Eating healthy with diabetes often means paying close attention to your carbohydrate intake. However, non-starchy vegetables like green beans provide important nutrients and fiber, without significantly impacting blood sugar levels. Green beans can be a nutritious addition to a diabetic diet when eaten in moderation.
The Benefits of Green Beans for Diabetics
Green beans, also known as string beans or snap beans, are a versatile, low-calorie vegetable packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Here are some of the top benefits of adding green beans to your diet if you have diabetes:
- Low in carbohydrates – One cup of raw green beans contains just 7 grams of carbohydrate, 5 of which are fiber.
- Rich in fiber – The fiber in green beans slows digestion, preventing blood sugar spikes.
- Full of nutrients – Green beans provide vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and manganese.
- Support heart health – The fiber, vitamin K, and antioxidant content help reduce heart disease risk.
- Aid weight management – Green beans are low in calories and their fiber content helps fill you up.
- Have a low glycemic index – The glycemic index estimates how much a food raises blood sugar. Green beans rate very low at just 15.
Including non-starchy veggies like green beans in your meal plan provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber without significantly impacting blood sugar levels.
Nutrition Facts for Green Beans
Here is the nutrient content for 1 cup (125g) of raw green beans:
Green beans are very low in calories and fat. They contain no cholesterol or saturated fat. The fiber content is high, making up over half the total carbohydrates. The glycemic load of green beans is estimated to be just 1, meaning their impact on blood sugar is negligible.
Some key vitamins and minerals provided by green beans include:
- Vitamin C – 17% DV
- Vitamin K – 30% DV
- Folate – 15% DV
- Manganese – 12% DV
Green beans also contain small amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins.
Effect of Green Beans on Blood Sugar
For people with diabetes, keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range is crucial. Foods that digest quickly and cause large spikes in blood sugar can be problematic.
Green beans have properties that make them unlikely to lead to blood sugar spikes. These include:
- Low glycemic index – Measurements find green beans have a very low effect on blood sugar.
- High in fiber – The fiber slows digestion, preventing a rapid rise in blood sugar.
- Low carbohydrate – Each serving contains only 7g total carbs, minimizing their effect.
- Low energy density – Green beans provide few calories and are 90% water, allowing you to consume more volume of food for the carbohydrate amount.
Research has looked directly at the effects of green bean consumption on blood sugar in people with diabetes:
- A small 2012 study found no significant increase in blood glucose levels for up to 3 hours after consuming a cooked green bean dish in adults with type 2 diabetes.
- Another 2012 study had participants add 1.5 cups of cooked green beans to their diets for 2 weeks. They saw a reduction in average blood glucose levels compared to a control group.
While more research is needed, the current evidence indicates green beans are unlikely to cause problematic blood sugar spikes for most people with diabetes. Monitoring your individual response is still advised.
Are Green Beans Good for Diabetics?
Here is a summary of the benefits green beans offer for people with diabetes:
- Low glycemic index and glycemic load – Minimizes effect on blood sugar
- High fiber – Slows carb digestion and promotes feelings of fullness
- Low carb – Each serving provides just 7g total carbs
- Nutrient-dense – Good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Supports weight management – Low in calories and fat
- May lower blood sugar – Some evidence reduced glucose levels when added to the diet
For most people with diabetes, green beans can be part of a healthy meal plan. Focus on proper portion sizes and be attentive to how they affect your individual blood sugar levels.
What is the Glycemic Index of Green Beans?
The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that ranks foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels. Foods are classified as:
|Glycemic Index Rating
|55 and below
|70 and above
Foods with a lower GI cause a slower, smaller rise in blood sugar compared to high GI foods.
The GI of green beans is extremely low, measured at just 15 to 18. This means green beans should have little effect on blood sugar levels.
For comparison, here are the GI values of some other common foods:
Choosing low GI foods like green beans can help control your blood sugar when you have diabetes.
Tips for Cooking Green Beans
Green beans maintain the most nutrients when eaten raw. However, many people prefer cooked green beans for their softer texture. Here are some diabetic-friendly cooking tips:
- Lightly steam – Steaming green beans briefly preserves nutrients while softening them up.
- Saute or stir-fry – Using just 1 tsp oil, saute green beans with seasonings for a fast low-carb side dish.
- Roast – Toss green beans with 1 tsp oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes for caramelized flavor.
