Do Carbs and Diabetes Mix?

Some things will never go well together.

Oil and water. Glass houses and stones. My 4-footed furry friend and a vacuum cleaner.

What about diabetes and carbohydrates? Should people with diabetes separate themselves from carbs like oil separates from water? Worry about blood sugar spikes might have them doing so, but not all carb-containing foods are the same.

Just in time for National Diabetes Month, here are some top carb-rich foods for people with diabetes and prediabetes.

Southeast Dairy Association - mango curry chicken salad
  1. Yogurt. Dairy in general, particularly yogurt, is associated with a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The unique mix of nutrients in yogurt and other dairy foods may be the magic. Additionally, yogurt’s probiotics boost the health of the gut and help unleash the power of a diverse microbiome. All yogurt contains natural sugar, called lactose. Choose yogurts with little added sugars. Sweeten yours with fruit instead. Try my favorite Very Berry Smoothie for a quick protein-packed breakfast and this Mango-Curry Chicken Salad for lunch, which replaces mayonnaise with yogurt.
  2. Oats. Diabetes and prediabetes increase your risk of heart disease, so your cholesterol level is as critical as your blood sugar level. Good thing oats pack a double punch. Their unique fiber lowers your cholesterol level and improves the way your body uses insulin, leading to healthier blood sugar numbers. Enjoy oats for breakfast, as a savory side dish for dinner, and replace some wheat flour with ground oats in baking.
  3. Barley. Here’s another tasty grain with the cholesterol-lowering, blood-sugar-lowering fiber called beta-glucan. Think beyond mushroom barley soup. Swap out rice or pasta for barely in your favorite pilaf or salad recipes.
  4. Beans. The song starts with “beans, beans, good for the heart” for good reason. If you’ve got diabetes, add beans to your shopping cart. Studies show that diets rich in legumes have beneficial effects on both short-term and long-term fasting blood sugar levels. Aim to eat beans and lentils several times per week. Add them to salads and soups, and make them the star of your meals.
  5. Berries. Fruit is not the type of carb-rich food to avoid. Their fibers and other nutrients are critical for shielding your health. Grab berries a few times each week because eating them is associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Having diabetes or prediabetes does not need to take away your joy in eating or leave you without wholesome foods. Work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to find the right amount of health-saving carb-rich foods for you!

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert. Through writing, speaking, and working with the media, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health one lifestyle habit at a time. She is the author of four books including Prediabetes: A Complete Guide and Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week. Jill is a consultant and spokesperson to the food industry, as well as a panelist for the US News & World Report Best Diet Rankings. She is a contributing editor to Diabetic Living magazine and a contributor to a variety of magazines and websites, including Today’s Dietitian, Environmental Nutrition, and Food & Nutrition magazine. Find out more at jillweisenberger.com and follower her on social media as @NutritionJill.