Superfoods: 13 Foods That Will Help You Manage Your Diabetes

There’s a lot of hype about superfoods right now. We’ve all heard about the “magical” properties that certain foods possess, but with all the misinformation out there, it’s hard to really understand what’s true and what isn’t.

Certain foods really do pack more nutrition than others. Superfoods do exist, and they can be a helpful tool for people with diabetes and anyone else who wants to enjoy better health.

Since nearly half of American adults have diabetes or prediabetes, it’s important that everyone understands which foods are the healthiest. The most nutrient-dense superfoods can be valuable in helping you feel your best, no matter where you are on your wellness journey.

For the record, a diabetes superfood is a food rich in nutrients that benefit diabetes management or has nutrients that are typically lacking in the American diet.

Ready to learn which foods really are super good for you? To improve your health and start better managing diabetes or prediabetes, add more of these diabetes superfoods to your meal plan:

Berries. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries are packed with antioxidants, which are cancer-fighting molecules. Berries are also a great source of fiber. We like them fresh, but they can be enjoyed frozen (great in smoothies) or in dried form as a tasty snack.

Citrus Fruits. Oranges, clementines, grapefruit, lemons, and limes are great providers of vitamin C and soluble fiber. We recommend packing oranges or clementines as a snack since they travel well. Or add a dash of fresh lime in your water for a bit of flavor. Citrus juices can also be used in all kinds of recipes to add the perfect pop of flavor.

Cruciferous Veggies. Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy are rich in fiber and a plethora of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Incorporate them into a plate of crudités at your next gathering. Or lightly sauté, roast, or steam them as a side at dinner.

Dark Leafy Greens. Spinach, collards, kale, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, watercress, and Swiss chard are nutrient powerhouses that provide vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and iron. They are also very low in carbohydrates so feel free to eat more! Pair them with other superfoods to create delicious salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, omelets, or soups.

Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people eat fish at least two to three times per week. Some fish are packed with nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids, which play a role in heart and brain health. These include salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, herring, Pacific oysters, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel. In addition to healthy fats, fish also provide vitamin D and calcium.

Nonfat, plain Greek yogurt is a great addition to savory dishes.

Healthy Fats. Diabetes nutrition guidelines have shifted away from promoting a low-fat diet in recent years. Newer research shows that when planning meals for diabetes, it’s more important to look at the type of fat you’re eating rather than the total amount of fat. Healthy fats may help with blood glucose management and lower the risk of heart disease. Sources include most plant-based oils (olive, canola, corn), avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters, and seeds.

Use olive oil when sautéing or roasting veggies or to make homemade dressing. Snack on some avocado over toast or dice it up and enjoy it atop a salad or bowl of chili. Nuts, nut butters, and seeds are great for snacking, adding to salads, or spreading on sandwiches.


Herbs and Spices. While there is still a body of evidence building about the benefits of various herbs and spices, many of these plant-based ingredients have been associated with health benefits. Not to mention, they don’t add any extra calories, carbs, or sodium to your dishes. So these are one of the best ways to flavor your food!

Lean Protein. Lean fish, shellfish, eggs (especially the egg whites), and poultry without the skin fall into this category. These foods are high in protein and contain little fat and no carbohydrate. Protein has less of an effect on blood glucose levels, so unless you follow a vegetarian eating pattern, it’s a great idea to incorporate these foods into your meals in portions that fit your meal plan.

Legumes. Beans, peas and lentils. These budget-friendly, plant-based proteins are also an excellent choice at mealtime! Legumes also include bean-based foods like hummus, edamame, and soy products. For 1/2 cup of beans, you get about 15–20 grams of carbohydrate, but you also meet approximately 1/3 of your daily fiber needs. They also provide magnesium, folate, potassium, and iron.

You’ll never get tired of experimenting with the many types of legumes! They make the perfect addition to soups, salads, grain bowls, pasta dishes, wraps, or pretty much anything else.

Low-Fat Milk and Yogurt. Milk and yogurt provide important nutrients such as calcium and protein and are usually fortified with vitamin D. When it comes to milk, opt for nonfat milk whenever possible. And for yogurt, always compare nutrition information on labels in the yogurt aisle to determine the best pick. Be sure to check on those total carbohydrates!

We’re big fans of the very versatile nonfat, plain Greek yogurt. It’s a protein-packed, lower-carbohydrate option that’s great in savory or sweet dishes.

Sweet Potatoes. These are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. They also have a lower glycemic index than regular potatoes, so they won’t affect your blood glucose as much. They are a starchy vegetable, so it’s important to eat them in small portions—1/2 cup cooked has about 15 grams of carbohydrates.

Tomatoes. These nonstarchy vegetables are packed with nutrients including vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium. They also are high in lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked to many health benefits.

Whole Grains. Whole grains include oats, whole wheat, barley, brown rice, quinoa, farro, and even popcorn. Try to make most of the grains you eat whole grains! It’s a simple swap from white rice to brown rice or from white bread to a nuttier, more flavorful whole wheat. Whole grains provide dietary fiber and have been linked to heart health, which is important for people with diabetes because of their increased risk of heart disease. Whole grains also offer a host of vitamins and minerals.

The best time to start making healthier choices is right now. Start adding more superfoods to your diet today and soon you’ll see the tremendous impact they make on your health and well-being.

Cassandra Verdi, MPH, RD, is the coauthor of Diabetes Superfoods Cookbook and Meal Planner: Power-Packed Recipes and Meal Plans Designed to Help You Lose Weight and Manage Your Blood Glucose and 21 Things You Need to Know About Diabetes and Nutrition. She is a registered dietitian, writer, and former associate director of nutrition at the American Diabetes Association.

Stephanie Dunbar, MPH, RD, is the coauthor of Diabetes Superfoods Cookbook and Meal Planner: Power-Packed Recipes and Meal Plans Designed to Help You Lose Weight and Manage Your Blood Glucose and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Nutrition. She is an author and consultant specializing in health education program development. She is the former director of nutrition and medical affairs at the American Diabetes Association.



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