Foods That Lower Blood Sugar

Diabetes Tips on Eating for Better Blood Sugar

Portrait of a happy husband and wife cooking in the kitchen

Medically reviewed in May 2023

Diabetes tips can run the gamut, but our top tip (and most doctors' top tip) is to create a diet filled with foods that lower your blood sugar—and help control it, too. Sure, it sounds tricky, but it really needn't be. That’s because there’s an easy-to-follow nutritional formula that can help do the trick—and keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight in check. So, what is that formula? There are three parts:

  • Divide
  • Add
  • Subtract

By dividing up the portions on your plate in a better way, adding certain healthy foods, and subtracting blood-sugar-unfriendly choices, you'll be well on your way to enjoying gaining better control of your blood sugar.

Divide Up Your Plate

Many people give over half of their dinner plate to a meat-based main course. But you'll want to readjust that thinking. Half of your plate should be produce; the other half can be divided between protein (like lean chicken) and high-fiber starches (like whole-wheat pasta or potatoes with the skins on).

Add This Good Stuff

To really control your blood sugar, you need to focus on foods that your body digests slowly, so that blood sugar is then released into your bloodstream slowly and steadily. But go the extra mile, and make sure the foods you choose are nutritious, too. Here are some good examples of foods that can lower your blood sugar:

  • Beans—Not only are beans (like kidney and pinto) a low-fat, nutritious source of protein, but they're also high in fiber. And that's just what you want, because high-fiber foods slow down digestion.
  • Whole grains—Like beans, whole grains are nutrient-rich, high in fiber, and low on the glycemic index. Translation: They digest more slowly than refined and processed grains, keeping your blood sugar steady-as-she-goes.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables—Many fruits and veggies are high in fiber. But just as important, they're typically low in calories, thanks to their high water content, so they help you manage your weight, too. Add in the fact that produce is rich in inflammation-quelling antioxidants, and you've got more than enough reason to fill up half your plate with things like broccoli, leafy greens, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, string beans, eggplant and the like. And a delicious piece of fresh, ripe fruit is a satisfying ending to any meal.
  • Fish—Because high blood sugar can put your heart health at risk, you'll want to do everything you can to protect your heart. And that means choosing healthful lean protein for your diet. Fish just happens to fit the bill and also brings the added benefit of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids to the table.
  • Low-fat dairy—This is another good choice for lean protein. And new research suggests that higher dairy intake may help prevent type 2 diabetes onset!
  • Nuts—This is the snack that really satisfies. Next time you get a craving for potato chips, grab a small handful of nuts instead—preferably unsalted. Nuts fill you up with fiber and load you up on omega-3 fatty acids as well.

Subtract These Trouble Makers

Okay, you're adding great stuff to your plate. But something's gotta give, or your plate is going to spill over, along with your waistline. So here are the items you should be eating less of—for the sake of your blood sugar:

  • Refined grains—White breads, white pasta, white rice, refined-flour pastries... they all get digested quickly by the body, sending your blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride. Switch to whole grains.
  • Sugary foods—Like refined flour, sugar is digested in a snap, flooding your bloodstream with glucose. Sugar is not completely off the table. Just make it the occasional treat, because the real goocher with sugar is the calories.
  • Red meat—Cutting back on the cow will reduce your intake of saturated fat—the bad-for-your-heart kind that can pad your waistline. Consider reducing red meat intake to one 4-ounce serving per week or less.
  • Fried foods—French fries, onion rings, and other fried foods are yet another source of saturated fat that you'll want to avoid. Plus, these are energy-dense foods, which means that you're likely to get more calories than your body needs—another big no-no when it comes to blood sugar.

The bottom line is that eating too much of anything—even healthful foods—is bad news for your body. When you take in more calories than you need, your body has more blood sugar than it can use.

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