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Diabetes diet: Six foods that may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

While there's no substitute for a balanced healthy diet, adding certain foods may help those with diabetes keep sugar levels under control.

Coffee and cinnamon have made headlines as foods that might be able to help cut the risk of diabetes or help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. However, don't get the idea that such foods are magic pills for your diabetic diet.

It's still important for people with diabetes to eat a balanced healthy diet and exercise to help manage the condition. Nevertheless, some foods, such as white bread, are converted almost immediately to blood sugar, causing a quick spike. Other foods, such as brown rice, are digested more slowly, causing a lower and gentler change in blood sugar.

If you are trying to follow a healthy diet for diabetes, here are 6 suggestions that may help to keep your blood sugar in check.


Porridge can help control blood sugar and the charity Diabetes UK recommends it to see you through the morning.

Even though porridge is a carbohydrate, it's a very good carbohydrate. Because it's high in soluble fibre, it's slower to digest and it won't raise your blood sugar as much or as quickly. It's going to work better at maintaining a healthy blood sugar level over time.

Not only does this high-quality carbohydrate offer a steadier source of energy than white bread, it can also help with weight loss. The soluble fibre in oats helps to keep us feeling fuller longer.

That's important for people with type 2 diabetes, who tend to be overweight. If you reduce the weight, you usually significantly improve the glucose control.

Barley isn't as popular as oats, but there's some evidence that barley, which is also high in soluble fibre, may also help with blood glucose control. Besides oats and barley, most whole grains are going to be a great choice for a person with diabetes.

Broccoli, spinach and green beans

Add plenty of non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and green beans to your diet, diabetes experts say. These foods are high in fibre and low in carbohydrates, which make them ideal for people with diabetes.

In contrast, starchy vegetables include peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broad beans, corn and butternut squash. There's no need to cut them from the diet. They do give us additional nutrients. We want to maintain balance, but because starchy vegetables have more carbohydrates and raise blood sugar more, it's important to stick to correct portion sizes.

There's evidence, too, that vegetables are healthy for people with diabetes.

Researchers have found that a low-fat vegan diet may help type 2 diabetes patients to better manage their condition. In a study in the US publication Diabetes Care, 43% of people with type 2 diabetes who followed a low-fat vegan diet for 22 weeks reduced the need to take diabetes medications.

On average, the vegan group also lost more weight and lowered levels of bad cholesterol. Because people with diabetes are more prone to heart disease, eating with heart health in mind matters as much as blood sugar control.

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