What are you eating? Choosing the right foods really does make a difference, especially if you are one of nearly 24 million Americans who have diabetes.
Research shows that “eating a healthy diet,” coupled with exercise and maintaining normal body weight, can “prevent type 2 diabetes in people who are predisposed” to develop the disease, says Christine Tobin, a certified diabetes educator and president of Healthcare and Education for the American Diabetes Association.
Tobin notes there are lots of lists of so-called super foods, but the American Diabetes Association chose its 10 best super foods for both type 1 and 2 diabetics because they contain nutrients that are especially important to people with diabetes, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E. They are high in fiber, which helps you feel full longer and keeps your glycemic index low so they don't spike blood sugar (thus increasing hunger). And, Tobin says, they help maintain healthy levels of blood pressure and blood fats (like cholesterol), which are important for all of us but especially so for diabetics.
TOP 10 (DIABETES) SUPER FOODS
1. Beans. Though high in calories, kidney, pinto, navy, black and other types of beans are rich in nutrients and high in fiber. They help you feel full and stay full longer, Tobin says.
2. Dark, leafy green vegetables. Spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, kale and other dark, leafy green veggies are nutrient-dense, low in carbohydrates. And so low in calories that Tobin says you can “eat all you want.”
3. Citrus fruits. Oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which helps heart health. Stick to whole fruits instead of juice. Fiber in whole fruit slows sugar absorption so you get the citrus fruit nutrients without sending your blood sugar soaring.
4. Sweet potatoes. High in vitamin A and fiber and low in glycemic index, sweet potatoes don't “raise your blood sugar at the same level as a regular potato,” Tobin says.
5. Berries. Whole, unsweetened blueberries, strawberries and other berries are full of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Choose fresh or frozen for salads, smoothies or cereal.
6. Tomatoes. Enjoy this low-calorie super food raw or cooked. Serve sliced, steamed, broiled or stewed, as a side dish, in salads, soups, casseroles or other dishes. “You're getting really very vital nutrients — vitamin C and iron and vitamin E,” Tobin says.
7. Fish high in omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, halibut and herring are high in omega 3 fatty acids that help both heart health and diabetes. (Tobin advises staying away from breaded or deep-fried fish.)
8. Whole grains. Pearled barley, oatmeal, breads and other whole-grain foods are high in fiber and contain nutrients such as magnesium, chromium, folate and omega 3 fatty acids.
9. Nuts. Once a diet no-no because of nuts' high fat content, research now shows these are “good fats” (including omega 3s) that improve heart health and provide other benefits. But nuts are high in calories, so “you can't eat a whole bag of almonds or walnuts,” Tobin cautions. The ADA recommends 1.5 ounces a day, “a small handful.”
10. Fat-free milk and yogurt. These dairy foods not only provide the calcium and vitamin D your body needs, but they also help curb cravings and between-meal snacks.
Tempted to splurge? “If you're going to overdo something,” Tobin says, “you're better off overdoing on a superfood,” even if it's high in calories, “than on something like chocolates.”