10 Healthy Foods and Drinks That Can Help With Blood Sugar Control
Anyone who’s been managing diabetes for years knows the power of healthy diet choices. In addition to effective stress management, ample shut-eye, regular exercise, and sticking with your medication regimen, what you eat and drink plays a big role in your chances of hitting your A1C goal. A1C is a three-month average of your blood sugar levels, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Blood sugar management ultimately affects your overall health. "Managing blood glucose levels is key to preventing future complications," says Toby Smithson, RDN, CDCES, of Hilton Head, South Carolina, the coauthor of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies and the founder of Diabetes EveryDay. According to MedlinePlus, having elevated blood sugar for an extended period of time can lead to vision problems, nerve damage, amputations, and kidney damage.
The Importance of Counting Carbs
While diabetes management goals can vary, there are certain kinds of foods experts agree are good and bad in a diabetes diet, based on both their nutritional value and where they lie on the glycemic index — a scale that measures how quickly foods can cause blood sugar fluctuations, with low GI foods increasing glucose slowly and high GI foods increasing it quickly, per MedlinePlus.
It’s important to factor in glycemic load (GL), too. Like glycemic index, GL measures how a food will affect blood sugar on the basis of carb content, but it incorporates a food’s serving size and therefore offers a more complete picture of the food’s effect, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A GL of 10 or less is considered low, 11 to 19 is medium, and 20 and above is high, according to Oregon State University.
A good foundational approach to diabetes management is to count carbohydrates. During digestion, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is a type of sugar, and certain types of carbs, namely simple carbs, can raise the amount of sugar in your blood quickly, according to the NIH.
Why Calories Also Matter in a Diabetes Diet
Also keep in mind that maintaining a healthy weight is key to reducing insulin resistance, per the CDC. Bansari Acharya, RD, a nutritionist with FoodLove.com in Detroit, says it’s important to pay attention to the calories you take in. “Even if you are managing the number of carbohydrates that you consume, you still may be consuming too many calories from fat and protein sources, which may lead to weight gain,” she says.
Just a 5 to 10 percent loss of body weight can improve your blood sugar numbers and lower your risk of diabetes by 58 percent, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. A healthy weight not only will minimize your diabetes risk, but it’ll also help your heart, says the American Heart Association. That’s a must for people with diabetes, as diabetes and heart disease go hand in hand, according to the CDC.
10 Healthy Diet Choices for People With Diabetes
To stay on track with your diabetes management, start with these 10 diabetes-friendly choices that can help keep blood sugar on target and provide nutrition to boot.