10 foods that help to control blood sugar include:
- Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Under Ripe Bananas
- Oily Fish
- Almonds, Cashews and Peanuts
- Low Fat Yoghurts
- Sugar Free Beverages
There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, as it is an autoimmune condition, however, there are certain lifestyle factors we can implement to help our symptoms.
When it comes to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, there are certain lifestyle changes that we can make to help control our blood sugar. Let’s take a look at some of the most common diabetes friendly foods.
Whole-grains and high-fibre foods act as a physical barrier that slows down the absorption of carbohydrates. ‘Wholemeal’ is not the same. Even though the whole of the grain is included, it has been ground up so it won’t have the same positive effect on your blood sugar.
Wholegrain, starchy carbohydrates should be a staple at every meal. Choose similar sized portions at each meal as this can help to control your blood sugar levels.
One standard portion of a starchy carbohydrate is equal to 2 thin slices of wholegrain bread or 1 wholegrain pitta bread/ 1 cup of cooked wholegrain rice/pasta/ noodles/couscous/ a serving of breakfast cereal (2 Weetabix, 1/2 cup of high fibre bran flakes)
Add fresh fruit to breakfast cereals. Always add salad vegetables such as tomato, lettuce, cucumber and onion to a sandwich or wrap.
Aim to have at least 2 servings of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables with your main meal.
A bowl of oatmeal is one of the best ways to start your day! It has a low Glycaemic Index. The Glycaemic Index (GI),it is a ranking of how quickly these foods make your blood glucose levels rise after eating them. Oatmeal will keep you full for a lot longer than the same amount of carbohydrate provided by bread. It will also release the glucose at a slow and steady rate to keep your blood sugars from spiking
And for all of you who say you don’t have time to make oatmeal in the morning, then I have your solution. The night before, place some porridge oats in a jar and cover with enough low fat milk or yoghurt to soak into the oats, add some fresh or frozen fruit on top and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon or low calorie sweetener for added flavour and store in the fridge. Then, in the morning all you have to do is just grab and go!
A pulse is a seed that grows in a pod. ‘Pulses’ includes chickpeas and garden peas, butter beans, kidney beans and black beans,and lentils.
These foods are a great option for those with type 2 diabetes. The fact that they are high in fibre and protein, helps slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose in the blood.
This means that they don’t give that sharp rise in your blood sugar levels. They can be bought tinned or dried – both are easy to use. They are low in fat and make a great protein alternative for those meatless Mondays!
When buying tinned peas or beans, try to get into the habit of reading labels. Always go for the healthier option, eg kidney beans in water vs kidney beans in chilli juice, and choose reduced sugar baked beans. These easy swaps will make all the difference to your blood sugar!
4. Non Starchy Vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables provide a good source of fibre without the high intake of carbohydrate associated with starchy foods. This means they will have little or no affect on your blood sugar levels.
Aim to incorporate more non-starchy rather than starchy vegatables into your diet.
Examples of non-starchy vegetables include:
- Courgette and many more
It is recommended to fill up on a wide range of vegetables. Vegetables are a good source of dietary fibre, meaning they help aid in digestion, keeping you fuller for longer and have been shown to help lower cholesterol.
Due to their low calorie composition, and minimal effect on blood sugars, they are one food group that is hard to over do, so fill your plate up!
Examples of starchy vegetables include carrots, celery, courgettes, cucumbers, asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, kale and spinach.
Some fruits are more friendly on your blood sugar levels than others.
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are low sugar, and rich in vitamins and antioxidants, so they make a great option for something sweet after dinner.
Portion size is very important when considering the impact of food on your blood glucose levels.
It is important to avoid eating more than one portion of fruit at a time as too much natural sugars all at once will still affect your blood sugars. It’s a good idea to space your fruit out between your meals, here are some suggestions:
- 6 strawberries
- A handful of blueberries
- 10-16 raspberries/ grapes
- 1 medium sized apple, pear, banana
- 2 small fruits e.g. 2 kiwis, 2 mandarins or 2 plums
- 1 slice of pineapple or wedge of melon
- 1 small glass (150mls) unsweetened fruit juice
6. Under Ripe Bananas
All fruits and vegetables will be low in calories, high in fibre and full of vitamins and minerals so choosing these instead of high sugar, high fat snacks such as biscuits, crisps etc will always be the better option.
Some fruits however will have a different effect on your blood sugars than others. Only 2 tablespoons of dried fruit like raisins or dried cherries can contains 15 grams of carbohydrate. This is another example of where portion size really matters! So again, be careful with your portion sizes!
As a banana ripens, it becomes sweeter as its sugar content increases.
Choosing a more green banana, can have less of an effect on blood sugars, as they are more starchy, and take longer for the body to break down.
Bananas in supermarkets now seem to be supersized, there for can have double the sugar and carbohydrates! Try to pick a small-medium sized banana as a healthy snack.
