11 Foods to Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels Down
Everyone loves a good sugary or carb-loaded treat now and again, but if you suffer from diabetes or even prediabetes, it’s important to manage your diet so that you don’t push your blood sugar level to a dangerous place. If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, the good news is that diet can help to significantly to reverse the condition.
On the other hand, if you are diabetic, medication is most likely necessary to control your body’s blood sugar levels.
There is no food, herb, or supplement that can lower blood sugar, but there are certain foods that are good for a diabetes diet because they don’t raise blood sugar when consumed. Luckily, there is an easy way to determine which foods these are.
The scale that manages how much a particular food raises blood sugar is called the glycemic index. Foods that are low on the glycemic index are ideal for people watching their blood sugar. We have collected a list of 11 low glycemic foods, and despite what you might think, they are all flavorful choices you won’t have to force yourself to eat. Some, like #4 and #7, are even sweet!
There has been a lot of talk in the media about the fact that avocados represent “good fat” but little explanation of what that actually means. The fats in avocados are primarily polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which can actually improve insulin sensitivity as well as improve blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and increase feelings of satiety after eating.
Avocados are a low glycemic food that researchers believe can lower your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is simply a name for a group of risk factors that can lead to diabetes. Except for the steep price tag, there’s no reason not to enjoy avocado every day.
2. Fish With Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Protein is one of the major building blocks of our cells. It allows the body to maintain and repair itself, yet it doesn’t impact blood sugar levels. Protein is also much more filling and satisfying than carb-heavy meals, so it helps manage blood sugar because the urge to snack is reduced.
Fish are a great source of protein with the added bonus of omega-3 fatty acids. That makes fish an ideal protein for a diabetes diet because omega-3 fatty acids have been found to increase levels of a hormone called adiponectin which improves insulin sensitivity and lowers the risk of developing full blown diabetes. The best types of fish for omega-3s include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, trout, and halibut.
Garlic could very well be considered THE spice of life. It is very tasty yet has no carbohydrates, so it doesn’t feature on the glycemic index at all. You can use as much garlic as you’d like to flavor your meals without worrying about a bump in blood sugar.
In fact, garlic has been found to lower fasting blood glucose. Studies have shown that onions have a similar effect on blood sugar, probably because both garlic and onions contain a compound called allicin that gives them their distinctive taste and smell.
4. Sour Cherries
Fruit does contain natural sugar and it will raise your blood sugar, but some fruits still score low on the glycemic index and can be safely eaten on a diabetes diet. Sour cherries are a great example.
They contain a compound called anthocyanin that has been found to protect against both diabetes and obesity. Sour cherries have a relatively low GI score, too. Only grapefruit scores lower, so both of these fruits can be a great substitute for sweeter bananas, pears, and apples.
5. Leafy Greens
You probably knew this was coming. We are always encouraged to eat our leafy greens, no matter the ailment. That’s because foods like lettuce, spinach, collards, kale, Swiss chard, and turnip greens are high in fiber and critical nutrients. Two in particular, magnesium and vitamin A, can help lower blood sugar.
If you can manage 1.35 servings per day, you’ll get a 14% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
6. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds represent an impressive little package of nutrition, including lots of fiber and healthy fat, plus antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium.
Research has shown that eating chia seeds on a regular basis can lower your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are dangerous when they get too high. Chia seeds will not trouble your blood sugar in the least as they have a GI score of 1.
7. Blueberries and Blackberries
Here is another sweet treat you can look forward to. Blueberries and blackberries rank a bit higher on the glycemic index than sour cherries, but are still well within the range of low glycemic foods with GI scores of about 40.
These fruits are also high in fiber and contain those important anthocyanins to prevent a blood sugar spike. One particular study found that adding blueberry to smoothies can improve insulin sensitivity in people who have insulin resistance.
8. Almonds and Other Nuts
Different varieties of nuts have different GI scores, but most are still considered a low glycemic food. Almonds (with a GI score of 0) are especially good for a diabetes diet because they have been found to regulate blood sugar and limit spikes after eating.
In fact, studies have shown that people who eat 2 ounces of almonds per day have lower fasting glucose and insulin levels. Almonds may also be able to increase insulin sensitivity in prediabetics. Incidentally, the nut with the highest GI score is the cashew, at 22.
9. Whole Grains
If you are concerned about blood sugar, you need to choose your carbohydrates carefully. One guiding principle of this is to always eat whole grains over refined grains. The latter have been processed so extensively that virtually all nutritional value is stripped away.
Whole grains, on the other hand, contain much more fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemicals found in plants). Whole grain bread scores around 51 on the glycemic index, so it is still something best eaten in moderation.
Eggs have had a somewhat spotty reputation due to their cholesterol content, but studies have proven that eating eggs doesn’t actually raise bad cholesterol numbers.
For people with diabetes or prediabetes, eggs are a fantastic healthy staple because they are loaded with protein and have a glycemic index score of 0.
Great news, coffee lovers! You may actually be healthier if you bump your coffee intake up by a cup a day. Of course, this depends on how much you’re drinking already, but some studies suggest that drinking more coffee, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by over 10%.
As long as you don’t add a ton of sugar or cream to your brew, coffee is one habit you can feel good about keeping.
To manage diabetes, reverse prediabetes, or reduce your risk of developing either, it’s important to make sure your diet is rich in foods that score low on the glycemic index. In general, foods are considered low glycemic if they have a score of 55 of lower. Remember that this index rates foods that contain carbohydrates, so there are plenty of choices that score 0.
Still, carbs are an important part of our daily diet as they provide ready fuel for energy. The goal of any low-GI diet should be to moderate your consumption of carbohydrates such that you have enough energy to power through your day without leaving extra sugar floating around in your blood stream. It can be a fine line to walk, but the 11 foods on our list are all healthy choices you can eat without worry.