Best Foods for People with Diabetes

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As one of the most common diseases in adults aged 60-65, understanding diabetes and how it impacts your diet is crucial for good health. Read on to learn about the foods you should (and shouldn’t) incorporate in your diet.

Diabetic Diet for Seniors

When it comes to health, a nutritious diet is a cornerstone for a journey to better overall health. A diet can make or break the health results you are looking for, and it is just as important as getting exercise, hydrating and checking up with your provider. A well-rounded, healthy diet can do wonders for your health!

However, when it comes to seniors with diabetes, diet is of utmost importance. There are a wealth of foods that you can eat, but also some foods that should be avoided. We understand that dealing with diabetes is a daily affair, and understanding the best foods for you can make the process a whole lot easier.

Below, we will review the best foods for diabetic seniors. We will cover everything from proteins to nutritional drinks. Also, there are foods that seniors with diabetes should avoid as they may aggravate your health. Not every health journey has to be done alone, and at Iora, we want to ensure you have the information you need to tackle your health journey every day. Here are some of the best foods for diabetics.

Fatty Fish

First on our list of great foods for diabetic seniors is fatty fish, one of the healthiest foods to incorporate into your diet. Some examples of fatty fish include salmon, herring and mackerel.

Why is fatty fish one of the best foods for diabetics? According to heathline, fatty fish contains two essential omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are great foods for your heart and have been proven to lower the risk of heart disease.

These omega-3 fatty acids work to improve your heart health by reducing blood pressure levels, preventing harmful blood clotting, smoothing out your arteries by preventing plaque buildup and acting as an anti-inflammatory when your body releases certain inflammatory substances. Due to the amount of heart and health benefits, fatty fish make a great addition to any diet for diabetic seniors.

However, the best way to prepare fish is by baking it. Baking fish avoids adding any excess calories or fat that might be found in fried food. The next time you go to have fatty fish, consider baking it as it is a much healthier option.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Packed with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, green leafy vegetables also have little impact on blood sugar levels.

There are a wide variety of green leafy vegetables, and some great vegetables to work into your diet include kale, spinach, collard greens, bok choy, broccoli and cabbage. These greens, especially spinach and kale, are rich sources of potassium, vitamin A and calcium. They also have notable amounts of protein and fiber, making them a well-rounded option for seniors with diabetes.

For diabetics, the real benefit of green leafy vegetables lies in their rich antioxidant levels and their starch-digesting enzymes. Leafy green vegetables are versatile, and can be used in a variety of dishes with salads, or alongside lean proteins like tofu or chicken. These vegetables are much more nutritious eaten fresh and raw. When vegetables are boiled down or cooked with salt, they lose some of the nutrients that would otherwise be in fresh vegetables.   

Whole Grain

As a solid cornerstone of any nutritious diet, whole grain foods are an essential addition to a diet for diabetic seniors. There are so many different kinds of whole grain foods out there, but some of our favorites include brown rice, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, quinoa and rye.

Whole grain foods like the ones listed above are rich in fiber and contain significantly more nutrients than refined white grains. Fiber is especially important for seniors with diabetes because it slows down the digestion process, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable. 

Whole grains are a good way to make small changes in your diet. They can easily replace “white” grain foods like rice and pasta. But, this does not mean you have to give up your favorite pasta dishes altogether. Be sure to look for any whole grain alternatives so you can keep eating your favorite meals.

Carbs and Diabetes

How Many Carbs Per Day for a Diabetic?

For diabetics, there is no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to how many carbs diabetic seniors should have per day. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), recommends that diabetics should get about 45 percent of their daily caloric intake from carbs. Carbs do not need to be avoided altogether, but it is important to eat healthier carbohydrates.

Many other factors such as weight, exercise frequency, sex, age and more are important in considering how many carbs diabetics should eat per day. The CDC recommends diabetics count carbs to ensure they are maintaining their target blood sugar levels.

Citrus Fruits

Like the other foods so far on this list, citrus fruits are vitamin and nutrient-packed food options for diabetic seniors. Fruits like oranges, grapefruits and lemons have been shown to have antidiabetic effects.

Citrus fruits are a great food for diabetic seniors because they are loaded with vitamins and minerals without high levels of carbs. These fruits are great sources of vitamin C, potassium and folate.

Researchers believe there are two main antioxidants that provide citrus fruits with antidiabetic properties. Citrus fruits are widely considered to be superfoods for diabetics.

