If you're prone to high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, nutritious foods could be nature's best medicine. Whether you have diabetes or are at risk for the disease, a healthy diet can boost your wellness by keeping your blood sugar in a normal range after you eat. While vegetables can't lower your blood sugar on their own, certain varieties are particularly helpful for blood sugar management. Before making significant dietary shifts, seek guidance from your doctor or dietitian.
The American Diabetes Association calls nonstarchy vegetables the one food people with diabetes can enjoy more of because of their low carbohydrate content and rich amounts of micronutrients. Fresh or steamed veggies provide lower-carbohydrate alternatives to snacks that can spike your blood sugar, such as candy and pretzels. Many also supply valuable amounts of fiber, a nondigestible carbohydrate that has a mellowing impact on blood sugar and promotes appetite control. Particularly high-fiber varieties include cooked Brussels sprouts, which provide nearly 4 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup; cooked asparagus, which provides nearly 3 grams per 1/2 cup; and cooked kale, which supplies over 2 grams per serving. Cauliflower, broccoli and beets are also fiber-rich.
Squash and Sweet Potatoes
Starchy vegetables, although higher in carbohydrates and calories than nonstarchy veggies, are highly nutritious, fiber-rich foods. Replacing less healthy starches such as instant rice, white dinner rolls and egg noodles at your meals, with a serving of starchy vegetable can help lower your blood sugar and your overall nutrient intake significantly. Your best options are not prepared with fatty, sugary or salty ingredients, says the ADA, and include baked sweet potatoes, winter squash and butternut squash. Choose sweet potatoes and yams over white or instant potatoes, which have a high impact on blood sugar.
Beans, Peas and Lentils
Legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, are top sources of fiber. They also provide valuable amounts of protein, which promotes blood sugar control and makes them a nutritious alternative to inflammatory protein sources, such as red, processed and fried meats. As rich sources of saturated fat, these foods increase inflammation in your body, raising your risk for diabetes and heart disease. One cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein and over 10 grams of fiber. A cooked cup of black or lima beans supplies over 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Examples of nutritious legume-based dishes include vegetarian chili, lentil soup and low-fat hummus.
Your Overall Diet
A healthy diet for blood sugar control contains balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals. Overeating any food, particularly carb sources, can cause high blood sugar, so incorporate reasonable portions of nutritious starches into your meals. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about your specific carbohydrate needs. You can still enjoy low-nutrient fare, such as sweets and fried foods, in modest, occasional proportions. Choose whole fruits such as berries, apples and plums over juices, pineapple and sweetened fruits, which have a high blood sugar impact. Unlike refined grains such as white flour, whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice and popcorn are rich in fiber and other essential nutrients. Additional healthy protein sources include lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fish and tofu.
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Managing Diabetes: High Blood Sugar
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
- American Heart Association: Fiber Up, Slim Down
- American Diabetes Association: Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Harvard University Health Services: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- American Diabetes Association: Grains and Starchy Vegetables
- American Diabetes Association: Glycemic Index and Diabetes
- Linus Pauling Institute: Two Faces of Inflammation
- Vegetarian Resource Group: Protein in the Vegan Diet
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Meal Plans and a Healthy Diet