One of the most common questions I hear when someone finds out that I am diabetic is, “Wow, what can you eat?” I generally say that I try to limit processed foods, foods made primarily from sugar or flour, and white starches (white potatoes, white rice, white pasta) while eating reasonable amounts of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and almonds, and lean meats. Of course, that’s not the whole story, but that’s what fits into the average person’s attention span.
The truth is that there is not a single “diabetes diet” because everyone’s body reacts differently to different food. For me, most fruits are fine, even pineapple and bananas, both of which are fairly high in sugar, but that’s not the case for many diabetics. I love black beans but I have to be careful not to eat more than 1/4 cup at a time because they will most certainly raise my blood sugar; others might not have that problem or might not be able to eat even a small amount.
How can you tell which foods work well for your body? By testing before and after meals every time you try a new food, to see what effect it will have on your blood sugar. Testing “in pairs” (both before you eat and two hours after you start eating) is the only sure way to know which foods your body will tolerate without spiking your blood sugar and that is the name of the game when it comes to diabetes self management.
There are some foods that seem pretty universally well tolerated in terms of blood sugar maintenance and those foods tend to be low-to-no carbohydrate foods. Lean meats, healthy fats, some fruits and non-starchy vegetables all fall into that category.
Which fruits and vegetables are unlikely to raise your blood sugar? Specifically:
- Cherries, grapefruit, plums, peaches, prunes, apples, dried apricots (unsweetened), pears, and grapes*
- Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, onions, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, and raw carrots
*Important note about fruit: keep in mind the serving size when making your choice – generally, one cup constitutes a serving of fruit but one grapefruit is 2 servings of fruit, while two plums are one serving, and one peach or one apple or one pear is one serving; paying attention to how much you’re eating is as important as what you choose to eat.
Are there specific questions you’d like me to answer about food, eating well with diabetes, and how to make good nutritional choices for your body? Leave a comment on this post or send an email so that I can cover your questions in a future post.