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December 2017

Foods that Help Manage Diabetes

More than half of the adults in the US have diabetes or pre-diabetes and rates are rising worldwide.  Most people with diabetes know to avoid added sugars, however, when it comes to carbohydrates and other foods it gets confusing.  There is ongoing research identifying nutrients and potential foods that play a role in managing or preventing diabetes.  These foods contribute to a healthy eating pattern.  An active lifestyle and healthy eating support good health and overall well-being.

The Right Carbs
Carbohydrates are found mainly in grains or starches, fruits, legumes and vegetables.  When choosing carbs, focus on those that are minimally processed.

  • Grains/Starches - Include fiber rich whole grains such as steel-cut oats, bulgur and quinoa.  One serving should have 15 grams of carbs with at least 3-5 grams of fiber.  Check the Nutrition Facts label.
  • Fruits - Fresh whole fruit is the best choice.  A serving is a small piece of fruit, 3/4 cup berries or 17 small grapes.
  • Legumes - Kidney beans, lentils, and black beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein. A serving is 1/2 cup cooked.  If choosing canned, use a low-sodium product.
  • Vegetables - Most vegetables are low in carbohydrates except for the starchy ones: potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and peas.  Include a variety of colorful vegetables and minimize those that are starchy.

NOTE: Always have protein with fruits and grains to minimize spikes in blood sugar.  Be mindful of portion size.

Polyphenol-Rich Foods
Polyphenols are phytonutrients which are naturally occurring substances found in plant foods.  They may reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, helping to manage diabetes.  Foods rich in polyphenols include:

Artichokes • onions • spinach • arugula • apples • berries • pears • grapes • pomegranate • green and black teas • flax seed • cinnamon • cocoa • dark chocolate

Although more research is needed to confirm the effects of polyphenols, these foods are rich in nutrients and have lots of health benefits.

Healthy Fats
Substituting healthy unsaturated fats for refined carbohydrates, starches, sugars and saturated fats may improve blood sugar.  Healthy fats include:

  • Liquid oils such as olive, avocado, canola, peanut and spreads from these oils
  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines
  • Nuts including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews
  • Seeds such as flax, sesame and pumpkin

Keep in mind these fats are healthier, yet are packed with calories.  If you need to lose weight moderation is vital when it comes to fats.  A healthy body weight will also help to manage diabetes.


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