A healthy diet is the foundation of good diabetes management. It helps keep blood sugar levels on track, promotes weight loss, and keeps your heart healthy.

A healthy diet for diabetes is low in calories and fat but high in fiber and nutrients. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups while keeping portions small and servings balanced over time.

A healthy diet for diabetes includes the following:

  • Lean protein.

Protein helps you feel full and satisfied and is needed to build and repair muscles. Good choices include fish, skinless chicken breast or thigh, lean beef, beans, tofu, and eggs.

  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.

These foods help manage blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream. They also provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Fiber also helps to keep you fuller for longer.

  • Healthy fats.

Fats are an essential part of any diet because they help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K — vital nutrients for good health. But people with diabetes should keep their total fat intake at about 25 percent of their daily calories, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Good sources include olive oil; canola oil; nuts such as almonds or walnuts; fatty fish such as salmon; avocados; seeds such as sunflower seeds (without salt) or pumpkin seeds; oils from olives or nuts such as walnut oil; dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao plus unsalted nuts.

  • Protein.

Protein is an integral part of your diet because it helps build muscles and maintain healthy bones while also helping to keep your heart strong. A meat-free diet may also help you lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. 

Good sources of protein include beans (including soybeans), nuts (such as almonds), low-fat dairy products (such as milk), fish (such as salmon), poultry (such as chicken), eggs, and soy products such as tofu or tempeh.

  • Choose whole grains over refined grains.

Whole grains contain fiber and other nutrients that help keep blood sugar levels stable after eating them. Refined grains have been processed to remove their bran and germ (the parts of the grain that contain fiber) and only contain the starchy endosperm (the white center of the kernel). Examples include whole-wheat flour, brown rice, oatmeal, barley, bulgur wheat, and popcorn kernels. Choose whole-grain bread instead of regular bread; brown rice instead of white rice; brown pasta, white pasta; and whole-grain cereals instead of sugared cereals.


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