Diabetes is one of the major diseases that have virtually reached epidemic levels in today’s world.
It is no wonder then, that given its related complications, it continues to be one of the leading causes of death across the globe.
Previously, it was known as a disease of affluence, but today, it is one of the health issues with the fastest-rising concerns in both developed and developing nations.
Unfortunately, diabetes can complicate both physical activity and eating even if the right diet and exercise can help in its control and prevention.
This means that diabetics may have to pay more attention than usual to the kind of meals they eat, the frequency of intake, and monitor how physical activity causes their blood glucose to reduce or dehydrate them.
Not everyone consistently complies with the regimens prescribed that may seem unpleasant or inconvenient, which in turn raises their risk of complications.
However, thanks to science’s understanding of diabetes and the foods that can control it, people with the disease have belter and more options for enjoying active, healthy, and long lives as they control diabetes.
Here’s an extended guide, with 25 scientifically proven foods to control diabetes.
1. Fatty fish
Among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, are fish like herring, sardines, salmon, mackerel, and anchovies.
Fatty fish are one of the healthiest foods, which deliver major benefits for the health of your heart, especially for diabetics with the risk of stroke and heart disease.
The EPA and DHA components help protect the cells that line the blood vessels, while improving how arteries work after you eat, and reducing markers of inflammation.
Fish is also a good source of protein that increases your metabolic rate and makes you feel full.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
This is one of those super foods with a myriad of benefits.
Despite being made from apples, the fruit sugar is fermented into acetic acid, the result of which contains less than one gram of carbs with each tablespoon.
Its benefits include improving insulin sensitivity, while lowering fasting levels of blood sugar, and reducing blood sugar response by up to 20 percent when you consume it with other meals that contain carbs.
Apple cider vinegar may also keep you feeling full as it slows stomach emptying, but for those with gastroparesis, it can be a problem.
It may also improve glucose metabolism, while reducing the uptake of glucose into the bloodstream, by up to 34 percent.
Squash is a very healthy vegetable, which sometimes sports a soft, edible peel, like the Italian squash or zucchini, while some have a hard shell, like the butternut, acorn, or pumpkin varieties.
It also contains antioxidants, and most types are high in zeaxanthin and lutein that prevent eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts.
This delicious spice used in sweet and savory dishes, is potent with antioxidant activity, and helps improve insulin sensitivity, besides reducing sugar absorption.gar
Its medicinal properties date as far back as Ancient China and Egypt, and it appears to have certain compounds that interfere with digestive enzymes, in turn slowing digestion and glucose absorption.
Consequently, less sugar gets into the bloodstream after meals, reducing spikes in sugar levels.
It also contains MHCP, which mimics the function of insulin, thus increasing the insulin effectiveness by more than 20-fold.
Strawberries are among the most nutritious fruits rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that give them their natural red color.
Anthocyanins are known to reduce insulin levels and cholesterol after meals, while improving blood sugar and the risk of heart disease in type-2 diabetics.
Nuts are both nutritious and delicious. They are high in fiber and low in digestible carbs.
Regular consumption has been found to lower blood sugar and reduce inflammation, LDL and HbA1c levels, plus significantly reduce insulin levels.
The latter is important because those with type-2 diabetes usually have high levels of insulin often linked to obesity, and other risks of serious diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Almonds are great for controlling diabetes as they improve glucose metabolism.
Other nuts, like tree nuts, are linked with many health benefits for metabolism.
However, almonds stand out in the management of blood sugar because they contain magnesium, which is essential in blood sugar control. They’re also low in carbohydrates.
7. Chia seeds
These seeds are low in digestible carbs and very high in fiber, which doesn’t raise the blood sugar levels.
Its viscous fiber can lower the levels of blood sugar as it reduces the rate at which food moves through the gut and gets absorbed.
Because its fiber reduces hunger making you feel full, chia seeds may help you achieve a healthy weight.
Fiber also reduces the calorie levels absorbed from other foods in the same meal, and can reduce both inflammatory markers and blood pressure.
Broccoli has been studied over some time and found that it may help protect cells from harmful free radicals, while lowering insulin levels.
Half a cup of cooked broccoli serves up about three grams of digestible carbs and 27 calories, plus it contains nutrients like magnesium and vitamin C.
What’s more, it is a rich source of zeaxanthin and lutein, which are antioxidants that help prevent eye disease.
9. Greek yogurt
This is a great dairy product choice for diabetics, which science has shown can reduce heart disease risk and improve blood sugar, probably due to the probiotics it contains.
It is also known to lead to improved body composition and weight loss for type-2 diabetics, owing to its high CLA and calcium content.
Greek yogurt is lower in carbs than conventional yogurt, and is higher in protein, so it reduces appetite and decreases the intake of calories, in turn promoting weight loss.
Turmeric is known for a myriad of benefits, besides being used as a spice and food coloring agent.
It contains curcumin; an active ingredient that science has shown can lower blood sugar and inflammation levels, while reducing the risk of heart disease and benefiting kidney health for diabetics.
However, curcumin isn’t absorbed well when used on its own, thus you should consume turmeric together with piperine to boost its absorption.
11. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This offers extreme benefits for heart health, as it contains a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid, which has been shown to improve HDL and triglycerides that in type-2 diabetics are often at unhealthy levels.
It also helps increase the fullness of the GLP-1 hormone, and because of its polyphenols (antioxidants), it reduces inflammation, keeps LDL cholesterol from damage by oxidation, protects the lining of your blood vessels’ cells, and decreases blood pressure.
