Figuring out the best foods to eat when you have diabetes can be tough.

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The main goal is to keep blood sugar levels well-controlled.

However, it’s also important to eat foods that help prevent diabetes complications like heart disease.

Here are the 16 best foods for diabetics, both type 1 and type 2.

Fatty fish

Fatty fish is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel are great sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which have major benefits for heart health.

Getting enough of these fats on a regular basis is especially important for diabetics, who have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

DHA and EPA protect the cells that line your blood vessels, reduce markers of inflammation and improve the way your arteries function after eating

A number of observational studies suggest that people who eat fatty fish regularly have a lower risk of heart failure and are less likely to die from heart disease

In studies, older men and women who consumed fatty fish 5–7 days per week for 8 weeks had significant reductions in triglycerides and inflammatory markers .

Fish is also a great source of high-quality protein, which helps you feel full and increases your metabolic rate.

Leafy greens

Leafy green vegetables are extremely nutritious and low in calories.

They’re also very low in digestible carbs, which raise your blood sugar levels.

Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are good sources of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C.

In one study, increasing vitamin C intake reduced inflammatory markers and fasting blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

In addition, leafy greens are good sources of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

These antioxidants protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts, which are common diabetes complications .

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a delicious spice with potent antioxidant activity.

Several controlled studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity .

Long-term diabetes control is typically determined by measuring hemoglobin A1c, which reflects your average blood sugar level over 2–3 months.

In one study, type 2 diabetes patients who took cinnamon for 90 days had more than a double reduction in hemoglobin A1c, compared those who only received standard care.

A recent analysis of 10 studies found that cinnamon may also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

However, a few studies have failed to show that cinnamon benefits blood sugar or cholesterol levels, including one on adolescents with type 1 diabetes.

Furthermore, you should limit your intake of cassia cinnamon — the type found in most grocery stores — to less than 1 teaspoon per day.

It contains coumarin, which is linked to health problems at higher doses.

On the other hand, ceylon (“true”) cinnamon contains much less coumarin.

Eggs

Eggs provide amazing health benefits.

In fact, they’re one of the best foods for keeping you full for hours.

Regular egg consumption may also reduce your heart disease risk in several ways.

Eggs decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, increase your “good” HDL cholesterol levels and modify the size and shape of your “bad” LDL cholesterol.

In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who consumed 2 eggs daily as part of a high-protein diet had improvements in cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

In addition, eggs are one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect the eyes from disease .

Just be sure to eat whole eggs. The benefits of eggs are primarily due to nutrients found in the yolk rather than the white.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a wonderful food for people with diabetes.

They’re extremely high in fiber, yet low in digestible carbs.

In fact, 11 of the 12 grams of carbs in a 28-gram (1-oz) serving of chia seeds are fiber, which doesn’t raise blood sugar.

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The viscous fiber in chia seeds can actually lower your blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which food moves through your gut and is absorbed.

Chia seeds may help you achieve a healthy weight because fiber reduces hunger and makes you feel full. In addition, fiber can decrease the amount of calories you absorb from other foods eaten at the same meal .

Additionally, chia seeds have been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammatory markers.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice with powerful health benefits.

Its active ingredient, curcumin, can lower inflammation and blood sugar levels, while reducing heart disease risk ).

What’s more, curcumin appears to benefit kidney health in diabetics. This is important, as diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney disease.

Unfortunately, curcumin isn’t absorbed that well on its own. Be sure to consume turmeric with piperine (found in black pepper) in order to boost absorption by as much as 2,000%.

Greek jogurt

Greek yogurt is a great dairy choice for diabetics.

It’s been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce heart disease risk, perhaps partly due to the probiotics it contains.

Studies have found that yogurt and other dairy foods may lead to weight loss and improved body composition in people with type 2 diabetes.

It’s believed that dairy’s high calcium and conjugated linolic acid (CLA) content may play a role.

What’s more, Greek yogurt contains only 6–8 grams of carbs per serving, which is lower than conventional yogurt. It’s also higher in protein, which promotes weight loss by reducing appetite and decreasing calorie intake.

Nuts

Nuts are delicious and nutritious.

All types of nuts contain fiber and are low in digestible carbs, although some have more than others.

Here are the amounts of digestible carbs per 1-oz (28-gram) serving of nuts:

  • Almonds: 2.6 grams
  • Brazil nuts: 1.4 grams
  • Cashews: 7.7 grams
  • Hazelnuts: 2 grams
  • Macadamia: 1.5 grams
  • Pecans: 1.2 grams
  • Pistachios: 5 grams
  • Walnuts: 2 grams

Research on a variety of different nuts has shown that regular consumption may reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar, HbA1c and LDL levels.

In one study, people with diabetes who included 30 grams of walnuts in their daily diet for one year lost weight, had improvements in body composition and experienced a significant reduction in insulin levels.

This finding is important because people with type 2 diabetes often have elevated levels of insulin, which are linked to obesity.

In addition, some researchers believe chronically high insulin levels increase the risk of other serious diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Broccoli

Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables around.

A half cup of cooked broccoli contains only 27 calories and 3 grams of digestible carbs, along with important nutrients like vitamin C and magnesium.

Studies in diabetics have found that broccoli may help lower insulin levels and protect cells from harmful free radicals produced during metabolism.

What’s more, broccoli is another good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These important antioxidants help prevent eye diseases.

Extra- virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is extremely beneficial for heart health.

It contains oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that has been shown to improve triglycerides and HDL, which are often at unhealthy levels in type 2 diabetes.

It may also increase the fullness hormone GLP-1.

In a large analysis of 32 studies looking at different types of fat, olive oil was the only one shown to reduce heart disease risk (74Trusted Source).

Olive oil also contains antioxidants called polyphenols. They reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels, keep your LDL cholesterol from becoming damaged by oxidation and decrease blood pressure.

Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined and retains the antioxidants and other properties that make it so healthy. Be sure to choose extra-virgin olive oil from a reputable source, since many olive oils are mixed with cheaper oils like corn and soy.

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