What are the best foods for lowering blood sugar?

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To determine the best foods to eat to help stabilize your blood sugar, it's best to think of foods falling into three major categories: fat, protein and carbohydrates. Most foods can fit into your daily eating regimen while maintaining blood sugars where you want them. It’s important to remember, everyone’s diet needs are different, and there is no one set answer to how much fat, protein and carbohydrates you need on a daily basis. Your intake configuration is best left for you and your registered dietitian to discuss and outline based on your nutrition goals! Following are some tips for eating to help stabilize your blood sugar:

  • Make sure the carbohydrates you eat are the highest fiber choice—aim for 5 grams or more of fiber per serving.
  • Pair those high fiber carbohydrate foods with a lean protein and/or a healthy fat. Pairing a high fiber carbohydrate with a lean protein or healthy fat will allow for slow digestion and will help prevent blood sugar spikes. For example, 1 cup of blackberries mixed with 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese could be a high fiber, lean protein mid-morning snack. Think about trying 100 percent whole wheat crackers with peanut butter or a tuna salad next time you’re hungry!
  • Lean proteins can include low fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, white meat chicken, turkey breast, roast beef, white flaky fish like tilapia or tofu. Healthy fats include peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts, salmon or tuna.
  • Check your blood sugar after breakfast, lunch or dinner to help identify which foods you tolerate better than others. The general goal is to have your blood sugar 180 mg/dL or less two hours after a meal. With this information, you will be able to avoid the foods that spike your blood sugar levels and navigate a diabetes friendly diet with ease. 

Low-carb foods can help keep blood sugar from rising. In this video, Ronald Tamler, MD, clinical director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, explains that patients with diabetes should develop a diet plan with a nutritionist.


Holly Anderson
Endocrinologist
Having a well-balanced diet including whole, less-processed foods with fiber is a good idea, says Holly Anderson, Outpatient Diabetes Coordinator at Reston Hospital Center. Watch this video to find out more.
Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

No one food will help lower blood sugar readings. Foods that contain carbohydrate like fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, milk and yogurt will raise blood sugar readings. Carbohydrate containing foods that are higher in fiber or complex carbohydrate will slow down the absorption of carbohydrate into the blood stream; whereas simple carbohydrates like regular soda, sugar, honey, candy and syrup will raise blood sugar readings fairly quickly.

Pass the peas, please. In a study, a diet high in lentils, nuts, peas and other legumes seemed to be more helpful than a diet high in wheat fiber when it came to tamping down blood sugar.

And, lucky for lovers of legumes, beans tend to have a low glycemic index—meaning they are digested slowly by the body and have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. So much so that when people with type 2 diabetes were told to emphasize legumes in their diet as part of a study, their average blood sugar over time was lower than that of the group who'd been directed to eat more whole grains.

The difference was modest for the two study groups but was still significant enough to translate into better protection from heart disease. Researchers suspect that the difference was because the legume-laden diet had a lower glycemic index—and slightly more fiber—than the diet that emphasized grains. The legume eaters were also encouraged to eat high-fiber fruits and veggies. Bottom line: A low-glycemic-index diet seemed to be best for blood sugar. To get there, you may need to trade that side of brown rice for an occasional bowl of beans.

Dr. Reza Yavari, MD
Endocrinologist

There aren't foods that directly lower blood sugar, but there are foods that prevent sharp rises in blood sugar, which can be dangerous. Watch endocrinologist Reza Yavari, MD, discuss the foods to avoid, and what to eat to keep blood sugars level.

Continue Learning about Diabetes

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.