7. Oily Fish
Salmon, mackerel, herring and trout are all a type of Oily fish. They are a great source of low fat protein, and rich in omega 3 which protects the heart. People with type 2 diabetes, can have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Oily fish should therefore be eaten twice a week. Tinned is just as good as fresh, but make sure you are choosing the healthier variety eg. in spring water or brine. If you opt for frozen, just make sure that you are choosing the plain kind. Avoid bread crumbs and batters which are high in fat, and will also increase your blood sugars.
8. Almonds, Cashews and Peanuts
Unsalted, dry roasted or raw nuts make for a great snack in between meals, and won’t affect your blood sugar levels. They are full of protein, which helps in keeping those pesky cravings at bay.
They are also full of your heart healthy ‘monounsaturated’ fats. These healthy fats help to increase HDL, which is the “good” cholesterol in the body. Having good control over your blood sugar levels and eating heart-healthy foods can reduce the complications associated with diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease.
Nuts come with a disclaimer: portion control! Although the fats in nuts are healthy, nuts are also high in calories. Keep your consumption to 1 ounce per day, or a closed handful, and reap all the benefits without sacrificing the waistline!
9. Low Fat Yogurt
For those who enjoy a dessert after their dinner, or something sweet to have while watching netflix, yoghurt is a great choice!
Natural yoghurt with sugar free jelly, or a portion of stewed fruit makes for a yummy treat, and will be kind to your blood sugars.
There are naturally occurring sugars found in milk and yoghurts, called ‘lactose’.There are no reported adverse effects of consuming naturally occurring sugars, within the correct portion size.
Manufacturers however add additional sugars to a lot of flavoured yoghurts, which is bad news for your blood sugar levels.
Learning how to read food labels is a really good idea. It might read ‘low fat’, which is great, but often these products can be high in sugar. Aim for low fat or 0% options, with 5 grams or less sugar per 100 grams.
10. Sugar Free Beverages
If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t mean you have to live a boring life and give up everything you enjoy. It just means being that bit smarter about our choices, to keep blood sugars normal. If you are someone who enjoys a fizzy drink, then it is perfectly ok to still drink them, but make sure its a sugar free version. Likewise, if you are someone who has a sweet tooth, and needs a spoon of sugar in your cup of coffee in the morning, then swap this for a low sugar sweetener.
In recent years, artificial sweeteners have been demonized as dangerous chemicals that we should avoid.
However the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has recognized them as safe, meaning after rigorous testing, a panel of experts have agreed that it is safe for people to use these sugar alternatives, if used in the appropriate amounts.
To avoid health complications that are associated with diabetes, it is so important that blood sugars are well looked after. Since artificial sweeteners are not processed by the body in the same way as sugar, their benefits for a diabetic are outweighed.
Having diabetes does not mean you need to eat a completely sugar free diet 365 days a year. Small or fun size portions of chocolate, sweets, biscuits or cake should only be eaten 1-2 times a week, and seen as a treat.
Here are some simple swaps that can help you on your way to better blood sugar control:
- Swap crisps for some plain popcorn
- Swap your chocolate bar for a dark chocolate rice cake
- Swap your ice cream for some frozen banana or low-fat yogurt
- Swap your fizzy sugary drinks for some water flavoured with fresh fruit
There is no need to buy special diabetic labelled foods. These options can be expensive and are often very high in calories and fat.
Instead, making smart swaps to your diet can help ensure healthy blood sugar levels.
Lowering and maintaining your blood sugar levels should not be seen as a diet.
When we focus too much on one nutrient e.g fat or sugar, it is easy to forget about the overall quality of our diet.
Cutting out food groups or following a strict diet can be difficult to maintain and may be nutritionally unbalanced. This needs to be a lifestyle change. You need to eat a wide variety of food to get all the nutrients required for good health, and also to ensure a quality of life, this means choosing lower fat options when eating meat, poultry, dairy products and spreads, enjoying a variety of fruit and vegetables, and opting for unrefined and whole grain starches (e.g. wholegrain bread, pasta, rice and cereals)
Regular meal times and snacks are key to keeping your blood sugars normal.
Carbohydrates will have the biggest effect on your blood sugar levels, because when they are digested, they are broken down into sugar (glucose).
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation, however they are the most vital source of energy for the body and brain. If you have diabetes, the most important thing to learn is the different types of carbohydrates, and portion control. Carbohydrates can be broken down into 3 groups: your starchy carbs, your sugary (refined) carbs, and your naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, pulse vegetables (peas, beans, lentils) and dairy (milk, yogurts).
Everybody’s needs are different, so the size of the portions you require is individual to you– and your weight, gender, body composition and activity levels all make a difference. A dietitian will be able to advise you on the size and number of portions that are right for you.
Want to monitor your blood sugar as you implement new health changes? LetsGetChecked offer a diabetes test that measures your blood sugar over the previous 2-3 month period.
LetsGetChecked customers receive support and guidance at every step of the process and allow you to compare and contract existing test results via your online personalized dashboard.
Written by Niamh Brosnan | Edited by Hannah Kingston