Top 10 foods for diabetics

PHOTO: Top 10 foods for diabetics

HAVING diabetes does not mean that you have to stick to a rigid diet. In fact, a diabetic diet is almost the same as that for the healthy. Diabetes does not mean completely cutting out foods containing carbohydrates.

Proper nutrition management and healthy food choices are necessary to avoid complications. Here are 10 foods high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

1. Asparagus

IF you love asparagus, you'll be glad to know that it's a non-starchy vegetable with only five grams of carbohydrates per serving and nearly two grams of dietary fibre. It is also high in the B vitamin folate, vitamin C, and a health-promoting antioxidant called glutathione.

Glutathione can help boost the immune system and promote lung health by protecting against viruses.

Besides, the American Heart Association recommends including foods containing folate and other B vitamins in your diet to help lower homocysteine levels. A serving of asparagus is 1/2 cup, or 115g cooked, and provides 33 per cent of the daily recommendation of 400 micrograms of folate, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

2. Yogurt

A SWEET treat that is creamy, delicious and good for you.

An excellent source of calcium, which helps promote bone health and teeth as well as muscle and blood vessel function, yogurt is also a good source of energy-boosting vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and protein. It also provides zinc, which can be deficient in some people with diabetes and aids in immune function and wound healing.

Probiotic yogurt contains health-promoting bacteria that is beneficial for digestive health, including lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome.

There are different yogurts to choose from, such as Greek yogurt which is thicker than regular yogurt.

Add a zero-calorie sweetener (or a teaspoon of honey), nuts or sunflower kernels or a sprinkle of whatever spices that sound good - cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger. One serving of two per cent Greek yogurt is 170g.

3. Beans

YOU can't go wrong with beans. Beans are high in fibre and protein and are a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron, magnesium and potassium, which is essential for the water balance between the cells and body fluids.

There are many delicious varieties to choose from, such as black, kidney, garbanzo, white, lima, and pinto. Soak and cook dry beans or use canned beans. Try serving beans as your main protein source for lunch or dinner a couple times a week. Protein is an important part of your daily nutrition and it helps the body repair and produce cells as well as build muscle and bones.

The American Diabetes Association counts one serving of beans, or 1/2 cup, as one starch and one lean meat.

4. Broccoli

DON'T underestimate the nutritional power of broccoli.

Truly a super food, this non-starchy vegetable has more vitamin C per 100g than an orange and is considered a good source of fibre and the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A.

Its vitamin A power promotes healthy vision, teeth, bones and skin. Vitamin C is essential for healing wounds and is a disease-fighting antioxidant.

One serving of broccoli is one cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked.

5. Carrots

COOKED or raw, carrots are a healthy addition to any meal plan. Have them for a snack with two tablespoons of light ranch dressing or include them in your main course or as a side dish.

It provides vitamin A from the antioxidant beta-carotene. Carotenoids found in yellow and orange vegetables may also help reduce insulin resistance.

Carrots are also another source of fibre and heart-healthy flavonoids, which can also be enjoyed as a juice with other fruits and vegetables such as apples, beets, and ginger.

One serving of carrots is one cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked.

6. Fish

FISH is a great addition to your meal plan, especially Omega 3-rich fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring. Omega 3, a type of polyunsaturated fat, can help lower triglycerides. It is said to be able to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clots.

Although fish is good for you and is considered a lean-meat substitute for its high protein, be careful of the harmful mercury levels and other toxins found in some fish.

According to the American Heart Association, swordfish, shark, golden bass, golden snapper, and king mackerel have the highest mercury levels. Fish lower in mercury for a 85g serving include wild salmon, herring, catfish, and canned light tuna. Try preparing fish on the grill, baked, broiled, or steamed.

One serving of fish is 28g.

7. Oatmeal

A BOWL of oatmeal in the morning will keep you full for longer, getting you to your mid-morning snack or lunch. The soluble fibre in oats can help lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure and stabilise blood glucose by slowing digestion. Oats are also a source of antioxidants.

Flavour oatmeal with cinnamon or artificial sweeteners to keep calories low. Oats also provide vitamin E and B as well as magnesium and potassium, which may help lower blood pressure.

There are several types of oatmeal to choose from. Steel-cut oatmeal has a dense, thick texture and can take up to 45 minutes to cook, while old-fashioned (or rolled) oats are thinner and take less time to cook. The less processed the oat, such as steel-cut oatmeal, the lower it is on the glycemic index, which may help control blood glucose.

Quick cooking oatmeal and instant oatmeal are also available. Be sure to check the labels for added salt and sugar.

One serving of oatmeal is 1/2 cup.

8. Spinach

POPEYE ate spinach for a reason. This dark green leafy vegetable is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B2 and B6, folate, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fibre.

Studies have found that spinach has the potential to decrease the risk of cancer, cataracts and heart disease. Spinach is high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body uses to make vitamin A. Beta-carotene helps protect the body's cells from free radicals, which contribute to chronic illness and ageing.

When buying canned spinach, choose a low sodium one. One serving of spinach is 1/2 cup cooked or one cup raw, which is great for salads.

9. Soya

OFTEN used as a substitute for animal products, soya is an excellent power food to incorporate in your diet, even if you aren't a vegetarian. Soya can be eaten in whole bean form, such as baby green soya beans called edamame, which is the highest in protein. Other soya products include soya milk or cheese, tofu, soya nuts, or vegetarian meatless products.

Soya is also a source of niacin, folate, zinc, potassium, iron, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a fatty acid that can be converted into Omega 3 fatty acids, known to help lower cholesterol.

It also contains nutrients such as niacin, zinc, potassium and folate that serve important functions in the body. However, do check with a health-care professional before increasing potassium intake if you have kidney complications or kidney disease.

Serving sizes depend on whether soya is consumed in food or drink.

10. Nuts

NUTS are a good source of protein, fibre, vitamin E, and flavonoids and are power-packed with monounsaturated fat.

Plant sterols known to lower cholesterol also naturally occur in nuts. But be careful. Although nuts contain healthy fats, they are also high in calories. Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans and hazelnuts are just some of the nuts that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, making them heart-healthy choices.

Eat nuts in moderation and avoid salted, sugared or chocolate-covered options that increase calories and decrease their natural health benefits. One serving of almonds, cashews, or mixed nuts is six nuts. One serving of pecans is four halves, a serving of hazelnuts is five nuts, and a serving of pistachios is 16 nuts, as per the American Diabetes Association.