These 10 tried-and-true staples are win-win foods for people with type 2 diabetes: nutritious and delicious! Put them on your shopping list.
Berries. A smart substitute when you need to limit candy, berries offer sweet flavor, few calories, and lots of fiber. Plus, they have antioxidants, chemicals that help protect against cancer and heart disease. Raspberries, strawberries, and pomegranates (yes, they're considered a berry) also have plenty of ellagic acid, an antioxidant that may counter cancer. Toss fresh or frozen berries in your morning cereal and noontime salads, and keep dried or freeze-dried versions handy for snacking. High-fiber foods like berries help keep blood sugar levels normal.
Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein, and they may help you lose weight. Research shows that people who eat eggs at breakfast tend to take in fewer calories the rest of the day. The American Heart Association says healthy adults can eat one egg a day. One reason is that they have little saturated fat. (To be safe, talk to your doctor about your blood cholesterol level.) Hard-boil eggs while you prepare dinner. Then store them in the refrigerator so they're ready for a quick breakfast or snack.
Extra virgin olive oil. Called "EVOO" for short, this type of olive oil offers great taste plus type-2-diabetes-friendly monounsaturated fat. "Extra virgin" means the oil is minimally processed, which protects its more than 30 antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant compounds, says Kathleen Zelman, RD, MPH. Drizzle it on salads, dip bread into it, and use it to sauté meat and veggies. Go easy. Like all oils, it packs 120 calories per tablespoon.
Kale. This nutrition darling is one of healthiest vegetables. One cup delivers 206% of your daily requirement for vitamin A, 134% of your vitamin C requirement, and 684% of your recommended intake of vitamin K (critical for blood clotting and bone health). It's also a top source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help prevent age-related eye diseases. Add chopped kale to soups and salads, or toss it with pasta and pine nuts. You can also tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces, spritz with olive oil, and bake until crisp for a bowlful of kale chips.
Low-fat milk. Skim and 1% are smart choices. Milk has three nutrients that many people skimp on: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. For carb counters, 1 cup of milk is equal to a small piece of fruit or a slice of bread. Use milk in fruit smoothies or steaming-hot chai tea.
Nuts. Yes, they're high in calories, but these are calories well-spent, Zelman says. Most kinds have about 170 calories per ounce, along with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, and fiber. And nuts can help stabilize blood sugar. Reach for a small handful of nuts instead of potato chips. Sprinkle them on oatmeal, yogurt, or salads for added crunch and nutrition.
Salmon. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish such as salmon may protect against age-related dementia. Omega-3s also boost heart health by lowering a type of blood fat called triglycerides. That's why the American Heart Association recommends eating omega-3-rich fish at least twice a week. Enjoy salmon as an entrée, or add it to green salads or pasta.
Sweet potatoes. A superior source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, sweet potatoes also supply vitamin C and potassium. Zelman roasts them in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for an hour for a delicious caramelized flavor that needs nothing more than a sprinkle of cinnamon, a spice that may help lower blood sugar. Cook with the skin on, since the skin has fiber and nutrients.
Tea. Green, oolong, or white tea are great sources of antioxidant flavonoids called catechins. (Black tea has less.) The longer you steep tea, the more flavonoids you get, Zelman says. People who drink three cups of tea a day may be less likely to have a heart attack. Zelman's pantry is full of flavored teas, which are tasty enough to enjoy without sweeteners.
Whole-grain cereal. This is one of your best bets for breakfast. It can help lower blood pressure and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Whole grains have powerful plant chemicals, lignans and flavonoids, which may help prevent heart disease. Zelman recommends cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber to help control blood sugar and stave off hunger. You can add protein by adding in low-fat milk or soy milk, nuts, and seeds.
Recipes: Super Meals
Add these to your regular repertoire.
Crunchy Fruit and Yogurt Breakfast Parfait
This breakfast-or-anytime parfait is packed with three super-foods: nuts, berries, and whole grains. Together they keep you feeling full.
Makes 6 servings
3 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups finely chopped almonds, walnuts, and pecans
½ cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp allspice
1. Mix all ingredients together, stirring well to combine.
2. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Spread granola on pan and bake at 325ºF 30-40 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.
3 cups fresh or frozen fruit without added sugar (thawed)
3 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
⅔ cup Nutty Granola (recipe above)
1. In a medium bowl, combine all the fruit.
2. Layer ¼ cup yogurt in 6 tall clear parfait glasses, and top with ¼ cup fruit and 1 tbsp Nutty Granola; repeat once more in each glass.
3. Serve immediately.
202 calories, 14 g protein, 28 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 5 g fiber, 18 g sugar, 46 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 19%
Sweet Potato Pecan Pancakes
Once you taste these delicious pancakes, loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants, you won't make them any other way. Portion the batter to yield two pancakes per serving, and top with reduced-calorie syrup and crunchy nuts to start your day.
Makes 6 servings
1 lb sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, and mashed
2 cups skim milk
2 large eggs, beaten
4 tbsp reduced-calorie pancake syrup, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin-pie spice
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted
1. Place sweet potatoes, milk, eggs, 1 tbsp pancake syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl and blend thoroughly.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt.
3. Blend sweet potato mixture with flour mixture, and whisk until smooth.
4. Coat a flat griddle with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high heat. Ladle batter onto hot griddle by heaping tablespoons and cook until golden brown, turning once when surface begins to bubble (about 2 minutes per side).
5. To serve, warm remaining syrup with pecans and pour over pancakes.
Per serving: 92 calories, 11 g protein, 50 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat(1 g saturated fat), 63 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 188 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 18%
Tuscan Kale Soup
You don't need to live in Italy to enjoy this easy, healthy soup. The combo of kale and beans powers up the protein, vitamins, and minerals while helping lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels.
Makes 6 servings
1 tsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 oz Spanish chorizo sausage, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 (16-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups fresh kale, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
¼ tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottom Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add onions, and sauté 5 minutes. Add sausage and garlic and continue cooking 1-2 minutes.
3. Add potato, bay leaf, and stock. Cook 8 minutes until potato is soft.
4. Add beans, kale, basil, salt, and pepper, and simmer 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Discard bay leaf before serving.
204 calories, 12 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 8 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 311 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 22%
Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this nutrient-rich dish is full of satisfying and waist-friendly protein that will fill you up and keep your blood sugar steady. Even though it is an egg dish, the dietary cholesterol is a third less than your daily limit.
Makes 6 servings
1 (10-oz) package fresh spinach
2 large onions, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup red potato, cooked, peeled, and diced
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 large egg whites, lightly beaten
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (1-oz) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
1. Coat a 10-in nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add spinach, and sauté 2 minutes until wilted. Remove and set aside.
2. Sauté onion in olive oil 8–10 minutes until browned, stirring occasionally. Add red bell pepper, and continue cooking 2–3 more minutes until soft. Add potato and stir in, then add spinach.
3. Combine eggs and whites, salt, and pepper, and whisk to thoroughly combine. Pour egg mixture into the pan and cook over medium-high heat about 7–9 minutes or until bottom of frittata is browned.
4. Preheat oven broiler. Sprinkle cheeses over frittata and broil 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
5. Cut into six wedges; serve.
Per serving: 180 calories, 14 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 188 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 307 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 45%
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