When you think of managing blood sugar, odds are you obsess over everything you can’t have.
Beans have more to boast about than being high in fiber (plant compounds that help you feel full, steady blood sugar, and even lower cholesterol; a half cup of black beans delivers more than 7 grams). They’re a not-too-shabby source of calcium, a mineral that research shows can help burn body fat. In ½ cup of white beans, you’ll get almost 100 mg of calcium—about 10% of your daily intake. Beans also make an excellent protein source; unlike other proteins Americans commonly eat (such as red meat), beans are low in saturated fat—the kind that gunks up arteries and can lead to heart disease.
You’re not going to find a better source of calcium and vitamin D—a potent diabetes-quelling combination—than in dairy foods like milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt. One study found that women who consumed more than 1,200 mg of calcium and more than 800 IU of vitamin D a day were 33% less likely to develop diabetes than those taking in less of both nutrients. You can get these nutrients from other foods, but none combine them like dairy does. Stick to fat-free or low-fat versions of your favorite dairy foods—”regular” has a lot of saturated fat.
How to eat it: Drink milk with some meals instead of soda or sugary juices, have yogurt or cottage cheese as a snack or dessert, and use milk to make oatmeal or thicken certain soups.
These chewy fruits aren’t much to look at—plain and brown and a little sticky. But pop one in your mouth and you’ll be rewarded with a sweet taste and delightful texture. Their palate-pleasing nature, combined with a generous supply of fiber (7 dates supply 4 g), makes them a perfect diabetes-friendly snack. They’re also jam-packed with antioxidants—with more per serving than grapes, oranges, broccoli, and peppers, according to one study.
You’re probably thinking of lettuce, but this category of veggie—a staple of Southern cooking—is incredibly diverse, with choices such as turnip, mustard, and beet greens, as well as chard. All are outstanding sources of fiber (1 cooked cup of any of the aforementioned supplies between 3 and 6 g) and calcium (100 to 250 mg per cup). Greens may also be good for your heart, thanks to the folate they contain. This B vitamin appears to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that in high amounts can raise heart disease risk. Research shows getting 400 mcg of folate a day can lower homocysteine by 25% (a cup of cooked turnip greens contains 170 mcg).