Eating healthy is important for everyone, but it is especially critical for people with diabetes. Knowing which foods are nutritious and diabetes-friendly can help control blood sugar levels. One vegetable that is often recommended for diabetics is green beans.
Green beans, also known as string beans or snap beans, are a nutrient-dense vegetable that can be a healthy addition to a diabetic diet. Packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, green beans provide many health benefits. But are green beans good for diabetes specifically? Let’s take a closer look at how green beans may impact blood sugar levels and diabetes management.
Nutritional Profile of Green Beans
Green beans are low in carbohydrates and calories, but rich in various vitamins and minerals. Here is an overview of the nutrition found in 1 cup (100 grams) of raw green beans (1):
|Vitamin C||12% DV|
|Vitamin K||19% DV|
|Vitamin A||11% DV|
As you can see, green beans are very low in carbohydrates and calories, containing only 7 grams of carbs and 31 calories per serving. They are also packed with important vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, K, A, and manganese.
But what really makes green beans stand out nutritionally is their fiber content. One cup of green beans contains 3 grams of dietary fiber, making up about 12% of the recommended daily value. Fiber is beneficial for overall health and may help manage diabetes.
Benefits of Green Beans for Diabetes
So what exactly makes green beans a good choice for people with diabetes? Here are some of the top benefits:
Low Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) measures how much a food spikes blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods low on the GI cause a slower, more gradual rise in blood sugar compared to high GI foods (2).
Green beans have a very low glycemic index, with a GI of less than 15 (3). This means green beans will not lead to sharp spikes in blood sugar levels. Keeping blood sugar stable is key for diabetes management.
High in Fiber
Soluble fiber slows down digestion and the absorption of nutrients like glucose. This can help prevent blood sugar spikes after eating (4).
Green beans are high in fiber, providing 12% of the recommended daily intake per cup. The fiber in green beans may help steady blood sugar response and improve insulin sensitivity (5).
Low in Carbs
Since carbohydrates break down into glucose and impact blood sugar levels, limiting carbs is often recommended for controlling diabetes.
With only 7 grams of carbs per serving, green beans are considered a low carb vegetable. Replacing higher carb foods with low carb options like green beans can help manage blood sugar levels.
Provides Important Vitamins & Minerals
Getting adequate vitamins and minerals is essential for overall health, especially for those with diabetes. Green beans contain vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and manganese.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and may help control blood sugar spikes (6). Manganese supports metabolic processes and carbohydrate metabolism. Vitamin K promotes bone and heart health.
May Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation appears to play a role in the development of diabetes and its complications (7). The antioxidants in green beans, like carotenoids and flavonoids, can help reduce inflammation in the body (8).
Best Ways to Eat Green Beans with Diabetes
Here are some healthy and nutritious ways to enjoy green beans as part of a diabetic diet:
Saute green beans in olive oil with garlic and seasonings for a quick and easy side dish. Sauteing helps bring out the natural flavors.
Roast green beans in the oven with a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in the beans. Enjoy roasted beans as a crunchy snack or side.
Steaming is one of the easiest ways to prepare green beans while retaining nutrients. Steam them plain or add herbs and lemon.
In Soups & Salads
Throw raw or cooked green beans into soups, salads, and bowls. They pair well with leafy greens, tomatoes, and lean proteins.
Stir-fry crisp green beans with chicken, shrimp, or tofu and serve over cauliflower rice for a low carb meal.
Potential Downsides of Green Beans
Green beans are packed with beneficial nutrients and are considered one of the healthiest veggie choices for people with diabetes. However, there are a couple potential downsides to keep in mind:
Some conventional green beans may contain traces of pesticides, so it’s best to buy organic whenever possible or thoroughly wash non-organic varieties.
The fiber content of green beans may cause digestive problems like gas or bloating for some people when eaten in large amounts. Introducing them slowly can help minimize issues.
Like some other cruciferous vegetables, green beans contain goitrogens, compounds that may impact thyroid function by interfering with iodine uptake for some individuals.
Green beans contain measurable amounts of oxalates. For those prone to developing kidney stones, eating many high-oxalate foods may be a concern.
However, these potential cons rarely outweigh the many benefits green beans offer, especially when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.
Should You Avoid Green Beans with Diabetes?
