10 Diabetes Superfoods to Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels 2022

Alexandra Gregg

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

diabetes superfoods

When you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, figuring out what to eat can be challenging. Here is the best thing you can do for your body: eat to manage your blood sugar and prevent diabetes complications such as heart disease, infections, foot ulcers, kidney failure, or even vision loss. 

This is where diabetes superfoods can play a significant role. There is no standard by which food becomes a superfood. Instead, it’s a generalized term for foods full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients. Read on to find out the best superfoods for diabetes.

10 Best Superfoods for Diabetes

Superfoods can play a huge role in managing and preventing diabetes and improving overall health. Here are our top 10 choices for people with diabetes:

  1. Dark leafy greens
  2. Berries
  3. Pumpkin seeds
  4. Beans
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Nuts
  7. Sweet potatoes
  8. Flaxseeds
  9. Garlic
  10. Avocados

10 Best Superfoods for Diabetes

Even though each superfood[1] is different, they are typically associated with 

  • Prevention of cancer
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • A boost in heart health
  • Increased immune function

Superfoods can play a huge role in managing and preventing diabetes and improving overall health. Here are our top 10 choices for people with diabetes:

Dark Leafy Greens 

diabetes superfoods

These vegetables are overflowing with minerals, vitamins, fiber, and protein[2]. Plus, they have minimal calories and carbohydrates, making them an excellent choice for people with diabetes. Add them to smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and even soups. They will give you a boost of vitamin C, A, E, and iron and keep you fuller longer. 

Some examples of dark leafy greens include

  • Kale
  • Microgreens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Collard greens

If you have difficulty getting greens into your diet, you can look into green powders, essentially dried versions of dark leafy greens. 

Berries

diabetes superfoods

Berries are the most fabulous fruits for diabetics with type 2 and type 1. They are considered antioxidant-rich foods and are brimming with a specific antioxidant category called flavonoids. These plant compounds protect your cells from free radicals by fighting inflammation. 

Research[3] has shown that high antioxidant foods can prevent the development of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and even neurological diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. High flavonoid content berries include

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Acai Berries
  • Goji Berries

Other fresh fruits contain flavonoids[4], such as citrus fruits, bananas, peaches, and apples. 

Pumpkin Seeds

diabetes superfoods

Pumpkin seeds are small but mighty! These tiny seeds are chock-full of magnesium and healthy fats.

Research[5] has shown that adequate magnesium levels are necessary to maintain optimal blood sugar levels and healthy blood pressure. Add these little seeds into your diet by

  • Adding them to your granola
  • Sprinkling them on top of salads
  • Mixing them into smoothies
  • Garnishing yogurt or cereal

Beans

diabetes superfoods

This lean protein source is a plant-based powerhouse. Per the American diabetes association, it doesn’t matter what kind of bean[6]; black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, etc. All are full of nutrients such as fiber, potassium, and magnesium.

Beans also contain a lot of soluble fiber[7]. This type of fiber helps your good gut bacteria and enhances optimal intestinal function. A healthy equilibrium of gut bacteria or microbiome decreases insulin resistance[8]

Tomatoes

diabetes superfoods

People with diabetes should learn and know their foods’ glycemic index[9] (GI) scale. The glycemic index is a tool that shows how fast or slow sugar from food comes into your bloodstream. Food is given a numerical number from zero to one hundred on the glycemic index scale. 

The larger the number on the GI scale means, the quicker your body can digest that food and absorb it, causing an increase in the blood sugar level. (An improvement on the GI is the glycemic load[10] [GL], which figures into the GL the actual portion size.)

Examples of high glycemic index foods include

  • Starchy vegetables such as corn, regular potatoes, and peas
  • Beverages with added sugar such as soda, sweetened tea, flavored coffee drinks, etc.
  • Simple carbohydrates (white rice, white flour, and white bread)

Conversely, foods that are lower on the GI scale are digested and absorbed at a lower rate, meaning they will unlikely cause a quick increase in blood glucose. These foods are typically high in fat, protein, or fiber. 

For example

  • Fresh fruit (cherries, grapefruit, apples, oranges)
  • Whole grains (bulgur, buckwheat, black rice, oats, quinoa, wild rice)

So are tomatoes good for diabetics? They are an outstanding choice for people with diabetes because they have a meager glycemic index score. Tomatoes rank 15 on the scale, so they are very low[11]. They are also non-starchy and have few calories with great nutrients like vitamin C, E, and potassium. 

Nuts

diabetes superfoods

Nuts have a ton of health benefits, including

  • Rich in unsaturated fats
  • High in protein
  • High in fiber
  • Loaded with vitamins and minerals
  • Loaded with flavonoids

Additionally, several studies[12] show nut consumption linked to a lower risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. And there is evidence that shows when consumed regularly, nuts

  • Reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Reduce insulin resistance
  • Reduce Inflammation
  • Benefit blood pressure

Add nuts to your healthy diet by sprinkling them into your salad or cereal, in yogurt, or even on top of whole grain buckwheat pasta. 

Sweet potatoes

diabetes superfoods

Often diabetics wonder, are sweet potatoes good for diabetics? And the answer is yes if eaten in moderation. They are high in vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants. Plus, they are excellent food when you feel the need to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

People with diabetes should only eat moderate amounts because they are high in carbohydrates. However, they are also high in fiber and score 54 on the glycemic index scale[11], making them a low glycemic food. 

