Keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range is important for everyone, but especially critical for people with diabetes. Choosing foods that help stabilize blood sugar is one way to help maintain control. Many vegetables contain properties that can help lower blood glucose levels. In this article, we’ll look at the top vegetables shown by research to lower and regulate blood sugar.
Vegetables That Help Lower Blood Sugar
Here are 12 of the best vegetables for lowering blood sugar levels:
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, lettuce, arugula, turnip greens, collard greens, and Swiss chard are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. This combination helps slow down the digestion process to prevent spikes in blood sugar.
One study in people with type 2 diabetes found that consuming leafy green vegetables with meals reduced blood sugar spikes by 8-26% compared to meals without leafy greens.
Broccoli is packed with nutrients and fiber that slow down carbohydrate digestion. It contains a compound called sulforaphane that may also help protect blood vessel function and improve blood sugar control.
One study showed that eating broccoli sprouts daily for a month decreased fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
3. Green Beans
Also known as string beans or snap beans, green beans are low in calories and loaded with fiber. The indigestible carbohydrates in green beans ferment in the large intestine to promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which is linked to improved blood sugar control.
Studies show that increased consumption of green beans is associated with decreased insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels.
Asparagus is a spring vegetable that’s high in prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics act as fuel for the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which help maintain digestive and metabolic health.
Regularly eating asparagus has been shown to lower blood sugar and improve insulin resistance in people with diabetes.
Carrots are extremely nutrient-dense and low in calories. They’re full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that may benefit blood sugar control.
One study gave people with diabetes soup containing carrots or potato. The carrot soup led to significantly lower blood sugar levels for several hours afterward compared to the potato soup.
Cabbage belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family and is loaded with antioxidants and fiber with hardly any fat or calories. It’s an excellent choice for stabilizing blood sugar.
Research shows that eating more cruciferous vegetables like cabbage is associated with lower blood sugar levels and decreased insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.
7. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts look like mini cabbages and can be prepared in similar ways. They’re an outstanding source of antioxidants and fiber to help steady blood sugar.
A study in over 2,800 people found that higher Brussels sprout intake was linked to decreased insulin resistance, which can lead to better blood sugar control.
Peas have an impressive nutrition profile. They contain a concentrated amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in few calories.
A study in people with type 2 diabetes showed that adding peas to a meal reduced the spike in blood sugar by over 10% compared to a meal without peas.
Zucchini is low in carbohydrates and high in water content to help stabilize blood sugar levels. It also contains a special type of fiber called pectin that slows down the emptying of the stomach to prevent sharp spikes in blood sugar.
Studies using animals and humans suggest that eating zucchini may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, especially in people with diabetes.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, an antioxidant with proven benefits for diabetes. Low lycopene levels are associated with increased risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
In one study, drinking tomato juice for eight weeks decreased fasting blood sugar levels in women at high risk for gestational diabetes.
Garlic boasts potent medicinal properties due to its sulfur-containing compounds like allicin. It has anti-diabetic effects and may enhance insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar control.
Studies demonstrate that garlic extract can lower blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels and reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.
Also known as lady’s finger, okra is a nutritious vegetable commonly used in Southern cooking. Its seed pods are rich in fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar into the blood.
Okra may also improve insulin sensitivity. In one study, people who consumed it daily for two months experienced decreased blood sugar and improved lipid levels.
Vegetables to Limit for Blood Sugar Control
While most vegetables are great for blood sugar, a few should be eaten in moderation on a diabetic diet due to their higher carbohydrate counts. These include:
– Sweet potatoes
– Winter squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin)
Rather than avoiding these veggies completely, portion control is key. Pay attention to the total grams of carbohydrates per serving and aim to pair them with foods that can help blunt their effects on blood sugar.
How Vegetables Lower Blood Sugar
Vegetables help control blood sugar for several reasons:
High in Fiber
Soluble fiber slows carbohydrate digestion while insoluble fiber promotes regularity and a healthy gut microbiome. Eating more fiber-rich vegetables can stabilize blood sugar spikes after meals.
Low Glycemic Load
Most non-starchy vegetables have a low glycemic load (GL). GL measures how much a food spikes blood sugar based on its carbohydrate content and glycemic index value. Choosing more veggies with a low GL prevents surges in blood glucose.
Many vegetables are packed with antioxidants like polyphenols that combat inflammation, oxidative stress, and damage to cells. This helps protect blood vessels and improves insulin sensitivity.
Increase Insulin Sensitivity
Compounds in certain vegetables can directly increase insulin sensitivity. This enables your cells to transport glucose from the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels in check.
Tips for Adding More Vegetables
Here are some simple ways to fit more blood sugar-friendly veggies into your diet:
– Make a vegetable platter with sliced raw veggies to snack on.
– Add greens, tomatoes, onions, or mushrooms to omelets and egg scrambles.
– Mix leafy greens into smoothies, juices or protein shakes.
– Roast vegetables coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.
– Sauté spinach, kale or chard with garlic and olive oil for a quick side dish.
– Stuff vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and zucchini with lean protein and grains.
– Puree steamed cauliflower or broccoli to make low-carb “mashed potatoes.”
– Toss carrots, Brussels sprouts or asparagus in olive oil and roast at 400°F until tender.
– Grill portobello mushroom caps and vegetable kebabs for meatless entrees.
– Make zucchini lasagna, cauliflower pizza crust, or vegetable noodle pasta.
Sample Menu with Blood Sugar Friendly Vegetables
Here is a one-day sample menu incorporating a variety of vegetables shown to help control blood sugar levels:
|Breakfast||Vegetable omelet with spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms|
|Snack||Sliced veggies with hummus|
|Lunch||Mixed green salad with chicken, avocado, tomatoes, carrots|
|Snack||Celery sticks with peanut butter|
|Dinner||Zucchini noodle pasta with chicken sausage and marinara sauce|
|Snack||Sautéed kale with chickpeas|
Eating more vegetables is one of the simplest ways for people with diabetes to help control blood sugar. Leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peas, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and okra are some of the top choices.
Aim to include non-starchy, fiber-rich vegetables at every meal and snack. They provide antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals with minimal effect on blood glucose levels.
Pairing vegetables with healthy fats, proteins and high-fiber grains or legumes can further blunt the blood sugar response.
With a little creativity, you can add more vegetables to your diet and enjoy their multitude of health benefits, including better blood sugar regulation.