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It’s said that food can be the most powerful form of medicine—and that’s definitely accurate when it comes to managing blood sugar. Piles of research have shown that what you eat plays a big role in getting blood sugar levels under control and slashing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Thankfully, it’s possible to create truly delicious meals using foods and nutrients that can improve those blood sugar numbers and reduce the risk of health complications associated with poor sugar control—a health challenge that’s important even for those of us without diabetes.
And, no, carbohydrates need not be off the menu. You just need to be smart about which ones you eat and what you eat them with.
This meal plan, along with the five recipes on page –, is proof that eating to stabilize your blood sugar can make your taste buds happy to boot.
Breakfast: Avocado whole-grain toast
Research suggests that regular avocado consumption can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, at least in part by lowering blood sugar levels. The duo of dietary fiber and unsaturated fat in avocado are likely behind the sugar-stabilizing effects. Top with a fried egg for a morning protein boost.
Lunch: Leafy green salad topped with lentils and vinaigrette
Research in the journal <BMJ> found that eating 1.35 servings per day of nutrient-dense green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale was associated with a 14 percent reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with consuming only 0.2 servings daily. A serving size is 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables or 1/2 cup cooked. Top them with lentils and you’ll up the ante with blood sugar-regulating fiber.
Snack: Sliced bell pepper with hummus
Most people don’t eat enough blood sugar-stabilizing veggies, so working them into snack time is a smart move.
Dinner: Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Browned Butter
Chickpea pasta contains about twice as much fiber and protein as traditional wheat-based varieties, making it a boon to better blood sugar control. Science shows that greater intakes of cruciferous veggies such as broccoli can slash the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Breakfast: PB&J Overnight Oatmeal
Both oats and chia are good sources of soluble fiber, which slows the absorption of carbohydrates to promote steadier blood sugar levels. Plus, research suggests that compounds in cinnamon may have the power to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar numbers.
Lunch: Vegetarian bean chili with side salad
Low in energy and glycemic index, yet packed with fiber and nutrients, beans are a smart way to help with blood sugar control and tamp down the risk of diabetes.
Snack: Handful of almonds
One study found that people who consumed almonds daily as part of an overall healthy diet had lower levels of fasting blood sugar and insulin.
Dinner: Seared tofu with quinoa and steamed Brussels sprouts
A diet geared toward consuming more soy and other plant proteins appears to be protective against developing type 2 diabetes. Eating a diet with generous amounts of plant proteins such as tofu and quinoa may improve insulin sensitivity.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt topped with chopped nuts and blueberries
When it comes to eating sugars, make them count. Anthocyanin antioxidants found in deeply colored fruits such as blueberries may help in the battle against type 2 diabetes, potentially by lowering inflammation and improving insulin resistance.
Lunch: Barley vegetable soup
Like oats, barley is a good source of blood sugar-calming soluble fiber.
Snack: Handful of pumpkin seeds and a square of dark chocolate
Both pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate are sources of magnesium, a mineral linked to improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in those with type 2 diabetes.
Dinner: Chicken Cauliflower Fried Rice
Able to morph into items like pizza crust and “rice,” cauliflower is a great way to trim some starchy calories from a meal to help those struggling with blood sugar control or anyone simply wanting to get more veggies into their diet.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with rye crisp and sliced apple
Like all pure protein sources, eggs have a glycemic index score of 0, so they won’t mess with your blood sugar. The protein in eggs, in combination with the fiber in rye crisps and apple, can also increase morning fullness and reduce cravings.
Lunch: Seedy Carrot Flatbreads with Roasted Salmon
This nut-veg flatbread is a delicious lower-carb base for protein-packed salmon.
Snack: Yogurt topped with hemp hearts
An analysis of research found that consuming yogurt and its probiotics as part of a healthy diet may improve glucose metabolism to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Sprinkle on hemp hearts for an added boost of omega-3 fats, protein, and minerals.
Dinner: Roasted trout with farro and steamed broccoli
A Harvard University study found that replacing 5 percent of energy from saturated fat in a diet with 5 percent of energy from low-quality carbohydrates was linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, while swapping 5 percent of calories from saturated fat with high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grain farro was associated with a lower risk. And two studies in the journal <BMJ> showed that higher consumption of vegetables and whole grain foods is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Breakfast: Smoothie made with unsweetened plant milk, frozen strawberries, a spoonful of almond butter, scoop of plant protein powder, and cinnamon
The mix of protein, healthy fats, and quality carbs will set the stage for a day of even-keeled blood sugar. The flavonoids in strawberries offer an added diabetes-fighting impact.
Lunch: Rye toast topped with grainy mustard and sardines; 1 cup cherry tomatoes
You need not fear all carbs. Research shows that whole grain intake such as 100 percent rye bread is inversely associated with developing type 2 diabetes. The combo of nutrients and fiber in unrefined grains may help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
Snack: Boiled shelled edamame
These green giants infuse snack time with fiber, unsaturated fats, and magnesium to blunt rises in blood sugar that can happen with less nourishing snack options.
Dinner: Nacho Pizza
The healthy fat in avocado and fiber in refried beans slow down the pace of digestion, making pizza night more satiating and more conducive to blood sugar control.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body either doesn’t produce insulin or doesn’t properly use the insulin that is produced. A lack of insulin or resistance to it causes sugar to build up in your blood, which can lead to numerous health problems. Here are the different forms of diabetes.
This occurs when your blood sugar is frequently higher than what’s considered optimum, but not high enough—<yet>—to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Healthy lifestyle choices, including diet and exercise, are essential to putting the brakes on prediabetes before it turns into full-blown diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
This is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. A person with this condition will need to take insulin to keep blood sugar from reaching dangerously high levels.
Type 2 diabetes
This starts as insulin resistance, which means the body can’t use insulin efficiently. That stimulates the pancreas to keep pumping out more insulin until production starts to diminish, leading to elevated blood sugar numbers. Unlike type 1 diabetes, environmental factors such as poor diet and being overweight play a major role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
This is the type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy, perhaps due to insulin-blocking hormones that are produced during this time. Excessive weight gain can also play a role. As with type 2 diabetes, appropriate measures, including healthy eating and physical activity, should be taken to combat gestational diabetes.