If you’re trying to watch your blood sugar levels, chances are you already know that you’re supposed to avoid eating too many carbs. Carbs have gotten a bad rap, but the truth is, when it comes to blood sugar management, it’s all about eating the right ones.
Low-carb eating plans like the Mediterranean diet are often recommended for diabetes management, and for good reason. Processed carbs like those found in the standard American diet can cause blood sugar levels to spike and insulin sensitivity to suffer. For that reason, diets that cut down carbs can be helpful for someone trying to control their blood sugar. But even diets like the Mediterranean diet contain certain carbs — and the ones that make the cut are full of fiber.
Fiber is an essential nutrient for blood sugar control, and it’s found abundantly in carb-rich foods. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes. Increasing the fiber in your diet can also lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of obesity and other metabolic disorders!
The following foods do contain carbs, but other nutrients in them make them superstars for blood sugar balance. Incorporate these foods into your diet in moderation, and you could see healthier blood sugar levels in no time!
Oats are a carb-rich food, but they’re especially helpful for blood sugar balance because of their fiber content. Oats contain a specific type of fiber called beta-glucan which has shown to improve insulin sensitivity, boost beneficial gut bacteria, and even lower cholesterol. Need some inspiration? Check out some of our favorite overnight oat recipes!
Many legumes also boost a higher carb count, but they’re often included on eating plans like the Mediterranean diet because of their other health-boosting benefits. Beans, lentils, and peas contain nutrients like protein, B vitamins, magnesium, folate, and of course — fiber. The protein and fiber in legumes help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. For example, studies have shown that swapping just half a serving of rice with lentils can lower your blood sugar up to 20 percent.
Barley and Quinoa
Barley and quinoa are both grains, making them naturally rich in carbs. Barley, like oats, contains beta-glucans that improve blood sugar. Barley is also made up mainly of insoluble fiber, which forms bulk in the stool and activates intestinal movement, reducing constipation. That fiber also helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
Quinoa, on the other hand, contains high amounts of protein and fiber as well as nutrients like magnesium, folate, phosphorus, iron, quercetin, and other antioxidants. It’s highly nutritious and the fiber and protein combination slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
Pistachios have a few more carbs than other nuts like almonds, but they also contain nutrients that can help with diabetes management. One study found that adding a one-ounce serving of pistachios to a carb-rich diet resulted in a 20 to 30 percent reduction in blood sugar levels in healthy subjects.
Other research in subjects with type 2 diabetes showed that eating an ounce of pistachios twice per day led to a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar after eating. This could be because pistachios are rich in carotenoids and phenolic compounds — nutrients that have shown to significantly aid blood sugar control. Pistachios also contain fatty acids and fiber that help reduce blood sugar.
Though apples are a higher carb fruit, they score low on the GI scale, meaning that they don’t spike blood sugar levels. It’s probably because of their fiber content. Apples contain a type of fiber called pectin, which has shown to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Pectin is a soluble fiber, meaning that it dissolves in water and forms a gel-like consistency in the intestines to help move waste through the digestive system. Soluble pectin fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.