These veggies are high in fiber and helpful nutrients. Here are the 5 best vegetables for Diabetes, say Dietitians.
All vegetables come with their own unique blend of helpful vitamins and nutrients, and incorporating a variety of different types is crucial for your overall health and wellbeing.
When it comes to managing your blood sugar, there are certain vegetables that may be able to help a little more than others. While there aren’t any vegetables that will negatively impact your blood sugar, those that are high in fiber, protein, and other specific vitamins will be great in helping to keep your blood sugar in check.
Continue reading to learn about the best veggies for your blood sugar.
Fiber is key in helping you control your blood sugar levels. This is mainly because fiber is not digested, meaning your blood isn’t absorbing it in the same way it would with other carbohydrates.
“Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are high in fiber, low in natural sugar, and very satiating. The fiber, in particular, acts as a prebiotic, which helps the good bacteria in your gut thrive,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.
Broccoli Nutrition Facts
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one cup (91g) of raw, chopped broccoli.
Carbs: One cup of raw, chopped broccoli contains only 31 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and very little sugar (1.5 grams). More than a third of the carbohydrates found in broccoli come from fiber (2.4 grams), making it a filling, heart-healthy food choice.
The glycemic index (GI) for broccoli is 10. The glycemic index is an estimate of how a food affects your blood sugar levels. Broccoli is a low GI food, which means that it has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels.
Fat: Broccoli has only a trace amount of fat and is cholesterol-free. It does, however, contain a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Consuming two cups of broccoli delivers nearly 0.5 grams of this anti-inflammatory fatty acid.2
Protein: For a vegetable, broccoli has a significant amount of protein, 2.5 grams per one-cup serving. But you still should include other protein sources in your diet to meet your daily needs.
Vitamins and Minerals: Broccoli is bursting with vitamins and minerals. It’s an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C, providing over 81mg, or about 135% of your daily needs. It is also an excellent source of vitamin K, important in bone health and wound healing. You’ll consume 116% of your daily recommended intake in a one-cup serving of broccoli. It’s also a very good source of the B vitamin folate, and a good source of vitamin A, manganese, potassium, and other B vitamins.
Minerals in broccoli include manganese, potassium, and phosphorus.
2. Mixed greens or assorted lettuce
If you’re looking for an easy, healthy veggie that is going to help you manage your blood sugar, making yourself a salad with some mixed greens is a great option.
“Different kinds of greens contain different nutrients and are high in fiber and folate. They also contain water,” says Dr. Young. “I love red-leaf lettuce in particular, which is high in vitamin K, an important vitamin for managing blood clotting.”
Some studies have shown that vitamin K can help reduce your risk of diabetes and improve your insulin regulation.
You can’t go wrong with leafy greens. They’re always packed full of nutrients and dense with vitamins. For those are wanting to manage their blood sugar levels, spinach is one of the best leafy greens you can get.
“One cup of raw spinach provides 7 calories, 1 gram of carbs, 0.9 grams of protein, and 0.7 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of vitamins A and K, and a good source of vitamin C, folate, and manganese. Even if you have a few cups of raw spinach in your salad, the carbs are rather low and with some protein and fiber it will be absorbed slower,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Family Immunity Cookbook.
When looking at these specific vitamins found in spinach, you may be wondering how they can help with your blood sugar. One example is vitamin A. According to Weill Cornell Medicine, a deficiency in vitamin A has been found to affect your insulin levels, which is what helps regulate your blood sugar.
Spinach Nutrition Facts
Three cups of spinach (85g) provide 20.4 calories, 2g of protein, 3g of carbohydrates, and zero fat. Spinach is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.
Sodium: 64.6 mg
Vitamin K: 410mcg
Vitamin C: 24mg
Carbs: Most of the carbohydrates in spinach are from fiber, making it a very filling vegetable. Along with other leafy greens, it may be considered a “free” food on a low-carbohydrate diet because it provides fiber while being low in calories.
Spinach also ranks close to zero on the glycemic index. This means that it will have minimal impact on your blood sugar levels.