- Pickle – Soaking green beans in vinegar brine adds tangy flavor and preserves their crunch.
- Avoid adding sugar – Complement green beans flavor with herbs, garlic, onion, lemon juice, and salt-free seasonings instead of sugar.
- Watch sodium for canned – Rinsing and draining canned green beans reduces the sodium content.
Refrain from drowning green beans in high fat, sugary sauces or gravies. Opt for lighter cooking methods to retain nutrients and prevent blood sugar spikes.
Green Bean Serving Size
Green beans are low in calories and carbs, but proper portioning still matters for diabetes management. Here are some recommended serving sizes:
- 1/2 cup cooked green beans
- 1 cup raw green beans
- 3/4 cup canned or frozen green beans
- 1.5 cups green bean salad
- 1/2 cup marinated pickled green beans
Measure out your portions of green beans and aim to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at each meal. Going back for extra helpings of low carb veggies can leave you feeling full without spiking blood sugar.
How Many Carbs are in Green Beans?
The amount of digestible carbs that impact blood sugar in green beans is extremely low. Here is the carb breakdown for green beans:
- Total carbs in 1 cup raw green beans: 7g
- Fiber: 3g
- Sugar: 2g
- Net carbs: 4g
Net carbs refer to the digestible carbohydrates that affect blood sugar, calculated by subtracting fiber.
For cooked green beans:
- Total carbs in 1/2 cup cooked green beans: 5g
- Fiber: 2g
- Sugar: 1g
- Net carbs: 3g
Whether raw or cooked, green beans provide just under 5g of net carbs per serving. This makes them an excellent low carb vegetable choice for people monitoring carb intake.
Can You Eat Green Beans on Keto?
The ketogenic or “keto” diet emphasizes low carb, high fat foods to achieve ketosis for weight loss or health benefits. Keto typically limits carbs to just 20-50g daily.
Green beans can fit into a keto eating plan due to their low net carb content. A 1/2 cup serving of cooked green beans contains just 3g net carbs, allowing you to budget the rest of your daily carbs for other nutritious foods.
Some tips for enjoying green beans on keto:
- Saute in olive oil or butter for added healthy fats
- Combine with onions, mushrooms, or nuts
- Top with shredded cheese or creamy dressings
- Use in green bean casserole topped with crushed pork rinds
- Add to salads and low carb soups
- Pair with non-breaded protein like chicken, salmon, or steak
Green beans are a smart replacement for starchy vegetables when restricting carbs for keto.
Green Beans Glycemic Load
In addition to GI, another way to evaluate the blood sugar impact of foods is glycemic load (GL). GL takes into account a food’s GI as well as the carbohydrate content per serving.
GL is calculated by multiplying the GI by the grams of carbs, then dividing by 100. Values are:
|10 or less
|20 or more
Green beans have an incredibly low GL. The GL of a 1/2 cup serving of cooked green beans is just:
1/2 cup green beans GL = (15 GI x 5g carbs) / 100 = 1
This reinforces that green beans are an optimal choice for keeping blood sugar levels stable. Focusing on low GL foods can greatly benefit your diabetes management.
Other Low Carb Vegetables for Diabetes
In addition to green beans, many non-starchy vegetables provide nutrients along with minimal carbs and calories. Here are some other great options:
|Net Carbs per 1/2 Cup
When you have diabetes, making non-starchy vegetables the foundation of your meals can help manage blood sugar while providing disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Risks and Precautions
Green beans are safe for most people with diabetes. However, portions should be monitored and consider these precautions:
- Canned varieties can be high in sodium, affecting blood pressure. Opt for low sodium or rinse before use.
- Some people may have a sensitivity or allergy to green beans. Reactions can include upset stomach, cramping, or hives.
- Those taking blood-thinning medications should keep green bean intake consistent, as the vitamin K content can interfere with medication effectiveness.
- Consult your healthcare provider about any supplements or changes for proper diabetes management.
Tracking individual blood sugar response to specific foods allows you to make appropriate adjustments to fit your dietary needs and preferences.
The Bottom Line
Green beans can be a nutritious addition to a diabetic diet. With their stellar nutrition profile, low carb content, and minimal impact on blood sugar, green beans provide an array of benefits for people with diabetes. Enjoy green beans as part of balanced, portion-controlled meals for the best results. Monitoring your individual response and making appropriate mealtime insulin adjustments allows you to fine-tune your diet to optimize blood sugar control.