Around 1 in 10¹ Americans have diabetes, which causes high blood sugar levels. If left untreated, it can result in serious health concerns such as heart and kidney diseases and vision loss. An early diagnosis and comprehensive treatment can help you control your blood sugar levels and avoid these complications.
Treatment options might include getting more exercise or taking medication. Nevertheless, one of the most meaningful things you can do for your blood sugar levels is to pay attention to what you eat.
The ideal diet is well-balanced, low in simple carbohydrates, and packed with fruits and vegetables.
Not all vegetables are good for a diabetes-friendly diet, though. You'll need to know which veggies to put on your plate and which to avoid. Learn more about which green vegetables you should be eating to manage your blood sugar levels.
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Glucose fuels your body. After you consume carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, sending it to the rest of the body through your bloodstream. A hormone called insulin moves the glucose out of your bloodstream and into your cells for energy.
When you have diabetes, you have either developed a resistance to insulin or your body isn't producing enough of it. That means glucose stays in your bloodstream, raising your blood sugar levels.
If these levels remain high for a long period, it can cause serious health problems such as heart and kidney diseases, vision loss, and an increased risk of infection.
There are many treatment options for diabetes. Getting more exercise can burn energy and naturally reduce your blood sugar. There are also oral medications and insulin injections to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range. Changing your diet can have a big impact.
As your body gets glucose from carbohydrates, eating a diet low in carbs could keep your blood sugar levels in check. By eating fewer carbs, your body requires less insulin to process them. That means you should try to avoid carbohydrates found in table sugar, baked goods, and sugary drinks.
Replacing these carbs with fruits and vegetables high in fiber and antioxidants could delay the development of type 2 diabetes.
Fiber is essential for people with diabetes as it helps them feel fuller for longer, slowing down the digestive process. That can help you make healthier choices when you are hungry. Antioxidants are good for eliminating free radicals, which studies have linked with the development of diabetes.²
Not all vegetables are suitable when it comes to a diabetes-friendly diet. You'll want to avoid vegetables high in carbohydrates, such as:
There are more than 12g of carbohydrates in 100g of potatoes.³ The way you prepare them can increase those carbs, too. If you want to include potatoes in your meal, stick with boiling them instead of frying them.
Sweet yellow corn has more than 18g of carbs for every 100g serving,⁴ roughly equal to one ear of corn.
One cup of cubed raw butternut squash has over 16g of carbohydrates.⁵ This is another vegetable that you'll need to carefully prepare if you want to add it to your plate, as baking it can increase the number of carbs you are consuming.
Another vegetable that’s high in carbohydrates is pea. One cup of raw green peas has more than 20g of carbohydrates.⁶ A low-carb diet contains less than 130g of carbohydrates a day,⁷ so one cup of peas is more than 10% of your daily carb allowance.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't eat peas at all, though. They are packed with nutrients and are a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins C and E. However, you may want to limit how often you eat them. Incorporate other more diabetic-friendly vegetables into your meals.
Many vegetables are perfect for your plate if you are looking for low-carb, high-fiber options. Instead of corn, potatoes, or butternut squash, opt for leafy green vegetables. These include:
One cup of raw kale has less than a gram of carbohydrates, so you can pile it onto your plate. It's great for mixing into soups, stews, and traybake recipes. You can also bake it in the oven and enjoy crunchy kale chips. Kale has a lot of antioxidants, which help destroy damaging free radicals in your body.
If you aren't a fan of kale, try collard greens or Swiss chard instead.
Enjoy a cup of raw spinach and add only about 1g of carbohydrates to your plate. Spinach is full of protein, which can help you feel full for longer and avoid unhealthy snack choices between meals. You can add spinach to various meals, including pasta, soups, and salads.
In addition, try including arugula, endive, and other salads in your diet.
One cup of shredded cabbage has just 4g of carbs. It's also packed with vitamin C and calcium. There are a lot of cabbage varieties to enjoy, including bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and red cabbage.
Cabbage is a versatile vegetable that you can enjoy raw, boiled, or pickled to change its flavor while still getting its delicious benefits.
There are many other great veggie options, including asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and green beans. They are all low in calories and carbohydrates while being high in fiber. These qualities avoid causing spikes in your blood sugar, reducing the amount of insulin that your body needs.
There is evidence that switching to a plant-based diet could help you manage diabetes, too.
Early diagnosis and treatment for diabetes are essential to avoid the complications associated with the disease. If you experience any diabetes symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor for testing. These symptoms include:
Feeling thirstier than usual
Needing to urinate more frequently
Having blurred vision
Experiencing unexplained weight loss, often when eating more
Feeling more tired or irritable than usual
Getting frequent infections or injuries that take a long time to heal
Your doctor can run blood tests to determine if these symptoms are due to diabetes or another health concern.
You should also make an appointment with your doctor if you've been diagnosed with diabetes, are prediabetic, or have trouble managing your blood sugar levels through diet and exercise. Your doctor may recommend you work with a dietician to create a balanced meal plan. You may need to start oral medication or insulin injections to manage your blood sugar levels.
Diabetes is a disease that affects your blood sugar levels and insulin. While other health concerns are associated with chronic high blood sugar, this condition is largely manageable. Common treatment options include diet, exercise, and medication.
Diet plays an important role in the treatment of diabetes. By lowering your intake of carbohydrates, you can reduce the amount of insulin that your body needs. This means eating a low-carb diet high in fiber and packed with fruits and vegetables.
Not all vegetables are great options. Corn, potatoes, and butternut squash are all high-carbohydrates vegetables, and you should eat them in moderation.
However, leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and cabbage are all low-carb, high-fiber options that are great additions to your meals.
If you experience any symptoms associated with diabetes, such as increased thirst, urinating more frequently, or unexplained weight loss, make an appointment with your doctor. If you've been diagnosed with diabetes or are pre-diabetic, your doctor may recommend working with a dietician on a meal plan.
The facts, stats, and impacts of diabetes | Center for Disease Center and Prevention
Potatoes, raw, skin | U.S. Department of Agriculture
Corn, sweet, yellow, raw | U.S. Department of Agriculture
Squash, winter, butternut, raw | U.S. Department of Agriculture
Peas, green, raw | U.S. Department of Agriculture
Foods to eat and avoid | Medical News Today
The truth about starchy vegetables | The John Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes
The top 10 worst foods if you have diabetes | Cleveland Clinic