Diabetes Power Foods: Whole Grains and Fiber

From the WebMD Archives

Imagine this food: It's low in calories. It makes you feel full. And you can eat as much of it as you want. Too good to be true? It's fiber and it is real. You can find it in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Most everyone should eat more fiber -- especially if you have diabetes.

Even though fiber is a carbohydrate, your body can’t break it down. This means you don’t digest fiber, and it doesn't raise your blood sugar. And as fiber moves through your body, it helps with digestion, makes you feel full, and may help control your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

How Much Fiber?

Think you eat enough fiber? Chances are you could stand to eat more. Men over age 50 should get at least 30 grams of fiber each day and women over 50 at least 21 grams daily. Most of us get less than recommended. There are lots of delicious ways to add fiber to your diet, but the key is to do it slowly. This will help prevent gas and bloating. Drinking more water can help, too.

Eat Your Whole Grains

Whole grains are loaded with fiber. Look for breads, cereals, tortillas, and crackers that have whole wheat flour, whole-grain cornmeal, whole oats, whole rye, or buckwheat flour on the ingredients list. Here are some tasty ways to add more whole grains to your diet:

  • Start the day with a half-cup of high-fiber bran cereal topped with banana slices or berries (12 grams of fiber) or a whole wheat English muffin (4.4 grams).
  • Choose whole wheat pasta (3 grams) over white. Serve it with your favorite vegetables for even more fiber.
  • Make a sandwich on whole-grain bread. (Chose bread with 2 or 3 grams of fiber a slice.)
  • Try recipes that use other types of whole grains, such as barley or bulgur (3 to 4 grams).
  • Have brown rice or wild rice (3.5 grams) instead of white. Sprinkle with fresh herbs or lemon juice to add flavor.

Get Creative With Vegetables

Vegetables are another great source of fiber. Try to have three to four servings of vegetables every day. Here's how to add veggie variety to your plate:

  • Add spinach, kale, or collards to soups or stews. (2.5 to 3.5 grams)
  • Keep frozen mixed vegetables on hand to add to casseroles, soups, and stews. (4 grams)
  • Toss whole wheat pasta or brown rice with fresh vegetables such as broccoli (2.6 grams) or artichokes (7.2 grams).
  • Enjoy baked potatoes or sweet potatoes (in their skin) with a bit of cottage cheese or plain yogurt. (3 to 5 grams)
  • Order vegetables on your pizza instead of meat. (4 grams)

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Don't Forget Beans and Nuts

Beans and nuts are some of the most fiber-rich foods. Try having a few servings each week.

  • Add kidney beans, pintos, black beans, or navy beans to soups, casseroles, or stews. (7 to 9.5 grams)
  • Dress up salads with chickpeas, lentils, or soybeans. (5 to 8 grams)
  • Have about 2 tablespoons of nuts as a snack. Try almonds, walnuts, or peanuts. Or use them to top salads or rice dishes. (2 to 3 grams)

Enjoy Fiber-Filled Fruits

You can also get fiber from fruits that are packed with fiber and other nutrients. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned fruits that don't have added sugars and are not packed in syrup. Aim for two to three servings of fiber-filled fruits each day. Here's how:

  • Add a handful of blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries to oatmeal or cereal. (6 grams)
  • Enjoy thin slices of pear or apple inside sandwiches. (3 to 5 grams)
  • Top a green salad with slices of oranges, grapefruit, or other fruit. (2 to 3 grams)
  • Blend a cup of plain yogurt with a half-cup of frozen strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries. (4 grams)
  • Have fruit salad for dessert. Add a new fruit or two to the mix, such as mango, papaya, or star fruit. (3 to 5 grams)

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on October 14, 2013

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians, FamilyDoctor.org: "Fiber: How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet."  

American Diabetes Association: "Fruits," "Non-starchy Vegetables," "Whole Grain Foods."

Cleveland Clinic: "Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar Control for People with Diabetes."

Joslin Diabetes Center: "How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?"

Dee Sandquist, MS, RD, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: "What I Need to Know About Eating and Diabetes."

USDA: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: Appendices," "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Appendix B: Food Sources of Selected Nutrients," "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference."

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