research studies have examined the potential benefits of consuming a mixture of different nuts for individuals with diabetes. In one study, published in "Diabetes Care" in 2011, researches found that subjects with type 2 diabetes had increased energy after consuming 2 ounces of mixed nuts daily, compared to a control group. These individuals also had changes that indicated their blood sugar was lower during the study and their levels of "bad," LDL-cholesterol also dropped. The researchers concluded that nuts are a good replacement for carbohydrate foods that can improve glycemic control and blood cholesterol.
Almonds decrease post-meal blood sugar surges, according to a research study published in the "Journal of Nutrition" in 2006. Researchers fed 15 healthy subjects five meals comparable in carbohydrate, fat and protein content; three test meals that consisted of almonds, bread, boiled rice and instant mashed potatoes; and two control meals. Blood samples, taken pre-meal and four hours after each meal, showed that almonds lowered the rise in blood sugar and insulin levels four hours after eating. Additional research, published in "Metabolism" in 2007, showed that eating almonds with a high glycemic index food reduced the rise in blood sugar post-meal. There was a dose-dependent relationship. The more almonds consumed, the lower the rise in participants' blood sugar levels after eating. Eating 3 oz. of almonds with a white bread meal caused a rise in blood sugar of only 1.6 mmol/L, less than half the rise seen after eating the white bread only meal.
A research study published in "Diabetes Care" in December 2004 showed that including 1 oz. of walnuts in the diet of patients with type 2 diabetes significantly improved their cholesterol profile, reducing risk of heart disease. Fifty-eight men and women of an average age of 59 were assigned one of three diets, all with 30 percent total calories from fat: a traditional low-fat diet; a modified low-fat diet; and a modified low-fat diet that included an ounce of walnuts daily. After six months, those on the low-fat walnut diet had a better HDL-to-total cholesterol ratio than the other groups and 10 percent lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels.
Cashews are lower in fat than most other nuts. About 75 percent of the fat in cashews is oleic acid, or heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which is the same type of fat found in olive oil. When added to a low-fat diet, monounsaturated fat helps reduce high triglyceride, or blood fat, levels. Individuals with type 2 diabetes often suffer from high triglyceride levels, which in turn, increase risk of heart disease. It is not only the monounsaturated fat in cashews that makes them beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes. An animal research study published in the "Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy" in 2005 showed that when dried cashew nut extract was given orally to healthy rats and those with induced diabetes, both groups had significantly lower blood sugar levels three hours after extract administration. Thus, cashew nuts may offer anti-hyperglycemic benefits.