When it comes to diabetes, choosing the right fruits and vegetables to meet your daily recommended intake of these nutritious foods can make a big difference in your blood sugar. Some fruits and vegetables are particularly healthy for diabetics because they have a low glycemic index, which means they don't cause large increases in your blood sugar level. On top of that, they contain other beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, antioxidants and a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Next time you're in the mood for fruit, reach for berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. These fiber-filled fruits contain a type of beneficial plant chemical called polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. A study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in April 2010 found that eating berries with your meal may help minimize post-meal increases in blood sugar and that the polyphenols in the berries may cause less of the sugar in the meal to be digested and absorbed.
Regularly eating at least one apple per day may lower your risk for diabetes by approximately 28 percent, according to a study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2005. This is because of the fruit's flavonoid content, a type of antioxidant. Apples are also unlikely to cause large increases in your blood sugar. Any score below 55 is considered low on the glycemic index, which measures a carbohydrate's impact on your blood sugar levels, and apples fit into this category, with a glycemic index of 39.
Citrus fruits are high in both vitamin C and soluble fiber, and diabetics sometimes have lower vitamin C levels than non-diabetics, according to the "Archives of Internal Medicine," making this an important nutrient for diabetics to get from their diet. Soluble fiber helps slow the emptying of the stomach and the release of sugars into the blood, helping control blood sugar levels. These fruits are also low on the glycemic index. For example, grapefruit has a GI score of 25, and oranges have a GI score of 40.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are very low in carbohydrates and calories. This is why, like other non-starchy vegetables, they have a very low glycemic index, allowing you to eat large servings without significantly affecting your blood sugar levels. Eating more green leafy vegetables is also associated with a lower risk for developing diabetes, according to a meta-analysis published in the "British Medical Journal" in 2010.
Beans and Other Legumes
Beans and other legumes pull double duty. Not only do they count as starchy vegetables, they also provide you with protein without all of the fat that comes along with animal-based protein sources. Although you need to take into consideration the carbohydrates they contain, they are low on the glycemic index and not likely to raise your blood sugar too much when consumed in moderation. For example, lentils and kidney beans have a GI score of 29, black beans have a GI of 30 and blackeyed peas have a GI of 33. Beans may even improve your blood sugar control, according to a study published in "Diabetologia" in August 2009, especially if you eat them as part of a high-fiber or low-glycemic-index diet.
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Superfoods
- Diabetologia: Effect of Non-Oil-Seed Pulses on Glycaemic Control: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Experimental Trials in People With and Without Diabetes
- British Medical Journal: Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- Archives of Internal Medicine: Plasma Vitamin C Level, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, and the Risk of New-Onset Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Associations of Dietary Flavonoids with Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and Markers of Insulin Resistance and Systemic Inflammation in Women: A Prospective Study and Cross-Sectional Analysis
- British Journal of Nutrition: Berries Modify the Postprandial Plasma Glucose Response to Sucrose in Healthy Subjects
- Harvard Medical School: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- Clinical Diabetes: The 3 R's of Glycemic Index: Recommendations, Research, and the Real World
- American Diabetes Association: Non-Starchy Vegetables