What Can You Eat If You Have Diabetes?

14.9 min read

Your fork can improve your health – there’s more power in your utensil than you may realize. In fact, a healthy eating plan, that is rich in plant-based foods, can help you control diabetes, and experts at the Pritikin Center have found it can in some cases, even reverse diabetes complications. How many plant-based foods do you eat in a day? If breakfast is a piece of toast and coffee, your mid-morning snack a muffin, and lunch a burger, then you’ve just gone through half the day without eating one plant-based food. Here are the 5 best foods to control diabetes, and other tips on what are the best things you can eat if you have diabetes.

What Can I Eat If I Have Diabetes?

Not sure what to eat? If in doubt, reach for more vegetables, suggests Registered Dietician, Lon Ben-Asher, at the Pritikin Center. When it comes to choosing something to put on your plate, “make vegetables the star,” advises Lon. There are lots of delicious foods you can eat if you have diabetes, including vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, some poultry, and fat-free dairy.

What Can I Eat to Control Diabetes

If you lack confidence in how to control diabetes with food, you’re going to love reading about this list of foods:

  • Vegetables
  • Beans, lentils, and tofu
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free dairy products
  • Fish

Shopping List for Diabetics

Can I Eat Fruit if I Have Diabetes?

For some people eating fruit can make it more difficult for them to reach their goals of losing weight and controlling their blood sugar levels. “Some people find eating fruit makes them hungrier,” explains Lon. “When you are insulin resistant, the sugar in fruit causes your blood sugar to rise.” That’s great because your cells need sugar for energy. This rise in blood sugar triggers insulin. But, insulin resistant people have cells that don’t respond to the insulin. Thus, your blood sugar levels don’t drop, so insulin keeps getting sent out. Your body over produces insulin. Since insulin is a hunger hormone, it makes you hungry. “For some people, eating certain foods, like fruit, can actually make them hungrier, because it makes you secret secrete too much insulin. At the Pritikin Center, we reduce insulin resistance here in four ways – eat lots of high fiber foods, be careful around fruit, exercise daily, and take off belly fat.” Lon notes that some of her clients find they feel better eating less fruit, while others are okay eating some fruit. Pritikin isn’t a one-size-fits-all program, it’s designed with the ability to be tailored to meet your unique health needs.

According to research studies, if you were to reach for a fruit, some fruits, such as apples and berries are a better choice. According to data from the Nurses Health Study, apples and berries are linked with a lower risk of type II diabetes. It’s important to realize that a serving of fruit is very small (a half cup of fruit). An average banana is more than one serving. If you are insulin resistant, Lon recommends eating high fiber food with your fruit, to slow down how fast the sugar gets absorbed. For example, eat your serving of fruit on top of high-fiber oatmeal. This is a helpful strategy for anyone with insulin resistance, not just those diagnosed with type II diabetes.

Best Foods to Control Diabetes

This list of best foods to control diabetes is going to make your mouth water and spark some delicious quick meal ideas. From fatty fish like salmon to strawberries, here are 5 foods that can be helpful to those trying to control diabetes:

5 Best Foods to Control Diabetes

  1. Fatty fish
  2. Strawberries
  3. Oatmeal
  4. Kale
  5. Broccoli Sprouts

1. Fatty Fish

If you are looking for foods to eat that can help you control diabetes, consider fatty fish, such as salmon. Substituting a meal high in saturated fat, such as the traditional hamburger, with a meal with unsaturated fats, is an eating plan modification recommended for diabetes. It’s based on science showing that eating more meals focused on unsaturated fats than saturated fats improves blood fat levels, glucose sensitivity, and may delay the development of retinopathy. In a human crossover trial, the people who had type II diabetes ate meals with more omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish) and had better blood fat concentrations. Reduced triglyceride levels were noted in a clinical trial involving diabetics consuming about 3 ounces of salmon, about the size of the palm of your hand. As for glucose sensitivity, it’s a bit more science geeky: scientists are looking into the potential to see if omega-3 fatty acids can help insulin resistance from another angle: high blood sugar levels trigger inflammation that impairs insulin. In addition, if you have diabetes you may also be aware that your kidneys can be affected – evidence suggests the omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish may improve proteinuria (the amount of protein in urine) seen in diabetics whose kidneys are not working well.