For most people with diabetes, green beans are an excellent food choice and do not need to be restricted. In fact, green beans are recommended by diabetes experts, including the American Diabetes Association (9).
The fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in green beans provide many benefits for helping manage diabetes. Their low glycemic index and carb content make them an ideal food for controlling blood sugar.
Unless you have a specific condition, sensitivity or allergy, there is no need to avoid green beans as part of a diabetic diet. Work with your healthcare team to determine the optimal eating pattern for your individual health needs and preferences.
How Much Green Beans Should You Eat with Diabetes?
Most diabetes meal plans do not set specific amounts for vegetables, but eating several servings per day is typical. Here are some general tips for determining how much green beans to eat with diabetes:
– Focus on non-starchy vegetables like green beans for the majority of your carb allotment at meals and snacks.
– Strive for 1-2 cups of a non-starchy vegetable like green beans with each meal.
– Green beans are very low in carbs and calories, so larger portions can be enjoyed.
– Balance green beans with a healthy source of lean protein, healthy fats and high-fiber foods at meals.
– Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Stop eating when satisfied to avoid overconsumption.
– Consider your daily recommended vegetable intake. The USDA Dietary Guidelines suggest 2 1/2 to 3 cups per day.
– Individualize your intake based on your own nutrition needs, meal plan, and diabetes management approach.
Enjoy green beans as part of your healthy diabetic diet, keeping portions and overall vegetable intake in line with your personalized nutrition plan.
Tips for Adding More Green Beans to Your Diet
Here are some simple suggestions for enjoying more green beans in your diet:
– Keep a bag of pre-washed green beans in the refrigerator for easy snacking.
– Add raw or cooked green beans to salads, soups, stir-fries, omelets, and more.
– Saute green beans in batches and store in the fridge to add quickly to meals all week.
– Try new recipes like roasted green beans with almonds or green bean casserole.
– Order green beans as a side dish when dining out. Ask for olive oil instead of butter.
– Meal prep several green bean dishes like roasted beans and green bean salad for the week.
– Buy frozen green beans to easily throw into dishes straight from the freezer.
– Grow green beans in a container garden and enjoy fresh-picked beans.
Focus on adding a serving or two of green beans to your daily meal plan for an easy way to eat more veggies and manage diabetes.
Sample 1 Week Meal Plan with Green Beans
Here is a sample one week meal plan incorporating green beans into diabetes-friendly meals:
|Day||Meals and Snacks|
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries and almonds.
Lunch: Tuna salad over greens with steamed green beans.
Dinner: Grilled chicken with roasted green beans and quinoa.
Snack: Celery sticks with peanut butter.
Breakfast: Omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Lunch: Chopped salad with chicken, green beans, chickpeas and avocado.
Dinner: cod with sauteed green beans and lentils.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt berry smoothie.
Lunch: Leftover chopped chicken salad with green beans.
Dinner: Vegetarian chili with green beans over brown rice.
Snack: Hummus and bell peppers.
Breakfast: Peanut butter banana oatmeal.
Lunch: Open-faced turkey sandwich with side salad with green beans.
Dinner: Stir fried shrimp and green beans over cauliflower rice.
Snack: Cottage cheese and fruit.
Breakfast: Veggie egg white scramble.
Lunch: Chicken cashew salad wrap with green beans.
Dinner: Pork tenderloin with roasted green beans and sweet potato.
Snack: Green beans and hummus.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt parfait with granola and berries.
Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich with side salad with green beans.
Dinner: Zucchini noodles with shrimp in tomato sauce.
Snack: Celery with almond butter.
Breakfast: Veggie scramble with green peppers and onions.
Lunch: Salmon salad over greens with green beans.
Dinner: Beef and vegetable kebabs with roasted green beans.
Snack: Hard boiled egg.
As you can see, it’s easy to incorporate green beans into balanced meals and snacks throughout the week. Focus on lean proteins, high fiber foods, healthy fats and plenty of non-starchy veggies like green beans for optimal diabetes management.
The Bottom Line
Green beans are packed with important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and carotenoids. Their low glycemic index and carb content make them a great choice for people with diabetes looking to control their blood sugar levels.
Enjoy green beans roasted, sauteed, steamed or raw as part of a healthy diabetic diet. Aim for 1-2 cups at meals along with lean proteins and other non-starchy vegetables. Green beans provide many health benefits and are a diabetes superfood you can feel good about eating.