Although there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, there are certain lifestyle factors that can be implemented to help ease unfavourable symptoms and control blood sugar levels - one of these factors is our diet! That’s right, what you pick up on your trips to the grocery store can help you control your blood sugar levels, some of the top diabetes friendly foods include:
- Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Under Ripe Bananas
- Oily Fish
- Almonds, Cashews and Peanuts
- Low Fat Yoghurts
- Sugar Free Beverages
See also: What is the Best Treatment for Diabetes?
10 foods that help control blood sugar
Whole-grains and high-fibre foods act as a physical barrier that slows down the absorption of carbohydrates. 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)
A bowl of oatmeal is one of the best ways to start your day! The reason being simple - it has a low Glycaemic Index which is essentially a ranking of how quickly foods make your blood glucose levels rise after eating them. Another positive? Oatmeal will keep you full for a lot longer and will release the glucose at a slow and steady rate to keep your blood sugars from spiking.
A pulse is a seed that grows in a pod, these include 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!
See also: What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Non Starchy Vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables provide a good source of fibre without the high intake of carbohydrates 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 vegetables into your diet, examples of these include:
Some fruits are more friendly on your blood sugar levels than others with the likes of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries being just some of them! These fruits are low sugar, and rich in vitamins and antioxidants, so they make a great option for something sweet after dinner.
It’s 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
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 or chocolates will always be the better option.
Some fruits however will have a different effect on your blood sugars than others.As a banana ripens, it becomes sweeter as its sugar content increases. Choosing a greener banana can have less of an effect on blood sugars, as they are more starchy, and take longer for the body to break down.
Oily fish 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 to avoid bread crumbs and batters which are high in fat, and will also increase your blood sugars.
Some suggestions for oily fish include:
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.
See also: What is Prediabetes?
Low fat yogurt
For those who enjoy a dessert after their dinner, or something sweet to have while watching Netflix, yogurt is a great choice! Natural yogurt with sugar free jelly, or a portion of stewed fruit makes for a yummy treat, and will be kind to your blood sugars.
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.
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 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.
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 offers 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.
See also: How do you Check Diabetes From Home?