Often people with diabetes are cautious and frightened about consuming carbohydrates because they break down into sugar. However, carbohydrates contain fiber and other nutrients that are an essential part of a healthy diet even when you have diabetes. Discover ten favorite carbs for people with diabetes and why they are excellent choices.
Basics about Carbohydrates and Diabetes
Most people are aware that low-carb diets are essential with diabetes but it also matters which type of carbohydrates you eat and the over all portion size. Scheduled timing of meals and diabetic snacks are also an important factor. Carbs should be consumed evenly throughout the day. The four categories of food that contain carbs are grains, dairy, vegetables, and fruit. Consider the facts about foods that are carbs. Low-fat dairy products have calcium and vitamin D which help with bone formation and bone health often affected in those with diabetes.
Legumes have soluble fiber that can reduce cholesterol levels. Fruits and vegetables are full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which boost your immune system. The right balance and timing of carbohydrates is nutritious and energizing. Your blood sugar level is determined by eating the proper portions, taking your medications as directed, and exercising regularly. Eating the right carbs also makes a difference.
Certain dairy products including milk are considered carbohydrates. All milk including whole milk, low-fat milk, fat-free milk, low-fat chocolate milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk and almond milk are counted as a carbohydrate. All yogurts whether they contain fruit on the bottom, have exotic flavors like key lime pie crunch or chocolate chips mixed in are considered a carbohydrate. Some choices are obviously better than others but do include reasonable dairy products in your daily diet. Whole milk, low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurts are a delicious, filling and satisfying choice that contains beneficial calcium without any added sugars, artificial flavors or ingredients.
Greek yogurt contains protein and other nutrients for a healthier body and a boost of energy. It is portable and easy to grab for part of a meal or a snack. Try a cup of Greek plain yogurt for breakfast. Add strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries for flavor and a handful of nuts for protein. Add a tablespoon of sunflower or pumpkin seeds to the Greek yogurt for a great snack.
Mix Greek plain yogurt into your morning cereal (portion size) for extra creaminess. If making a shake, use Greek plain yogurt as the base for a rich thick shake compared to milk. You can substitute Greek Plain yogurt for sour cream in your dips or spreads. Use a dollop on your baked potato instead of butter or sour cream. You can add Greek yogurt to your baking for extra calcium and intense flavor. Experiment with plain Greek yogurt since it is a satisfying and healthy choice for a carb.
Berries are an excellent fruit choice which is considered carbohydrates. They contain ample amounts of vitamins, fiber and minerals. As compared to other fruits, berries have a relatively low sugar content and glycemic index. This can help reduce blood sugar spikes. A serving size is a cup which is much larger than many other fruit choices. For example, a serving size of grapes is about 10-12 large grapes and a serving size of prunes is 2-3 small prunes. Blueberries are often referred to as a “diabetes super food” because they contain fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidant vitamins. Phytonutrients may help stave off colds which end up raising blood sugars in those with diabetes.
Studies have shown blueberries can help lower blood sugars and help the body better process glucose for increased energy. Because they are low-calorie and chock full of nutrients, blueberries can help you shed unwanted pounds. For example, they are a sweet treat without all the guilt at just 83 calories per 1-cup serving. Studies have also shown blueberries may help you burn fat, reduce inflammation, and lose belly fat, which are all risks associated with diabetes. Try putting blueberries on your morning oatmeal. Make a trail mix using fresh blueberries, almonds and unsweetened coconut flakes for a complete and filling snack. Add blueberries to your garden salads for more fiber and rich flavor.
Blackberries contain polyphenols, healthy fiber, have a low glycemic index, low calories and have a low-carb count. The polyphenols in blackberries include antioxidants that can destroy harmful substances in your body called free radicals. Blackberries have both soluble and insoluble fiber to help slow down your digestive process and lower your blood sugar levels. They are a great source of Vitamin C, another antioxidant that helps to boost your immune system. As with blueberries add them to your Greek yogurt, morning oatmeal or fruit shakes. Thread them on a metal skewer along with strawberries, banana slices and pineapple chunks over the grill for a superb summer time dessert. Add blackberries to whole wheat pancakes or whole grain waffles or sugar free Jell-o. Be creative with this wholesome and natural low carb fruit treat.
