Dr. BhavikaDec 12, 2023
Saying no to sugar is one of the first things people are told to keep their blood sugar levels in check. In fact, the list of food items to avoid goes on and on: sweets, bread, biscuits, rice, and even fruits! This makes people feel that controlling their blood sugar levels needs some fancy diet. However, regular food items can also help control blood sugar levels.
Read ahead to know more about the best food items to control blood sugar levels. But first, understand the meaning of the Glycemic Index.
The Glycemic Index, indicates how fast any food will cause a rise in blood sugar levels. For example, we often hear that diabetic patients are advised not to eat white rice. Do you know why? It’s because white rice has a GI of 73, which makes it a high glycemic index food (GI>70). This means that eating rice can cause a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. Hence, following a low-GI diet is ideal for good blood sugar control. These are foods with a GI of 55 or less that do not significantly disrupt blood sugar levels. Additionally, it also helps lose weight and control cholesterol levels.
Low GI foods include:
Fruits: apples, berries, oranges, etc.
Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, tomatoes
Whole grains: quinoa, oats
Beans: lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans
Of course, consuming only these food groups daily is not reasonable. You can include moderate GI foods also in small quantities. This will help build a balanced diet.
There are some food items that have been extensively researched and found to be especially suitable for keeping blood glucose in check. Here is a list of 8 food items that can help with blood sugar control.
1. Oats: Over the last few years, oats have taken over the breakfast market. Overnight oats are the new trend. It is also a super convenient and tasty way to get in your daily dose of fibre. Oats are also an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. This means that even a small portion will keep you feeling full for longer.
Tip: Flavoured oats can be delicious but are high in sugar and preservatives. Instead, buy plain oats and prepare a bowl to your taste. You can add fruits and nuts of your choice.
2. Nuts: Almonds and peanuts have both been linked with lower blood sugar levels in patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. They are a low-Glycemic-Index food that make a great snacking option.
Tip: Nuts are high in fats and can be difficult to digest. Make sure to limit portion sizes. For example, one teaspoon of peanut butter or almond butter at a time is enough.
3. Flax seeds (alsi): High in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fibre, and so much more, flax seeds are a nutritional powerhouse you cannot miss out on. They have been found to help not just with sugar control but also in blood pressure management and in preventing cancer.
Tip: A lot of people don’t like the taste of plain flax seeds. A tasty option is to add roasted flax seeds into your smoothie or on top of a salad to add some crunch.
4. Citrus fruits and berries: Who doesn’t like to snack on fresh fruit? Fruits like oranges, strawberries, blueberries, etc., are a good low GI option to satisfy your sweet cravings. Additionally, citrus fruits contain polyphenols that help improve insulin sensitivity to stabilise sugar levels.
Tip: Make sure to eat fruits whole. Although juices seem like a more convenient option, you can only get the full nutritional benefit by eating fruit whole.
5. Eggs: We all know that eggs are a great source of protein and vitamins. However, they are also a low GI food item that helps control sugar levels. However, this doesn’t mean you can eat them indiscriminately. Make sure to limit yourself to one egg a day.
Tip: The healthiest way to eat an egg is to boil, poach or scramble it in milk. Avoid the use of excessive butter to cook eggs. You can also add a few vegetables.
6. Dark chocolate: The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been found to prevent diabetes and lower cholesterol levels. It also contains polyphenols.
Tip: Commercially available dark chocolate is typically processed and contains added sugars to cut the bitter taste and make it more palatable. However, this also reduces the health benefits. Limit yourself to one small piece of dark chocolate that has not been processed.
7. Beans and legumes: Beans are already a big part of the Indian diet. Lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas, etc., can prevent sugar spikes and are an excellent source of plant-based protein.
Tip: Legumes also contain phytates and lectins, the risks of which are still being evaluated. This is also the reason why people sometimes find them very heavy and difficult to digest, resulting in bloating.
8. Seafood: Although not very common in India, salmon has been found to be a great source of protein and omega 3-fatty acids. Shrimp and other shellfish are also good options for diabetics.
Tip: Having about two servings of grilled or baked fish per week is ideal.
Here are some generic tips to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Portion control is the most important. Instead of fighting your cravings constantly, learn to integrate them into your diet in small portions.
Balance out your meals. For example, eating berries with a high carbohydrate meal was linked with lower blood sugar levels.
Timing is everything. If you are on treatment for diabetes, you have to make sure to eat your food at the right time to prevent sudden fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Check your macros. While people are often told to reduce carbohydrate intake, there is another important point to note. You also need to increase your protein intake to about 0.8-1 gram per kilogram of body weight every day. Having a good amount of protein will leave you feeling satiated longer and help prevent frequent snacking.
Consult a professional to integrate all these food items into your daily diet. Getting a customised diet plan will give you direction and make the process easy.
While restricting high-calorie foods is one part of sugar management, learning to pick the healthier option is equally important. Including the right food items in your diet can help regulate sugar levels and improve your overall health.
Make sure to take your medication as advised, along with following a healthy diet.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.
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