Nine Diabetes Superfoods and How to Prepare Them

Diabetes is a disease that causes elevated blood sugar levels due to a lack of insulin, the body’s inability to use insulin, or both.

Poorly managed diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels and nerve cells, which may lead to foot problems and a condition called neuropathy. High blood sugar levels can also cause damage to the eyes and kidneys, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Foods that can help manage blood sugar

People with diabetes should first make sure that they have a regular eating routine. Having a source of fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrate, lean protein, and healthy fat with each meal helps to control blood sugar levels throughout the day.

People should limit quick-digesting carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. Instead, they should opt for slower-digesting carbohydrates with extra nutrients like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and berries. These cause a smaller spike in blood sugar.

Nine diabetes superfoods

Here are nine examples of foods that can play a role in a healthy, balanced diet for people with diabetes.

1. Walnuts

Hands holding walnuts.
Walnuts contain fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

The combination of fiber, protein and healthy fats in walnuts makes them a great alternative to simple carbohydrate snacks like chips or crackers.

The fatty acids in walnuts can increase good cholesterol while decreasing harmful cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack. People with diabetes are at a greater risk for these conditions.

People whose diets include large amounts of nuts put on less weight than those that do not, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Weight loss can help to reduce blood sugars.

  • Add crushed walnuts to yogurt, oats, or salad
  • Make a trail mix treat with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate chips

2. Avocado

The avocado is the only fruit that is a good source of healthy fat. Avocados also provide about 20 different vitamins and minerals and are especially high in potassium, vitamins C, E, and K, lutein, and beta-carotene.

Eating foods that contain healthy fats may help increase fullness. Eating fat slows the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps to keep blood sugar levels more stable.

Avocado is high in fiber too, with half a fruit containing 6-7 grams. According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intake is associated with a significantly lower risk for diabetes.

Eating high-fiber foods can also reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve weight loss, and make insulin more efficient.

  • Spread avocado on toast in the morning instead of butter
  • Use avocado instead of mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad

3. Ezekiel bread

A loaf of Ezekiel bread.
Ezekiel bread has a higher protein and nutrient content than other bread.

Ezekiel bread and other sprouted grain bread are less processed than standard white and whole wheat bread. The grains in Ezekiel bread are soaked and sprouted, allowing for higher protein and nutrient content. Bread made from sprouted grains tends to contain more B vitamins, fiber, folate, and vitamin C than other bread.

Ezekiel bread is often found in the freezer section. Sprouted grain bread have a denser consistency and are best when toasted.

  • Toast Ezekiel bread and top with avocado, a sliced hard-boiled egg, and black pepper
  • People can also find sprouted grain bagels, English muffins, pizza crust, and tortillas

4. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium. The body needs magnesium for over 300 processes, including breaking down food for energy.

A lack of magnesium is linked to insulin resistance, a main cause of diabetes. For every 100-milligram-a-day increase in magnesium intake, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes falls by around 15 percent.

Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds contain 74 milligrams of magnesium. This is around a quarter of the recommended daily amount.

  • Brush pumpkin seeds with olive oil, season with cumin, and bake until brown and toasted
  • Make pumpkin seed butter by blending whole, raw pumpkin seeds in a food processor until smooth

5. Strawberries

One study found that fisetin, a substance contained in strawberries, prevented both kidney and brain complications in mice with diabetes.

Other human studies have suggested that a higher intake of berries lowers the risk of diabetes.

One cup of fresh strawberries contains 160 percent of an adult’s daily needs for vitamin C at only 50 calories. Several studies have shown a link between lack of vitamin C and diabetes.

  • Make a superfood salad by mixing strawberries, spinach, and walnuts
  • Add frozen strawberries to a smoothie with milk and peanut butter

6. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.

High-fiber diets are linked with stable blood sugar levels and a lower risk of developing diabetes. Despite this, most adults are still not meeting their daily fiber needs.

Just 1 ounce of chia seeds provides 10 grams of fiber, almost half the daily recommendation for a woman over 50.

  • Sprinkle chia seeds on yogurt, cereal, and oats.
  • Chia can be a substitute for eggs in baking. Mix 1 tablespoon of chia with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes. The seeds will absorb the water and form a gel that can be used instead of an egg.

7. Ginger

A cup of ginger tea.
Ginger may reduce fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory diets and foods can help to treat and relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term diseases like diabetes. Plant-based foods that are high in antioxidants are at the top of the anti-inflammatory foods list.

Ginger has been shown to be high in antioxidants and healthy compounds that enhance its anti-inflammatory powers.

Studies on ginger and diabetes are limited. However, research has shown that ginger reduces fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

  • Steep peeled fresh ginger in boiling water to make ginger tea
  • Add fresh or dried ginger to a stir-fry or homemade salad dressing

8. Spinach

Low potassium intake is linked with a higher risk of diabetes and diabetes complications.

Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary potassium, with 839 milligrams per cup when cooked. One cup of banana has about 539 milligrams of potassium.

  • Throw a handful of spinach into a smoothie
  • Add spinach to sandwiches instead of iceberg lettuce

9. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been shown in some studies to lower blood sugars in people with diabetes, though not all studies agree. Participants in one study who took a high dose of cinnamon reduced their average blood sugar levels from 8.9 percent to 8.0 percent. Participants who took a low dose of cinnamon reduced their average blood sugar levels from 8.9 to 8.2 percent. Participants who did not take cinnamon saw no change.

  • Try cinnamon on sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, and butternut squash
  • Stir cinnamon into tea or warm milk

Example superfood meal plan

Breakfast

  • Toasted Ezekiel bread (complex carbohydrate)
  • Avocado (healthy fat)
  • Spinach (antioxidants)
  • Hard-boiled egg (lean protein and healthy fat)

Lunch

  • Leafy greens
  • Quinoa (complex carbohydrate and lean protein)
  • Roasted beets (antioxidants)
  • Lean protein (like tuna or chicken)

Snack

  • Chopped apple (complex carb)
  • Walnut and pumpkin seed mix (healthy fat and lean protein)

Dinner

  • Salmon (lean protein and healthy fat)
  • Fresh ginger (antioxidants)
  • Sweet potato (complex carb) topped with cinnamon
  • A choice of veggie

Avocados Can Help to Treat Metabolic Syndrome, says review

A new review of studies looking at the health effects of avocados finds that there is “satisfactory clinical evidence” that the fruit can help to treat metabolic syndrome.
[A selection of avocados]
Researchers suggest that avocado may help to tackle metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of risk factors that can raise the risk of other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Risk factors include abdominal obesity, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – or “good” cholesterol – high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar.

The presence of at least three of these risk factors warrants a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome.

According to the American Heart Association, metabolic syndrome affects around 23 percent of adults in the United States.

Adopting a healthful diet is considered one of the best ways to prevent or treat metabolic syndrome. The new review – recently published in the journal Phytotherapy Research – suggests that avocados should form a part of this diet.

Avocados are a fruit from the avocado tree, or Persea Americana, which is native to Mexico and Central and South America.

A number of studies have documented the possible health benefits of avocado. A study reported by Medical News Today in 2014, for example, found that eating half an avocado with lunch may aid weight loss, while more recent research linked the fruit to reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as “bad” cholesterol.

These benefits have been attributed to the bioactive components of avocados, which include carotenoids, fatty acids, minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc, and vitamins A, B, C, and E.

For their review, co-author Hossein Hosseinzadeh, of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran, and colleagues set out to determine how these components might help to combat the risk factors of metabolic syndrome.

Avocado has the strongest effect on cholesterol levels

To reach their findings, the researchers analyzed the results of various in vivo, in vitro, and clinical studies that investigated the effects of avocado on metabolic health.

Hosseinzadeh and colleagues found that the fruit has the strongest impact on lipid levels – that is, levels of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

As an example, the team points to one study of 67 adults, of whom 30 had a healthy lipid profile and 37 had mild hypercholesterolemia. After adhering to an avocado-enriched diet for 1 week, both groups showed significant reductions in total and LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

“The reported mechanism of this effect was regulating of the hydrolysis of certain lipoproteins and their selective uptake and metabolism by different tissues such as liver and pancreas,” explain the authors.

“Another possible mechanism could be related to the marked proliferation of the liver smooth endoplasmic reticulum which is known to be associated with induction of enzymes involved in lipid biosynthesis.”

An ‘herbal dietary supplement’ to help treat metabolic syndrome

The review also uncovered evidence that avocado is beneficial for weight loss. The researchers cite one study that found overweight or obese adults who ate one avocado every day for 6 weeks experienced significant decreases in body weight, body mass index (BMI), and the percentage of body fat.

Additionally, the team identified a number of studies associating avocado intake with reductions in blood pressure among patients with hypertension, and evidence suggests that the fruit might also help to reduce atherosclerosis – the narrowing or hardening of arteries caused by a buildup of plaque.

Notably, Hosseinzadeh and colleagues found that it is not just the flesh of the avocado that can benefit metabolic health – the peel, seed, and leaves of the fruit may also help.

One study published in 2014, for example, found that a daily dose of oil extracted from avocado leaves led to reductions in total and LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

Overall, the researchers conclude that avocado may be effective for the treatment of risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, though further research is warranted. They write:

“In this review article, satisfactory clinical evidence suggested that avocado can be used as herbal dietary supplements for treatment of different components of [metabolic syndrome].

Although, avocado like other herbal products is safe and generally better tolerated than synthetic medications, there is limited scientific evidence to evaluate different side effects because of contaminants, or interactions with drugs. Besides, further studies need to be accomplished on the metabolic effects of different parts of avocado for other possible mechanisms.”