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Some foods have a bigger impact on your blood sugar than others. Knowing which ones are the best for keeping blood sugar levels steady is especially important when you have diabetes, but it's a good idea for everyone. Your dietary goal is to choose foods that help keep your blood sugar level on an even keel. That typically means whole, minimally processed foods. Here are 10 of the best foods that stabilize -- or even lower -- your blood sugar so you can better manage your diabetes.
Looking for a diabetes-friendly food? Follow Popeye's example. Spinach, kale, chard, and other leafy greens are loaded with vitamins, such as folate; minerals, such as magnesium; a range of phytonutrients; and insoluble fiber -- all of which have virtually no impact on your blood sugar level. Mark Hyman, MD, author of The Blood Sugar Solution(Little, Brown and Company), calls leafy greens "free foods," which means you should eat as many of them as you can. Bonus: The fiber in leafy greens will slow absorption of any carbohydrates (e.g., potatoes or bread) they’re paired with, resulting in a healthier overall glycemic load.
Nuts of all sorts -- walnuts, pecans, take your choice! -- are great for controlling blood sugar. Despite their diminutive size, nuts are power packages of protein, unsaturated (healthy) fat, and fiber. Those three factors have a positive impact on blood sugar levels. In a recent study, participants who ate 2 1/2 ounces of nuts daily had an 8% decrease in their A1c levels. Keep in mind that nuts also pack plenty of calories. Your best bet is to substitute nuts for high-carbohydrate foods, such as croutons or pretzels. Sprinkle them on yogurt and salads, or nibble them for a snack.
When you have diabetes, you want to land fish on your plate, especially fatty, cold-water fish. Sardines and other small, fatty fish are high in essential omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can only get from the food we eat. Sardines and other omega-3-rich fish help in a couple of ways: They're a great source of fat and protein to slow absorption of blood sugars, and they help protect your cardiovascular system, which irregular blood sugar fluctuations that can come with diabetes can damage. The healthy fat in sardines is good for your brain, too, and may help fend off Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Hummus, a Middle Eastern specialty, is a great addition to a diabetes-friendly plate. The fiber and protein in chickpeas -- 12 grams of dietary fiber and 15 grams of protein per cup -- help regulate the absorption of the sugars from the starch so your blood sugar stays on an even keel. The healthy fats from the tahini (made from ground sesame seeds) and olive oil slows the absorption of sugars even more. Pair your hummus with vegetables and whole-grain crackers for an even greater effect.