When it comes to managing diabetes, research has shown that diet is one of the most important factors, notes the Mayo Clinic. Some foods, however, may play a more powerful role than others in managing the symptoms of the disease. One such food? Blueberries. See how they can fit into a diabetic diet.
Fruits for Managing Diabetes
Due to their natural sugar content, fruits are sometimes perceived as a bad choice for the diabetic diet. However, the American Diabetes Association recommends eating some fruits each day due to their good fiber content.
"People often think they have to give up fruit when they have diabetes, but the sugar in fruit is natural and also comes with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants," says Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert in New York City and coauthor of Sugar Shock. "Antioxidants are substances that protect and stabilize cells, so they're beneficial for everyone."
Other foods that are important components of a diabetes diet, notes the Mayo Clinic, include vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, fish and healthy fats like olive oil or avocados. Highly processed foods with added sugar, saturated fats and sodium should be avoided if at all possible.
Blueberries for Diabetes
While most fruits can be a healthy part of the diabetic diet, some research indicates that blueberries are a particularly good choice for diabetes. In a small study published in April 2020 in Current Developments in Nutrition, 52 men with type 2 diabetes consumed either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberries or 22 grams of a placebo every day for eight weeks.
The group who ate the blueberries experienced a number of benefits related to their diabetes indicators, including lower A1C levels and lower triglycerides. While this is intriguing, the authors do note that the sample size was limiting.
Other studies have shown similar benefits for consuming blueberries for diabetes. For example, a review article published in March 2017 in the Journal of Functional Foods looked at the results of several studies on the effect of blueberries on health indicators. Though the authors noted that more research is needed, they said that the vitamins, anthocyanins and phenolic acid in blueberries seem to fight inflammation and counteract oxidative stress, among other benefits.
"Blueberries have antioxidant properties," says Rebecca Yellin, RD, a registered dietitian with Montefiore Health System in New York City. "They can contribute to overall health and wellness, as antioxidants help to reduce inflammation. Oftentimes, inflammation may be linked to diabetes."
Practical Benefits of Blueberries for Diabetes
Beyond the promising medical research surrounding blueberries for diabetes, there are plenty of other reasons why they make a great choice for the diabetic diet, Cassetty notes. "There's a link between people who eat blueberries and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. And animal research suggests that blueberries may make your cells more responsive to insulin," she says.
"Plus, blueberries are delicious and make a great addition to many meals and snacks. You can enjoy them instead of less healthy foods such as sweets and heavily processed snacks, which is another reason they're a good choice for people with diabetes."
Yellin notes that blueberries are incredibly versatile, which is another excellent reason to incorporate them into a diabetes diet.
"One serving, or about a half-cup, of blueberries contributes 10 to 15 grams of carbohydrates, which is considered an acceptable amount for a snack. One serving of blueberries also has 8 grams of fiber, another positive contribution," she says.
"Blueberries can be enjoyed fresh or frozen as dessert or as a snack. Individuals with diabetes may also benefit from pairing this carbohydrate-containing food with a fat and protein source, such as 1 ounce of salt-free nuts, as this will also help to manage their blood glucose levels."
Read more: 4 Proven Ways to Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
- Mayo Clinic: “Diabetes Diet: Create Your Healthy-Eating Plans”
- American Diabetes Association: “Eating Well: Fruit"
- Current Developments in Nutrition: “Effect of Blueberry Consumption on Cardiometabolic Health Parameters in Men With Type 2 Diabetes: An 8-Week, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial”
- Journal of Functional Foods: “Blueberry as a Source of Bioactive Compounds for the Treatment of Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Chronic Inflammation”
- Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert, New York City, and coauthor of Sugar Shock
- Rebecca Yellin, RD, registered dietitian, Montefiore Health System, New York City