Always choose a sweet potato over a regular potato due to its higher fiber content, and try them with a little pinch of cinnamon for some added flavor. 

Flaxseeds

diabetes superfoods

These little gems are super-high in fiber and healthy fats called omega-three fats. Both of these contribute to its ability to lower total blood cholesterol and the LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. 

LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol because high levels correlate with a greater risk of heart disease. Along with lowering your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, flaxseeds[13] also help reduce blood pressure. 

Add them to your diet by

  • Adding one serving of ground flaxseed to your mustard when making a sandwich
  • Adding one to two servings to your baked goods
  • Adding a sprinkle to your daily smoothie

Garlic

diabetes superfoods

Even though it is just a spice, adding a little to your diet can boost your immune system, decrease inflammation, improve your heart health, and it is loaded with antioxidants. Try to choose raw garlic whenever possible. Add it to soups, pasta dishes, vegetables, and stews. 

Avocados

diabetes superfoods

Not only are avocados[14] jam-packed full of fiber and nutrients, but they also are super-low in sugar and rank 15 on the glycemic index scale[11], making them an excellent choice for people with diabetes. 

They also contain many healthy fats that help regulate your blood sugar and help you feel fuller. In addition, these good fats have proven to help prevent heart attacks and strokes, two main complications caused by diabetes.

Whenever possible, swap avocado for cheese. The creaminess is identical, and avocados will provide additional health benefits. 

The Bottom Line

Superfoods can play a huge role in managing your blood sugars and, thus, overall health. However, if not controlled, diabetes can cause many severe diseases like heart disease and other serious illnesses involving multiple organs in the body. 

So, add these superfoods into your healthy diet daily along with a diabetic-friendly multivitamin. Together, they will help control your blood sugar and inflammation and keep your heart healthy. 

And the most important thing to remember is to follow an overall healthy diet filled with multiple fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 


+ 14 sources

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  1. kaputk (2021). What Is a Superfood, Anyway? [online] Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-a-superfood/.
  2. Lonnie, M., Hooker, E., Brunstrom, J., Corfe, B., Green, M., Watson, A., Williams, E., Stevenson, E., Penson, S. and Johnstone, A. (2018). Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients, [online] 10(3), p.360. doi:10.3390/nu10030360.
  3. Waheed Janabi, A.H., Kamboh, A.A., Saeed, M., Xiaoyu, L., BiBi, J., Majeed, F., Naveed, M., Mughal, M.J., Korejo, N.A., Kamboh, R., Alagawany, M. and Lv, H. (2020). Flavonoid-rich foods (FRF): A promising nutraceutical approach against lifespan-shortening diseases. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences, [online] 23(2), pp.140–153. doi:10.22038/IJBMS.2019.35125.8353.
  4. Haytowitz, D.B., Holden, J., Gebhardt, J.M. and Usda, S.E. (2006). Sources of Flavonoids in the U.S. Diet Using USDA’s Updated Database on the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods. [online] Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Articles/AICR06_flav.pdf.
  5. Xanthopoulou, M.N., Nomikos, T., Fragopoulou, E. and Antonopoulou, S. (2009). Antioxidant and lipoxygenase inhibitory activities of pumpkin seed extracts. Food Research International, [online] 42(5-6), pp.641–646. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2009.02.003.
  6. Diabetes.org. (2022). Diabetes Superstar Foods | ADA. [online] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/diabetes-superstar-foods.
  7. Monk, J.M., Lepp, D., Wu, W., Pauls, K.P., Robinson, L.E. and Power, K.A. (2017). Navy and black bean supplementation primes the colonic mucosal microenvironment to improve gut health. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, [online] 49, pp.89–100. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.08.002.
  8. Lee, C.J., Sears, C.L. and Maruthur, N. (2019). Gut microbiome and its role in obesity and insulin resistance. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, [online] 1461(1), pp.37–52. doi:10.1111/nyas.14107.
  9. Eatright.org. (2019). What Is Glycemic Index? [online] Available at: https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/what-is-glycemic-index.
  10. Harvard Health. (2021). The lowdown on glycemic index and glycemic load – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-lowdown-on-glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load.
  11. Diabetes.ca. Glycemic Index Food Guide [online] Available at: https://guidelines.diabetes.ca/docs/patient-resources/glycemic-index-food-guide.pdf.
  12. Kim, Y., Keogh, J. and Clifton, P. (2017). Benefits of Nut Consumption on Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Multiple Potential Mechanisms of Actions. Nutrients, [online] 9(11), p.1271. doi:10.3390/nu9111271.
  13. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Why buy ground flaxseed? [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/flaxseed/faq-20058354#:~:text=Flaxseed%20is%20commonly%20used%20to,the%20risk%20of%20heart%20disease.
  14. Fulgoni, V.L., Dreher, M. and Davenport, A.J. (2013). Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutrition Journal, [online] 12(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
Alexandra Gregg

Written by:

Alexandra Gregg, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Alexandra Gregg is a registered and licensed dietitian with a private practice in Kansas City, Missouri. After studying Nutrition and Dietetics at Northwest Missouri State she completed her Dietetic Internship at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN. Following her dietetic internship, Allie worked at Mayo Clinic in a variety of areas including nutrition support, geriatrics, neonatology, and pediatrics. In addition, she was a regular presenter at Mayo Clinic conferences and an educator for dietetic interns.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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