Superfoods for People with Diabetes

I’m sure you have seen lists of “superfoods” here and there in the media. They usually make headlines because someone is claiming that the foods on their list will prevent (and sometime treat) conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and overweight. But what about people with diabetes--where is our list of superfoods?

The ADA's List of Superfoods

Well, never fear, because now the American Diabetes Association has released its own list of the top-10 diabetes superfoods. What I like about this list is that all the foods on it have a low glycemic index (GI), which will make them easy to fit into your meal plans. I also like that the ADA's top-10 list isn’t restricted just to individual foods. The list features a few specific foods, of course, but most of these superfoods are food groups--which means you can get more variety.

Obviously, some foods are better for us than others--we all know, for example, that fruit is a better snack than a candy bar. One of the benefits of having a superfoods list is that it will get you thinking about how you can include more healthy foods in your own diet.

The Foods

I am going to list the ADA's top 10, and then give my tips on how to use them in your diet.

  1. Beans. Beans, such as kidneys, pintos, lentils, and red or black beans, make a great meat substitute. Try making black-bean “burgers,” pasta with lentil sauce (instead of meat sauce), or a ground-bean dip like hummus.
  2. Dark green, leafy vegetables. A spinach salad makes a great addition to any meal. And for more variety, try some different greens in your salads. Also try adding kale or collard greens to soups, casserole dishes, rice, or even a smoothie.
  3. Citrus fruits. We have so many fruits to choose from, but try to eat at least one citrus fruit each day.
  4. Sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes always make a good substitute for white potatoes because they have a lower glycemic index. Add sweet potatoes to meals, or mix mashed sweet potatoes into the goodies you bake. I even add mashed sweet potatoes to my kids oatmeal, waffles--and macaroni and cheese.
  5. Berries. It’s so easy to add fresh or frozen berries to everything, from hot cereal to a salad. And of course, they make great snacks, too.
  6. Tomatoes. Tomatoes are so versatile. I like to cook them up on the stove into homemade tomato sauce, which I then use with pasta and homemade pizzas. The second ingredient in most store-bought pasta sauces is high-fructose corn syrup, so make your own and avoid the extra carbs and calories. ]
  7. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are all fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help you lower triglycerides and increase HDL (good cholesterol)--2 substances found in the bloodstream whose levels are often out of balance in people with diabetes.
  8. Whole grains. The first step to getting more whole grains into your diet is to trade out any baked goods made from white flour and exchange them for whole-wheat foods. If you've already done that, start to think about using more unprocessed, whole grains such as barley, wild rice, rolled oats, quinoa, and bulgur.
  9. Nuts. These make a great snack because they're low in carbs and high in protein and healthy fats. Nuts, however, are not a low-calorie food, so watch portion sizes. Think about eating 1 ounce of nuts; then read the food label to determine how many nuts make up an ounce.
  10. Fat-free milk and yogurt. Milk and yogurt make great snacks, too. And be sure to try Greek yogurt, which provides significantly more protein. Both Greek and American yogurts contain probiotics, which are good for the health of our digestive systems.


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