Foods to help manage type 2 diabetes

Food is a large part of managing diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes.

For some people, diet is their sole method of treatment. Contrary to popular belief, there really are no foods that are "off limits" for people with type 2 diabetes.

Even though there are "good" foods and "bad" foods to consider with any diet, no food is inherently evil if you splurge only on rare occasion and watch your portion sizes and blood sugar closely.

Still, when it comes to type 2 diabetes, some food choices are better than others in helping to manage blood sugar levels. Here are a few to help you get started.

Focus on Fiber

High-fiber foods such as oatmeal, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lentils, nuts and beans are all naturally high in dietary fiber and are great choices for people with diabetes.

Foods high in soluble fiber (as opposed to insoluble fiber) such as oatmeal, lentils, flaxseeds, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, psyllium, dried peas, blueberries and carrots are instrumental in slowing down the digestion of foods, which allows for the gradual release of insulin and smaller increases in blood sugar.

If your diet does not include healthful, high-fiber foods, both soluble and insoluble, it is time to start incorporating them into your daily diet. Not only are they helpful to those with type 2 diabetes, but they are also vital to good overall health, proper digestion, lowering LDL or "bad" cholesterol, preventing constipation, keeping you feeling fuller longer and therefore possibly aiding with weight loss, and helping to prevent conditions such as heart disease and diverticulitis.

Try Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, in particular the form linolenic acid (ALA). They are rich in soluble fiber, antioxidants and lignans as well. Lignans are actually known to improve blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.

Choose ground flaxseed, which is better absorbed than its whole counter part. You can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day to your meal plan, but don’t go overboard. Flaxseed is usually not recommended during pregnancy. You can try adding ground flaxseed to smoothies, non-fat yogurt, hot cereal, mashed potatoes or baked goods.

Opt for Almonds

Almonds are a healthful, low-carb option that contains a mix of monounsaturated fats, fiber, magnesium and other essential nutrients such as folate, vitamin E and potassium. Studies have shown that including plenty of almonds in your meal plan can improve insulin sensitivity and lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

For those with normal blood sugar, regular consumption of nuts in general is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. You can add nuts to your meal plan by adding them to breakfast cereal, stir-fries, salads, brown rice or yogurt or just eating a handful as a snack.

Other great nuts include pecans, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts and cashews. Opt for the unsalted versions and remember that even though nuts are a healthful food, just a small amount can add up in calories so be aware of your portion sizes.


Kimberly A. Tessmer, RDN, LD, is a published author and consulting dietitian from Brunswick, Ohio. Kim’s most current books include: "Your Nutrition Solution to Acid Reflux" (New Page Books, May 2014) and "Your Nutrition Solution to Type 2 Diabetes" (New Page Books, coming August 2014).

Kim currently owns and operates Nutrition Focus (www.Nutrifocus.net) a consulting company specializing in writing, weight management, menu development, and other nutritional services.

Photo of carrots by John Nyboer

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