Lettuce and Diabetes: Can the Leafy Green Help Manage Blood Sugar?

Add plenty of lettuce and other non-starchy vegetables to your plate if you have diabetes.
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Of the potential strategies for controlling diabetes, one that has stood the test of time is weight management. If you can maintain a healthy weight, you will likely have better-managed blood sugar and fewer complications. Adding lettuce to your diet can be helpful in this effort.


Lettuce's Role in Diabetes Care

If you have overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight is the goal, and 7 percent is ideal, for blood sugar benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by sticking to a healthy diet plan with the right amount of calories for you.

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While fad foods will come and go, the effects of lettuce on diabetes are very real — and this is due to one simple reason: It's a key tenet of an overall healthy diet that's good for people with diabetes.


"I always include veggies as part of my meal planning with my patients with diabetes," says Marlisa Brown, RD, CDE, a spokesperson for the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. "Veggies can fill you up so you eat less, can increase fiber and nutrients and can help slow the digestion of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, especially the higher-fiber veggies."

The key vegetables people with diabetes should focus on are non-starchy vegetables like lettuce and other leafy greens, according to the American Diabetes Association.


"The non-starchy veggies have very few carbohydrates so they can be eaten in larger quantities without much impact on blood sugar," Brown says. "Some very low-carbohydrate choices include lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms, radishes, green onions and zucchini. Higher-fiber veggies include choices such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, peppers, asparagus, artichokes and dark greens."

In particular, aim for dark leafy green vegetables, per the American Diabetes Association, for diabetes management. These include several options that are close relatives of lettuce, such as kale, spinach and collard greens, as well as beans, berries, citrus fruit, tomatoes, nuts, whole grains and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.


Other Vegetables and Fruits

Despite the focus on non-starchy vegetables, starchy vegetables can still have a place in a healthy diet for diabetes. But you may need to watch your portion sizes when it comes to these food choices.

"It is typically recommended that half of a person's plate should be non-starchy vegetables to ensure adequate vitamins and minerals and promote a feeling of fullness to reduce the portion size of starchy foods," says Christopher Westrick, PharmD, a pharmacist and certified diabetes care and education specialist at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.


"However, a few starchy vegetables to be aware of are potatoes, corn, peas, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and yams. These starchy vegetables will increase blood glucose similar to other starchy foods and should be portion-controlled," Westrick says.

When it comes to fruit for diabetes, his advice is similar. "One key thing to remember about fruit is eat your fruit, don't drink it. It is much healthier to consume fruit rather than drink fruit juice, even if freshly squeezed at home."


"Portion control of fruit is also important since it can increase blood sugar," he says. "Think about having only one baseball-sized piece at a time. If having berries or grapes, a handful would be acceptable. For bananas, try to consume small- to medium-sized bananas while avoiding large bananas."




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