So what foods will help me lower my blood sugar?
We recommend eating foods that are moderately low in carbohydrates and take longer to digest. These foods helps prevent your blood sugars from skyrocketing after finishing a meal. The more fiber your food contains, the longer your body takes to digest it, which is what we want! Blood sugar will slowly climb and taper back down instead of shooting straight up and straight down.
Check out our list of foods and recipes to include with prediabetes:
Whole Grain Foods to Eat for Prediabetes
Whole grains are loaded with fiber – so when you eat them, digestion slows and in turn, prevents your blood sugar from rising rapidly. Whole grains can also help promote bowel regularity, regulate blood sugar levels, and achieve healthy blood pressure. Choosing whole grains over refined grains can help to maintain optimum blood sugar readings.
- Steel-cut oats DO:
- Choose old fashioned or steel cut oats (the less refined, the better!) Add flavor using cinnamon, nuts, nut butter, or fruit
- Use low fat milk or water
- Choose pre-packaged or sweetened oatmeal.
- Add too much dried fruit or sweetener (even natural sweeteners such as honey)
- Use cream
- Stone-Ground Whole Wheat Bread
- Top with heart-healthy fat spreads like avocado or nut butter
- Top with fruits, veggies, and lean proteins like banana, tomato, or egg
- Spread your consumption throughout the day
- Use spreads like butter, sweetened jam and Nutella
- Fill with highly processed foods like deli meats and cheeses
- Eat a lot in one sitting
Non Starchy Vegetable Foods to Eat for Prediabetes
Non-starchy vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber with few calories and carbohydrates. Not only do they give you a dose of much needed nutrients, but these veggies will also add a pop of color to your plate! Non-starchy vegetables can help you stay hydrated – because they are high in water content as well.
- Add salt-free seasonings for some flavor
- Roast em', steam em', or air fry em'!
- Eat them raw with some hummus
- Add them to your favorite dish!
- Deep fry them
- Sauté them in butter or top them with cheese
- Leafy GreensDO:
- Eat them cooked or raw
- Buy them fresh or frozen
- Pack them into smoothies or make them into a pesto sauce
- Sneak them into soups and stews or eat them as a side dish
- Sauté them in butter or animal fats
- Boil them for too long- the nutrients in leafy greens are water-soluble, so if boiled for too long all of the nutrients will end up in the water!
- Use canned greens- these tend to have added seasonings and preservatives
Starchy Vegetable Foods to Eat for Prediabetes
Starchy vegetables provide a range of beneficial nutrients and when eaten in moderation, can be a healthy addition to your diet. One big difference between starchy and non-starchy vegetables is carb content and calories. Compared to non-starchy vegetables, they are higher in carbohydrates and higher in calories. However, most starchy vegetables rank low to medium in glycemic index. Therefore, they only produce a slow, low rise in blood sugar levels despite their high carbohydrate content.
- Include winter and summer squash
- Roast, bake, or sauté using olive oil
- Season with fresh herbs and spices
- Sauté in butter or animal fats
- Season with excess amounts of sweeteners or salt
- Use dried beans
- Use canned beans (be sure to rinse them to get the excess salt off from the canning process!)
- Jazz them up by throwing them in a chili, making them into burgers, or making a dip
- Use baked beans or refried beans
- Eat a large quantity at once, stick to a half cup portion at a time
Dairy Foods to Eat for Prediabetes
The way dairy affects your blood sugar is a bit complicated and challenging to unpack. For instance, milk contains natural sugars, but also contains protein and fat. The protein and fat help glucose enter the bloodstream in a slow and steady fashion. The carbohydrate source in dairy is lactose, a naturally occurring sugar that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels as rapidly as refined sugars do.
- Greek Yogurt
- Look for an unsweetened option
- Add nuts, seeds, or nut butter
- Use it as a base for a smoothie or sauce
- Top it with fresh fruit
- Buy a pre-sweetened option
- Top it with sugary granola or cereals
- Mix in too many sweeteners, even natural sweeteners like honey
Protein Foods to Eat for Prediabetes
Protein, along with fats and carbohydrates, is one of the three main energy providing macronutrients. Protein has only a small effect on blood sugar levels – although protein tends to help stabilize blood sugars by blocking absorption of carbohydrates and sugars. Because protein helps regulate blood sugar absorption, we strongly suggest eating a protein serving at every meal.
- Season with fresh herbs and spices
- Use lemon to add a citrus note
- Bake, grill, or pan sear
- Cook with butter
- Use sugar-filled marinades or glazes
- Deep fry
- Eat the whole egg- the yolk has more protein per weight than the white does, so the whole egg is a great source of lean protein!
- Use cooking spray to prevent the eggs from sticking to the pan
- Use butter or an excess of oil while cooking
Fats to Eat for Prediabetes
Fat, like protein, has little direct effect on blood glucose levels. However, consuming too much fat contributes to insulin resistance over time. Replacing saturated fats with healthy fats can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin regulation.
- Look for a raw or roasted option with no added seasonings
- Eat them in the form of an all natural nut butter
- Add them to yogurt, granola, salads, or eat them as a snack
- Be mindful of portions- although they are healthy fats, they are still calorie-dense!
- Opt for a flavored option- these tend to include high amounts of sugar, salt, and extra calories
- Use a nut butter with added sugars- look for brands that just have the nut as the ingredients!
- Consume them in excess
- Choose a trail mix that is loaded with chocolate and fried fruit with sugar added
Functional Foods for Prediabetes
Aside from these everyday foods, there are also a handful of "functional" foods that can regulate blood sugar levels. Functional foods are naturally occurring foods that are shown to have additional medicinal benefits beyond basic nutrition. Try mixing these into your snacks and meals:
Cinnamon: Cinnamon has natural qualities that can be very beneficial for people with blood sugar issues (people who have prediabetes). The active compound in cinnamon can help regulate glucose levels. Large review studies show positive outcomes from using cinnamon for blood sugar control. Results included modest reduction in blood sugar levels and improved glucose responses in people with type 2 diabetes.
Chia Seeds: Chia seeds improve glucose and insulin tolerance because of its high fiber, healthy fat and protein content. They also help reduce inflammation.
Turmeric: This golden spice offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that play a role in lowering blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil is known for its powerful healthy benefits, including everything from reducing inflammation to supporting balanced blood sugar which makes this fat effective for prediabetes management.
Flax Seeds: Flax seed contains omega-3 fatty acids, protein and soluble fiber. Their carbohydrates consist of mostly fiber - and since fiber plays a major role in regulating blood sugar levels, flaxseed is an amazing addition to the diet regarding prediabetes management.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has been shown to significantly improve insulin sensitivity and decrease fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels.
Garlic: Studies show that consuming garlic could help reduce levels of blood sugar in people suffering with prediabetes.
Benefits of These Foods on Prediabetes
You can improve your blood sugar markers and prediabetes risk by making small, incremental changes across all of these food types. Small changes go a long way in terms of improving your body's insulin resistance and maintaining steady blood sugar levels throughout the day. Within each food group, there are improvements you can make and continue to get the flavors you love. We hope that the recipes we shared help jumpstart the beginning of your journey. If you'd like to learn more, our dietitians can help build a custom plan tailored to your lifestyle!
Interested in a total overhaul to better manage your prediabetes? Check out our comprehensive prediabetes diet recommendations.
Kaitlyn Willwerth is a Registered Dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. Kaitlyn's work focuses on providing individualized health and lifestyle coaching and, most importantly, support. She is a Certified LEAP Therapist and has also completed the Monash University 'Low FODMAP Diet for IBS' online training course for health professionals.