8 Carbs to Consider If You’re Living with Diabetes
Stop passing over the carbs! Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Wendy Jo Peterson got the scoop from three leading diabetes experts on which top carbohydrate picks should grace your plate (in moderation, of course!).
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Whether you’re living with diabetes or just choose to eat low-carbohydrate meals, carbohydrates (also referred to as carbs) don’t need to be demonized or feared. Actually, complex carbohydrates contain fiber, which helps slow digestion and regulate blood sugar. While your favorite chips may not make this list, complex carbohydrates should be included in your diet. Subject matter experts weigh in on the top eight carbohydrates to keep on your menu rotation.
Beans, Legumes and Pulses
Beans rank #1 among diabetes experts. Dietitian Jill Weisenberger, author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide, says, “Work in beans, peas and lentils at least a few times each week. Not only are diets rich in legumes linked to longevity, they have unique benefits for people with diabetes or prediabetes. We see effects on both long-term and short-term blood sugar levels.” These foods are loaded with plant protein, fiber and many other nutrients, too. Find out even more reasons why you should be cooking with pulses.
Juicy, plump berries are rich in antioxidants, stout in fiber and a top pick for people living with diabetes. Raspberries and blackberries boast eight grams of fiber per cup. Jump start your morning with this recipe for overnight oats topped with fresh raspberries and chia seeds for a satiating breakfast.
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Weisenberger feels that oats deserved to be top on this list, saying, “Oats contain the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which appears to improve insulin action and lower blood sugar levels. Beta-glucan also sweeps cholesterol from your digestive tract before it reaches your bloodstream. In this way, oats may help lower your risk for heart disease and help you manage diabetes or prediabetes.” Oats really are a superfood!
Yogurt gets a whopping two-thumbs-up because it’s dense in protein and probiotics. Probiotics have been shown in research to be beneficial for those living with diabetes. Not all yogurts are created equal, so be sure to check the nutrition label for “live and active cultures” and opt for a Greek yogurt with at least 14 grams of protein per cup. Break out the spoons for this Lemon Chia Seed Parfait recipe.
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Another nutrition expert, Sylvia White, RDN, CDE, owner of ParentingDiabetes.com, is a big fan of sweet potatoes. “They’re anti-inflammatory and have antioxidants which help prevent diseases, including heart disease which is the number one cause of death in people with diabetes,” she says. “They are high in fiber when the skin is eaten and have a low glycemic index which promotes a slower rise in blood sugar.”
Quinoa is a nutrient-dense grain-like seed packed with protein and antioxidants making it a top anti-inflammatory food. With heart disease being a top concern for people living with diabetes, quinoa is a smart pick over rice or wheat pastas. Quinoa is dense in carbs, so keep the portion around 1/3 cup. Here are 20 delicious quinoa recipes to help get you started.
Toby Smithson, RDN, author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies, speaks up for barley: “It’s a good source of soluble fiber, a cholesterol lowering fiber (just like oats). Yes, barley is a carbohydrate-based food, but it has also been shown to blunt spikes in blood glucose levels in people with diabetes and may also decrease average blood glucose levels measured by an A1C test. Barley is one of the highest fiber grains.”
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An apple a day can work when with living with diabetes, and be beneficial too. A meta-analysis showed that one apple per week was associated a reduction in diabetes risks. One small apple is around 20 grams of carbohydrates, but round out the carb load with a dollop of almond butter for a crunchy snack option.