12. Leafy greens
Green vegetables are low in calories and digestible carbs, which raise blood sugar levels.
They’re also highly nutritious and great sources of several minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C.
Besides these great nutrients, they also contain antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein, which protect eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration; these are common complications in diabetes.
These are a really healthy food whose portion of insoluble fiber contains lignans that reduce the risk of heart disease, while improving the control of blood sugar.
They’re high in viscous fiber that improves insulin sensitivity, gut health, and feelings of fullness.
The body cannot absorb flaxseeds when whole, so it has to be purchased and ground, then stored in a tightly covered container and refrigerated so it doesn’t turn rancid.
Eggs are one of the best foods that can keep you full for hours, and help reduce the risk of heart disease in various ways.
They also improve insulin sensitivity, decrease inflammation, increase good levels of HDL cholesterol, and modify the shape and size of your bad LDL cholesterol.
Like leafy greens, eggs also contain zeaxanthin and lutein antioxidants that protect your eyes from disease.
Eggs offer all these and more benefits primarily due to the nutrients found in the yolk, in whole eggs.
This delicious herb is known to reduce blood sugar, inflammation, and LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure too.
One clove of raw garlic contains one gram of carbs and four calories, so it is an ideal food for controlling diabetes.
Fenugreek is a popular herb in Arabic and Indian regions that can reduce the absorption of sugar into the blood.
It contains several compounds that work together to improve the control of glucose, including 4-hydroxyisoleucine, while restricting sugar absorption into the bloodstream by increasing sensitivity to insulin.
Honey is a great alternative to sugar as it reduces CRP, an inflammation marker, and lowers triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and homocysteine.
Diabetics tend to have issues with most of these markers, but compared to sugar, honey isn’t such a bad alternative for those looking to replace sugar with something other than artificial sweeteners.
18. Dark chocolate
Some good news – you still get to have some chocolate!
Dark chocolate has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, as the cocoa in the chocolate has flavanols – the active ingredient that remains in cocoa after extraction from the plant.
Cocoa improves insulin sensitivity, thus the body is more efficient in removing sugar from the blood into your cells for energy.
However, the chocolate must be dark, with a minimum of 85 percent cocoa, or more.
19. Green tea
This is the best beverage to drink, as its catechins have been scientifically proven to control glucose.
Green tea’s main active ingredients are polyphenols that are believed to offer benefits to the whole body system, including glucose metabolism.
20. Yacon syrup
This is an extract from the root of the Yacon plant, originating from South America, that is popular in the natural health community.
It resembles a sweet potato, hence its moniker ‘diet potato’ and has been used for centuries as a medicinal food.
Yacon syrup is known for its long-term weight loss effects, and for diabetics, this may be helpful as it contains resistant starch that doesn’t raise blood sugar as they are not digestible.
The fructooligosaccharides in Yacon syrup also feed your gut with bacteria that are healthy, which is good as this is linked to better immunity, lower risk of diabetes, and improved brain function.
21. Shirataki noodles
These are great for weight and diabetes control as they’re rich in fiber glucomannan, an extract from the konjac root – a plant grown in Japan.
These rice noodles, called Shirataki, have been processed from the plant, and the glucomannan fiber from the extract makes you feel satisfied and full, thus lowering levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
It is also known to reduce blood sugar levels and improve the risk of heart disease factors in diabetics.
22. Coffee (and green coffee)
This beverage has been linked strongly with a reduced risk of type-2 diabetes, as those who drink more of it are found to have lower risk compared to those who don’t.
The exact reason for this link isn’t known, but its compounds – polyphenols – have antioxidant properties that are believed to prevent inflammatory illnesses.
It could also be that the magnesium in coffee is linked to improved sensitivity to insulin.
Green coffee is also known to reduce sugar absorption. This is made from unroasted coffee beans, which contain large amounts of the active ingredient chlorogenic acid, linked to most health benefits and the control of blood sugar.
23. Resistant starch
Resistant starch is known to enhance insulin sensitivity and lower sugar levels.
Most carbs are starches, but not all starches in our diet get digested, as certain varieties go through the process unchanged and unabsorbed as sugar in the blood, hence the name.
They’re known to be beneficial to health and digestion, which is why whole seeds and grains are often linked to health benefits.
For diabetics, resistant starch offers very impressive benefits on insulin and glucose metabolism.
This food is known to lower blood sugar, and is one of the more popular choices of sweetener alternatives.
What sets it apart is that it is a natural sweetener and doesn’t seem as harmful as artificial ones.
It originates from the Stevia plant from South America, and has been in use for centuries as a sweetener (not refined powder).
The active ingredients that make it sweet are Rebaudioside and Stevioside, which are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar.
It has shown lots of promise for diabetes control, especially with insulin, as it reduces blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal.
Avocados are not necessarily fruits, but are a great food for diabetics as they contain seven grams of fiber per 100 grams and zero sugar.
They are also high in healthy monounsaturated fats, which science has shown can improve insulin sensitivity.
When diabetes goes uncontrolled, it increases your risk of contracting several other serious diseases. However, eating foods that control insulin, blood sugar, and inflammation can reduce these risks dramatically.
If you’re looking for scientifically proven foods that can help you with this, then some of these 25 may be worth adding to your grocery shopping list.
Diana Paul is a certified nutritionist who writes for leading health blogs. She is a master herbalist, yoga teacher, forager, and wild-crafting writer She is focused on helping people transform life blocks to opportunities. Based in NYC, she often holds health seminars and lectures.