Vegetables are good for us, but are there any in particular that are good for diabetics? Diabetes is a complex condition, divided into types: type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Both are linked to the hormone insulin, which is made in the pancreas and is responsible for helping our bodies use glucose (sugar) for energy and regulating blood sugar.
We’ll cover which vegetables are good for diabetics, which vegetables should be limited, and how you can easily incorporate more vegetables into your diet. We also spoke to two medical experts who gave us their tips for a successful diet and explained why diet is vital for disease management.
If you prefer sweet to savoury, we’ve also put together a guide to best fruits for diabetics.
Vegetables to include in your diabetic diet
Dr Tariq Mahmood, physician and medical director at Conceptual diagnoses (opens in a new tab)encourages people with diabetes to consider a plant-based food. “Although starting a vegetarian diet is not a direct treatment for diabetes, the multitude of health benefits may be helpful for people with diabetes,” he says. “Diet is crucial in managing diabetes because the amount of carbohydrates you eat affects your blood sugar the most. It cannot be understated how important it is for someone with diabetes to educate themselves about the dangers consumption of certain foods, especially those containing free sugar.
Dr. Tariq Mahmood has nearly 30 years of experience in ultrasound, pediatrics, general medicine/surgery, radiology, orthopedics and obstetrics. He received his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from Nishtar Medical College Multan in Pakistan in 1988 and spent seven years as a trainee radiologist after graduation before embarking on a career as a sonographer, sonographer and sonographer in the UK.
A review in the newspaper Nutrition (opens in a new tab) found that a low-carb diet can help people with diabetes, as low carb diet reliably reduces high blood glucose levels and has been shown to reduce or eliminate the need for medication. An easy rule to remember is that vegetables that grow above ground are generally low in carbs, and those that grow below ground are high in carbs. There are a few exceptions, such as butternut squash, which grows above ground but is quite high in carbs. Summer squash is lower in carbs and is a better alternative for diabetics.
Dr. Deborah Lee, MD, of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy (opens in a new tab)says the best vegetables for diabetics include:
- Green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and kale
- Green beans
- Legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans
“While fresh vegetables probably have the best nutritional value, canned and frozen vegetables are also very nutritious and a great alternative,” adds Lee.
Having worked for many years in the NHS, first as a general practitioner and then as a senior clinician for an integrated community sexual health service, Dr Deborah Lee now works as a medical and health writer, focusing on women’s health. She is a specialist in menopause.
Vegetables to avoid in your diabetic diet
Mahmood tells us that certain vegetables in particular could be a problem for people with diabetes. “Starchy vegetables, such as corn, potatoes, and yams, are loaded with carbs and therefore affect your blood sugar,” he says. “In particular, boiled potatoes have a high glycemic index of 78. This does not mean that these vegetables are completely off-limits to diabetics – they can still be eaten in the appropriate portions – but again, it is essential to be aware of exactly what you are eating.
According to Lee, the following vegetables should be eaten in moderation on a diabetic diet:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Sweet corn
- Vegetable juice (as it is concentrated, it is high in carbohydrates)
- No more than a heaped tablespoon of tomato puree
Simple ways to include more vegetables in your diet
- Try our 14 ways to eat more vegetables for breakfast
- If you don’t like the texture of whole vegetables, toss them into a sauce – you won’t be able to taste them unless you use large amounts. Mixed cauliflower can be masked in a cheese sauce, and tomatoes, onions, eggplant and mushrooms can be mixed in a rich red sauce ideal for bolognese, pizza and as a base for curries, enchiladas and more.
- Make a habit of snacking on veggies: Replace high-carb chips and dip with a crunchy alternative, such as bell peppers, celery, or cucumber with a legume-based dip like hummus.
- Add color to your plate: If your meal seems a bit tan, steam some green beans, asparagus or broccoli for an easy and hearty side dish.
How can diet help manage diabetes?
A review in the North America Medical Clinics (opens in a new tab) journal indicates that consistency with calorie and carbohydrate intake in particular can be helpful in managing diabetes. Another criticism, Vnitrni Lekarstvi (opens in a new tab), a Czech community medical journal, found that a low-carb diet showed positive results in treating diabetes, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. The review indicates that a low-carb diet can lead to weight loss, lower drug doses and, in some cases, remission of type 2 diabetes when consumed under medical supervision.
Mahmood explains that low-GI vegetables are great for diabetics and people at risk of developing diabetes. “Eating a diet rich in fruits, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,” he says.
“A moderate vegetable protein intake is also associated with a lower risk, while a high animal protein intake is associated with a higher risk. People with diabetes should seek to avoid high GI vegetables because the body absorbs blood sugar from these foods much faster than low GI foods. This includes artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, eggplant/eggplant, green beans, lettuce, peppers, snow peas, and spinach.
The DASH Diet and the mediterranean diet are both recommended to aid in the treatment of insulin resistance by a review in the journal of Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine (opens in a new tab). Insulin resistance is often found in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer medical advice.