Keep these wonder ingredients on your shopping list and in your pantry.
Yes, variety is essential when it comes to diabetes. But these 10 tried-and-true staples are nutrient-rich, protect against chronic diseases, and are ideal foods for people with type 2 diabetes, says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, WebMD’s director of nutrition. Plus, they’re delicious.
Berries A smart substitute when you need to limit candy, berries offer sweet flavor, few calories, lots of fiber, and a hefty dose of antioxidants, chemicals that help protect against cancer and heart disease. Raspberries, strawberries, and pomegranates (yes, they’re considered a berry) also have plenty of ellagic acid, an antioxidant that may have anti-tumor effects. Toss fresh berries in your morning cereal and noontime salads, and keep dried versions handy for snacking. High-fiber foods like berries help maintain blood sugar levels.
Eggs are not only an inexpensive protein source, they may even help you lose weight. Research suggests that eating eggs at breakfast means you’re likely to consume fewer calories the rest of the day. The American Heart Association says healthy adults can eat one egg a day. One reason is that they contain little saturated fat, the real culprit in high blood cholesterol, Zelman says. (To be safe, talk to your doctor about your cholesterol level.) Hard-boil eggs while you prepare dinner so they’re ready for a quick breakfast.
Extra virgin olive oil EVOO offers great taste plus type-2-diabetes-friendly monounsaturated fat. “Extra virgin” means the oil is minimally processed, which protects its more than 30 antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant compounds, Zelman says. Drizzle it on salads and use it to sauté meat and veggies. But go easy. Like all oils, it packs a calorie wallop.
Kale If you’re stuck on spinach, consider kale. Zelman calls it an overall nutrition booster and one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. One cup offers a riot of antioxidants: 206% of your daily requirement for vitamin A, 134% of your vitamin C requirement, and 684% of your recommended intake of vitamin K (critical for blood clotting and bone health). It’s also a top source of lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that may help prevent age-related eye diseases. Add chopped kale to soups, toss it with pasta and pine nuts, or tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces, spritz with olive oil, and bake until crisp for a bowlful of kale chips.
Low-fat milk Milk isn’t just for kids. Low-fat varieties, such as 1% and skim, are smart choices for adults. Milk has three nutrients that people skimp on: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. For carb counters, 1 cup of milk is equal to a small piece of fruit or slice of bread. Use milk in fruit smoothies or steaming-hot chai tea.
Nuts Yes, they’re high in calories, but these are calories well spent, Zelman says. Most varieties contain about 170 calories per ounce, along with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, and fiber. And nuts can help stabilize blood sugar. Reach for a small handful of nuts instead of potato chips.
Salmon Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish such as salmon may protect against age-related dementia. Omega-3s also boost heart health by lowering triglycerides. That’s why the American Heart Association recommends eating omega-3-rich fish at least twice a week.
Sweet potatoes A superior source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C and potassium. Zelman roasts them in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for an hour for a delicious caramelized flavor that needs nothing more than a sprinkle of cinnamon, a spice that may help lower blood sugar. Cook with the skin on, since most of the nutrients are next to it.
Tea Black, green, oolong, or white tea has powerful antioxidant flavonoids known as catechins in each calming cup. (The longer you steep tea, the more flavonoids you get, Zelman says.) Research suggests three cups of tea a day may reduce your heart attack risk. Zelman’s pantry is full of flavored teas, which are tasty enough to enjoy without sweeteners.
Whole grain cereal One of the healthiest ways to start your day, whole grain cereal can help reduce blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, research shows. Whole grains contain powerful plant chemicals, lignans and flavonoids, which may play a role in preventing heart disease. Zelman recommends cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber to help control blood sugar and stave off hunger. When you’re in a hurry, she adds, cereal makes a healthy lunch or dinner.
“Eat colorful fruits and veggies, herbs, and spices. Not much meat. Fresh food when possible. Worry about eating healthy foods in moderation.” — DeadManWalking57, WebMD community member
By Erin O’Donnell
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