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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetic Diet: 6 Foods That May Help Control Blood Sugar

While there's no substitute for a balanced diabetic diet, adding certain foods may help those with diabetes keep sugar levels in check.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by John A. Seibel, MD

Coffee and cinnamon have made headlines recently as foods that might be able to cut the risk of diabetes or help to improve blood sugar levels. But don't get the idea that such foods are magic bullets for your diabetic diet, experts warn.

"None of this is a magic potion for diabetes," says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Cathy Nonas, RD. It's still important for people with diabetes to eat a balanced diabetic diet and exercise to help manage the disease, she says.

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Diabetes Care: Managing Your Time When You Have Diabetes

Sometimes, living with diabetes can seem like a full-time job -- trying to keep up with everything you need to do for proper diabetes care. "Diabetes is a very time-consuming disease to manage well," says Karmeen Kulkarni, MS, RD, CDE, and former president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. "The medication, the food, the physical activity -- you add life in general to that whole picture and it ends up being quite challenging."

Read the Diabetes Care: Managing Your Time When You Have Diabetes article > >

Nevertheless, some foods, such as white bread, are converted almost right away to blood sugar, causing a quick spike. Other foods, such as brown rice, are digested more slowly, causing a lower and gentler change in blood sugar.

If you are trying to follow a healthy diabetic diet, here are six that may help to keep your blood sugar in check.


Oatmeal can help control blood sugar -- but don't get the sweetened kind.

"Even though it's a carbohydrate, it's a very good carbohydrate," American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Marisa Moore, RD, LD, tells WebMD. Because it's high in soluble fiber, "it's slower to digest and it won't raise your blood sugar as much or as quickly. It's going to work better at controlling blood sugar over time."

Not only does this high-quality carbohydrate offer a steadier source of energy than white bread, it can also help with weight loss. The soluble fiber in oats "helps to keep us feeling fuller longer," Moore says.

That's important for people with type 2 diabetes, who tend to be overweight. "If you reduce the weight, you usually significantly improve the glucose control," Nonas says.

Barley isn't as popular as oats. But there's some evidence that barley, which is also high in soluble fiber, may also help with blood glucose control. Kay Behall, PhD, a research nutritionist at the USDA Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, has studied barley, and she suggests that people try eating boiled pearl barley in place of rice.

Besides oats and barley, Moore adds, "most whole grains are going to be a great choice for a person with diabetes."

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