Lentils which are legumes are an excellent source of fiber and protein with 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. A half cup serving has 19 grams of carbohydrates. They have soluble and insoluble fiber to promote regular bowel habits, help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Lentils are rich in folic acid, magnesium, zinc. They also provide antioxidants such as vitamins A and C as well as tannins that may help prevent some types of cancer. They may be able to reduce damage to the inside of blood vessels which is a big concern to those with diabetes.
You can buy dry lentils and soak overnight for a delicious nutty flavor after cooking. You can buy lentils in a can and rinse them for excess sodium, heat and serve. Lentil soup is rich and filling along with providing many nutrients. Lentils can be added to stews and casseroles for hearty flavor and texture. Add cold lentils to salads for additional fiber and taste.
Fresh apples are a good source of fiber and natural sugar. Rinse the apples with fruit/vegetable solution or soap and water to clean them but keep the skins on to get lots of antioxidants and fiber. Small apples have just 77 calories with 21 grams of carbohydrates and are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Try eating a sliced apple with a small amount of peanut or almond butter to get a healthy dose of protein and help keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Bake apples in the oven with diet ginger ale soda and cinnamon for an easy low calorie baked apple. Add slices of apples to your potato dishes or dice up apples in your chicken salad to add fiber. Try the many kinds of apples including Granny Smith, Delicious, Cortland, Honey and Macintosh for different flavors and textures.
Rather than eating regular carb-heavy pasta, try spaghetti squash mixed with stewed tomatoes, garlic, onions, and basil. You can add spaghetti squash to soups, stews and casseroles. This tasty squash resembles actual spaghetti and is high in fiber to help you maintain better blood sugar levels. Squash is a good source of manganese and vitamin C. It also contains beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A for healthy teeth, tissues, vision, and skin. Winter squash has about half the carbs of potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene. Just one serving contains your daily requirement of beta-carotene. Orange sweet potatoes are digested more slowly than white potatoes to help keep your blood sugar levels more balanced and you less hungry. They are a satisfying source of fiber and make you feel full to avoid cravings after meals. Try baking them or adding them to soups for bulk and flavor. Add orange rind and raisins for a delicious treat baked in the oven. Cut them into thin strips and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 in the oven for 20 minutes for delicious fries with all the added health benefits.
If you enjoy quinoa, consider adding some variety to your diet with bulgur. It contains protein and fiber so it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes as fast as refined grains such as pasta. Bugler is made from boiled, dried, and cracked whole wheat kernels. It is known to be one of the healthiest grains and only takes 10 minutes to prepare. Use it to make a delicious salad without the need for pasta. Include fresh vegetables, a dash of olive oil, and your favorite herbs. Bulgur can be eaten as a hot morning cereal as well.
When it comes to oatmeal, not all versions found at your local grocery store are created equal. Avoid the instant flavored packets that contain added sugars. Choose steel-cut or classic rolled varieties. Oatmeal provides essential fiber and studies have shown it can help with glycemic control and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Oatmeal helps you feel full longer to help with weight management. Serve cooked oatmeal with a half cup of berries and a tablespoon of slivered almonds or chopped walnuts for plenty of satisfying flavor. Add a spoon of almond or peanut butter to your oatmeal to increase the protein and satiation. Bake oatmeal squares using a few simple ingredients including eggs, oil and water. Add spices, nuts or dried fruit for an extra treat.
With 150 calories and just 1 gram of fat per ½ cup of dry brown rice, it is easy to see why this food can help you combat hunger without the guilt. Brown rice also has 2 grams of dietary fiber and 30 grams of carbohydrates. Brown rice is a whole grain with dietary fiber that causes a gradual increase in blood sugar, rather than the spikes that can occur when eating refined grains such as white rice. Serve brown rice with steamed green vegetables and broiled chicken for a filling meal with plenty of nutrients. Make a super casserole containing brown rice with mixed roasted vegetables and pieces of beef. Create a Chinese stir fry with lean pork, Bok Choy, bean sprouts, water chest nuts all mixed with brown rice and low sodium soy sauce. Delicious!
These are ten favorite carbs for people with diabetes which can help you create a balanced diet for proper nutrition and weight management. They are all tasty, satisfying, and guilt-free. Keep portion sizes in mind and talk to your health care team about the healthiest ways to add carbs to your daily diet. Experiment with different variations but try to include these in your daily diets.