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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.
By
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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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

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."

Broccoli, Spinach, and Green Beans

Add plenty of nonstarchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans, to your diabetic diet, diabetes experts say. These foods are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, which make them ideal for people with diabetes.

In contrast, starchy vegetables include peas, potatoes, corn, winter squash, and lima beans. There's no need to cut them from the diet, Moore says. "They do give us additional nutrients. We want to maintain balance." But because starchy vegetables have more carbohydrates and raise blood sugar more, it's important to stick to proper portion sizes, she says.

There's new evidence, too, that vegetables are healthy for people with diabetes.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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