Fats: There is no fat and no cholesterol in spinach. But adding a little fat to your spinach-containing meal may help your body absorb more of its beta-carotene—especially if the spinach is raw or in the form of a steamed puree.
Protein: There are 2 grams of protein in three cups of fresh spinach. That means spinach has almost as much protein as it does carbohydrates.
Vitamins and Minerals: Three cups of fresh spinach provide more than three times your daily vitamin K needs (340%). You also get roughly 25% of your recommended vitamin C intake and 10% of your suggested potassium intake from a three-cup serving of spinach.
Cooking spinach increases its concentration of vitamin A. You will get 64% of your daily value in a half-cup serving of boiled spinach.
Calories: There are approximately 20 calories in three cups of spinach, or just under 7 calories per cup. That makes its calorie count similar to that of kale, which provides 7.2 calories per cup (raw).
Eggplant is often forgotten in the conversation of nutrient-dense veggies, but this deep purple food can be a great blood-sugar-friendly side item for your next dinner.
“One-half cup of cooked eggplant provides about 18 calories, 4.3 grams of carbs, 0.4 grams of protein, and 1.25 grams of fiber. Again, the fiber and protein will slow down how quickly those carbs will be absorbed in your blood, which helps keep blood sugar at bay,” says Amidor.
Eggplant Nutrition Facts
One cup of cubed raw eggplant (82g) provides 20 calories, 0.8g of protein, 4.8g of carbohydrates, and 0.1g of fat. Eggplant is a good source of fiber, manganese, and potassium. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.
Carbs: One cup of raw eggplant contains 4.8 grams of carbohydrate, about half of which comes from fiber (2.4 grams). There are also almost 3 grams of naturally occurring sugars in eggplant.
Eggplant is a low-glycemic food. The glycemic load of eggplant is estimated to be 1 for a single serving.
Fats: Eggplant is almost completely fat-free.
Protein: There is less than 1 gram of protein in a single serving of eggplant.
Vitamins and Minerals: Eggplant is not a significant source of most vitamins and minerals. However, the vegetable provides manganese (10% of daily intake) and small amounts of potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, copper, and magnesium.
Whether it’s steamed or riced, cauliflower can be a great addition to your meal to help you keep your blood glucose levels at bay.
“Cauliflower is also an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin A and a good source of vitamin K. In addition to being lower in carbs, it’s also brimming with antioxidant phytonutrients sulforaphanes, glucosinolates, and thiocynates, which have also been shown to help protect against cancer,” says Amidor.
Cauliflower Nutrition Facts
One cup of chopped cauliflower (107g) provides 27 calories, 2.1g of protein, 5.3g of carbohydrates, and 0.3g of fat. Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and magnesium. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.
Vitamin C: 51.6mg
Vitamin B6: 0.2mg
Carbs: Like all vegetables, cauliflower is a carbohydrate. But it’s the non-starchy, complex kind with lots of fiber and low amounts of natural sugar. It has a low glycemic index rating, somewhere between 15 and 30, meaning that it won’t cause a blood sugar spike.
One cup of cauliflower contains about a sixth of the carbs as the same amount of cooked pasta or rice. So it’s a great option for people with diabetes. It’s also good if you’re watching your carb intake for some other reason.
Fats: Cauliflower has only a trace amount of fat and is cholesterol-free. Therefore, it can easily be included in a low-fat diet or a diet that aims to lower cholesterol.
Protein: Cauliflower has a minimal amount of protein. You will need to include other healthy protein sources in your diet to meet your daily protein requirements.
Vitamins and Minerals: Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C. One cup provides more than half of the 75 mg daily recommended intake for adult women and 90 mg recommendation for adult men. It also provides a good dose of vitamin B6 and magnesium.
Those aren’t the only nutrients in cauliflower, either. This vegetable contains calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, fluoride, and a wide array of B vitamins.
Calories: At 27 calories per cup, you’d have to eat a lot of cauliflower before it had a big impact on your total calorie intake. Pair raw cauliflower with low-calorie dips and cook it with herbs and spices versus butter or oil to keep the calorie count low.