2. Strawberries

Strawberries are a fruit that some people can enjoy as part of their healthy eating plan, as its glycemic effect is low (induces an increase in blood sugar smaller than some other foods). If you like strawberries, then you’ll berry much enjoy this next bite of research. The beautiful red hue of a strawberry is thanks to some healthy compounds, called polyphenols. Berries, such as strawberries and cranberries, lower markers of metabolic syndrome in human studies. Strawberries contain phenolic compounds, such as the famous flavonoid, called anthocyanins. These polyphenols have been noted to improve glucose uptake in insulin-sensitive tissues. Knowing this, researchers looked to see if strawberries were a food that could help control diabetes. Scientists found that polyphenols from strawberries improve insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant people. Since fruits can raise blood glucose levels, it’s best to eat fruits, including strawberries, with high fiber food – making strawberries a great topping for your bowl of oatmeal.

3. Oatmeal

Oatmeal can offer a variety of health benefits, and is one of the best foods to eat to control diabetes. Oat is most famous for a type of fiber, called beta-glucan, that is helpful at lowering high cholesterol. But, the reason oatmeal is amongst the best foods to control diabetes is its ability to reduce blood glucose and insulin responses. In fourteen controlled trials, oatmeal has been found to significantly reduce glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in diabetic patients.

4. Kale

It’s probably been well over a thousand times that you’ve heard experts suggest you eat more leafy greens, such as kale. Kale has hypoglycemic effects making it one of the best foods to eat to control diabetes. But, how much kale is healthy to eat? When researchers looked into this, they watched how eating 7g and 14g of kale with a high glycemic meal affected the blood glucose levels of a group of 42 adults (aged 21-64 years) in Japan. It appears, that eating 7g of kale, as a single dose, suppresses postprandial blood glucose levels. How much kale is 7g? That’s less than half a cup. Add a little kale into your next meal: it’s great in egg-white omelets, stir-frys, soups, and as a topping on veggie burgers.

5. Broccoli Sprouts

These tiny sprouts can add some glamour to the top of your salad, while potentially helping improve your insulin resistance. Broccoli sprouts are packed with antioxidants that according to researchers may improve insulin resistance in type II diabetics. In particular, sulforaphane, a natural compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, watercress), is thought to be helpful. Sulforaphane appears to improve fasting glucose in obese type II diabetics. If you don’t love the sulfur-like flavor of broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts, try roasting them on a sheet pan in the oven for about 20 minutes until they are just slightly browned – the transformation in flavor with astound you! Yes, it is possible to make vegetables taste good.

What’s a Diabetes friendly diet?

In a 10-year study, researchers found that you could lower your risk of diabetes with some minor healthy lifestyle changes. That’s great news! After looking at how the lifestyle of over 35,000 adults in Sweden impacted their health, researchers noted a link between dietary fiber intake and slightly lower risks of diabetes. Eating more fiber is not only an easy lifestyle change, it can be delicious too. The Pritikin Eating Plan is a high-fiber diet that has helped thousands of people like you regain control of their blood sugar levels and enjoy better health. Come enjoy delicious diabetes-friendly foods prepared by award-winning Pritikin Chefs, served in the luxurious surroundings of the beautiful Pritikin Longevity Centre in Miami, Florida.

10 Quick Meal Ideas for Diabetics

Looking for ways to eat more of these 5 best foods that control diabetes? Here are 10 quick meal ideas for diabetics, from the award-winning chefs at the Pritikin Center, in Miami, Florida:

For more quick meal ideas for diabetics, check out this 5-day menu to treat diabetes and pre-diabetes with food.

Can You Eat Foods to Prevent Diabetes?

Researchers from the University of Minnesota wanted to see if what people ate influenced whether they developed diabetes – following 2,717 young adults in the United States, they found those who ate more plant-based foods (vegetables, whole grains) had a 60 percent lower risk of type II diabetes than those who ate only a few plant-based foods. If you’ve been told you are at risk of developing diabetes, know that with a research-proven eating plan, it is possible to prevent diabetes.

The Pritikin Eating Plan that guests at the Pritikin Center learn to incorporate into their everyday lives through interactive lectures, cooking classes, and delicious meals served by award winning chefs, has been proven to help control diabetes, and in some cases, even reverse diabetes.

Ready for a Get-Away?

Are you ready for a wellness retreat that’ll transform the way you eat, from frustrating to fabulous? Come for a vacation at the Pritikin Center and get a luxurious, hands-on experience where you’ll learn what to eat if you have diabetes. Board-certified physicians will help you better understand your blood work and blood sugar numbers, and with the help of Registered Dieticians and chefs, you’ll discover how to use the power of your fork.


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Are you taking or considering a medication for weight loss?

Combining the Pritikin Program with Semaglutide or other weight loss medications could potentially speed up weight loss, reduce side effects, preserve lean body mass, and support long-term metabolic health.