Diabetes is a severe chronic disease that affects our body’s ability to make enough insulin and use it properly. This results in the glucose staying in our bloodstream, which carries numerous health issues related to our blood vessels, coronary arteries, kidneys, nervous system, and more.
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According to International Diabetes Federation (IDF), there are 537 million people living with diabetes today, and this staggering number is predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030. What’s more, it is reported that 6.7 million people died due to diabetes in 2021, which makes the condition one of the deadliest diseases in today’s world.
Although it’s severe, diabetes can be managed and prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a healthy diet. When it comes to the latter, people suffering from diabetes are advised to eat certain vegetables that can help them keep their blood sugar levels in check and minimize or prevent symptoms of the condition.
We’ve prepared a helpful guide to the best vegetables for diabetes that are safe to eat and beneficial for you if you’re chronically experiencing high blood sugar levels. Read on and learn which vegetables are worth including in your healthy diet and which ones are better to limit or avoid if you’re diabetic.
Best 8 Diabetes-Friendly Vegetables To Include in Your Diet
If you have diabetes, you must control blood sugar levels in order to maintain your overall health and well-being. By eating the right kind of food, you’re able to manage your condition and its symptoms.
Choosing suitable vegetables that are low-carb and have a low glycemic index (GI) is crucial in keeping your health issues under control. There are several diabetes-friendly vegetables that are safe to eat as they won’t cause your blood glucose levels to rise. Those valuable ingredients will improve your insulin sensitivity and make your diabetes easier to handle.
Carrots are a valuable source of vitamin A and K1, fiber, beta carotene, potassium, and various antioxidants. With a GI of 16, they are a great choice for people with diabetes as they can consume them safely without risking their blood sugar levels rising.
They taste delicious when eaten raw, however, there are many excellent carrot recipes that you can try to diversify your healthy diet. They can be used in both savory and sweet meals, so have a go and make some warming carrot soup or low-carb carrot cake for your sweet tooth. If you’re a french fries lover, you can make diabetes-friendly carrot fries by roasting them in the oven with a little bit of olive oil.
Lettuce is an unbeatable superfood that should always have its secure place in our diets, especially if we’re diabetics. It’s low in calories and contains high amounts of iron, vitamin C, and antioxidants. What’s more, it has the ability to reduce inflammation and boost our immune system.
Lettuce will be a perfect addition to a sandwich made with low-carb bread and your favorite filling. To elevate your vegetable intake even more, try our delicious Olive Garden Salad, which you can modify to your liking and needs.
Consider leaving out the croutons, though, as they may cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Instead, you can add some pumpkin seeds for an additional crunch.
Another incredibly healthy leafy vegetable that is also diabetes-friendly is spinach. One cup of spinach contains only 1 gram of carbohydrates which makes it a must-have ingredient in every diabetic’s meal plan. It’s also packed with vitamin A, providing 94% of the daily value.
Similarly to lettuce, spinach is an excellent salad base, so you can experiment with other diabetes-friendly ingredients to create a fresh and nutritious salad. Spinach plays its role equally well in a frozen or canned version.
You can fold some of the greens into your omelet to create a tasty and wholesome breakfast. The spinach will provide you with essential nutrients, and the eggs will cover 6% of the daily value of vitamin B12, which is vital for maintaining the integrity of the nervous system.
Broccoli is one of the key vegetables that should be consumed by people with diabetes regularly. It contains a valuable compound called “sulforaphane,” which helps reduce hepatic glucose production. In addition, the compound has anti-cancerous properties.
Broccoli has high nutritional value as it’s rich in the most important vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin C, fiber, protein, calcium, selenium, and magnesium.
You can have it cooked and add it to, for example, pasta salad. Broccoli is also a great veggie for roasting and sautéing. Throw it into the pan with a little bit of heart-healthy olive oil, avocado oil, or canola oil that provide nutritious monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Tomatoes are low-carb and rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants, making them another valuable superfood. They are also one of the best sources of lycopene which not only gives them vibrant red color but also improves our overall health. Tomatoes are a fantastic choice for diabetics as they are good for the heart and reduce the risks of health issues related to it.
Slice or dice some fresh cherry tomatoes and throw them into your colorful salad. You can also roast them in the oven and enjoy them with your dinner. The choice is yours.
Cabbage is another fantastic vegetable that can help you keep your blood sugar levels in check due to its antihyperglycemic properties. What’s more, it’s a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It’s also low in calories and carbohydrates – 1 cup of chopped, raw cabbage contains only 5 g of carbs.
This nutritious veggie can be used as a side dish in its fresh form, but you can also sautée it and add it to your healthy sir-fry.
Although mushrooms are often thought to have low nutritional value, they are, in fact, rich in vitamin B, which makes mushrooms a valuable ingredient that helps counteract metformin-related B-vitamin deficiency, as a 2020 study has noted.
As mushrooms are low-carb, they can be enjoyed on a diabetes-friendly diet without a doubt. They add a meaty texture and flavor, and you can have them with omelets, sandwiches, soups, stews, and many more.
A low-GI and low-calorie red onion is an excellent source of vitamin C and B6. Due to its high amounts of chromium that helps regulate blood sugar, red onion is a fantastic choice for diabetics.
You can have it raw with your salad or add it to warming soups or stews to elevate their flavor. The possibilities are endless to create delicious and diabetes-friendly meals with red onion.
Vegetables To Avoid When You Have Diabetes
While it’s incredibly important to include a variety of vegetables in our healthy diets, some of them may not be suitable for people with diabetes. These involve starchy vegetables high in carbohydrates that can cause blood glucose levels to rise.
In order to have your diabetes symptoms under control, it’s best to avoid or limit the risky vegetables in your diet.
Both white and sweet potatoes are rich in starch and high in carbohydrates. The GI of regular potatoes is 111, and sweet potatoes – 96. These high numbers indicate that these vegetables aren’t safe to eat for people with diabetes as they can significantly disturb their blood sugar levels.
If you wish to eat potatoes sporadically in little quantities, it’s best to have them with fibrous vegetables to reduce the overall GI of your meals. It’s crucial to avoid processed food made with potatoes, such as high-fat French fries or chips.
Corn is a rich source of minerals, protein, and valuable fiber, yet it is a high-calorie vegetable that should be eaten in minimal quantities.
Although the GI of corn is 46, which falls under low GI foods, snacks made of corn, like popcorn or cornflakes, have a GI of 65 and 81, which is relatively high.
Green peas are also one of the starchy vegetables that may affect blood glucose levels. Although it has high amounts of protein and fiber, it’s also high in carbohydrates – 1 cup of cooked green peas contains 16 g of carbs. For that reason, people struggling with diabetes should significantly minimize their intake.
The Bottom Line
Diabetes is a severe condition that affects large numbers of people every year. Although the symptoms are chronic, they can be managed by leading a healthy lifestyle which includes a wholesome diet based on suitable products.
Low-carb and low-GI vegetables are highly nutritious ingredients that people with diabetes should consume on a regular basis. They not only keep blood sugar levels in check but also contain valuable compounds that promote good health and overall well-being.