Chia Seeds

While not as broad as some of the other foods listed here, chia seeds, like citrus foods, are considered to be diabetic superfoods! They deserve this title for their rich omega-3 fatty acid and antioxidant content, proving the best (or healthiest) things can come in small packages.

You can certainly eat chia seeds by their lonesome, but these little superfoods make a great yet subtle addition to any breakfast or salad. Commonly used in baking, chia seeds can be used in healthy desserts for a nutritional boost. However, please note that adding chia seeds into any dessert does not make it “healthy.” A brownie is still a brownie even if it has chia seeds mixed in.

Beans

Next on the list of best foods for diabetic seniors are beans, a protein-packed, appetite-satisfying superfood for diabetics. Beans also can serve as a great alternative to carbohydrates. More so than other starchy foods, beans have been proven to help regulate blood sugar levels in seniors with diabetes.

One of the best things about beans is the amount of variety there is! For diabetics, some of the best beans include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, navy beans and adzuki beans.

Along with their antidiabetic properties, beans have some other nutritional benefits as well. Beans are good sources of potassium, iron and magnesium. Beans can be used in chilis, stews, wraps, salads and so much more. If you are buying canned beans, make sure to buy low sodium cans as high-sodium foods are not recommended for diabetics. It’s also important to rinse beans until the water runs clear before preparing to ensure the sodium levels are as low as possible.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are, in every sense of the word, superfoods. Not only are they delicious, but they are packed with nutrients and can be eaten in a variety of ways. 

Compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes have a much lower Glycemic Index (GI), making them a great alternative for people with diabetes. The sugars in sweet potatoes release more slowly than some other foods, which is why they are easier to digest

This superfood has a variety of other nutritional benefits. Sweet potatoes are also a great source of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K and fiber. You can enjoy sweet potatoes roasted, baked, boiled or mashed. They also make great side dishes with lean proteins.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt, or any probiotic yogurt, is a great food for seniors with diabetes. Probiotic bacteria are the helpful kind of bacteria, and the exact kind of bacteria that live in your gut. Probiotic yogurt helps improve digestion and maintain intestinal health. 

Packed with nutrients like protein, calcium and essential vitamins, greek yogurt is a healthy option for seniors with diabetes. Some studies show that probiotic yogurts yield many antidiabetic effects.

These effects have been linked to lowering cholesterol and lowering the risk for heart disease. In addition, greek yogurt may even help reduce inflammation and has been linked to increasing insulin sensitivity.

Seniors with diabetes should avoid yogurts that are high in sugar. Instead, go for the sugar-free options and mix in berries to make a breakfast or snack that is nutritious and delicious.

Nutritional Drinks for Diabetics

Nutritional drinks are just as important as the food that you put in your body. If you are diabetic, understanding what you drink and how it impacts your condition is crucial to managing diabetes.

Traditionally, drinks that are low in sugar and calories make the best nutritional drinks for diabetics. While diabetes can most certainly limit what they can or can’t consume, there are a wide variety of drinks diabetic seniors can have that aid with diabetes management.

Of all the drinks that could be listed, the best option for diabetics is water. Other beverages like tea and juices are ok, but tea can often cause bladder irritation and there are only a few juice options that are low enough in sugar. When in doubt, drink water. It hydrates you, keeps your body rejuvenated and does not add any excess sugar to your diet.

However, if you are looking to add some flavor to your water, using sugar-free Crystal Light flavor packets are a healthy option for seniors with diabetes.

Foods Diabetics Should Avoid

There are not necessarily any foods diabetics are prohibited to have, but there are most certainly foods that can make the condition worse if you don’t know what you’re putting in your body. 

Foods that raise blood sugar, or increase the digestion time of sugar, are especially important to note. These are foods that diabetics should avoid, or consume under careful moderation. 

While these foods are not “off the table,” they are foods that should be noted so that you can continue to eat nutritiously and live your healthiest life.

Refined White Grains

While whole grains are great for seniors with diabetes, refined white grains should be avoided. These are carb-heavy foods that may have high levels of sugar because of the refining process.

Some refined white grains include, white bread, puffed rice, white rice and white pasta. These foods have been proven to significantly increase blood sugar levels in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

These processed foods contain little fiber, which makes it much harder to break down sugar during the digestion process. Replacing these refined white grains with high-fiber options has shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Next time you think about grabbing that bagel, think about grabbing a whole grain, high-fiber option like Ezekiel bread or whole grain toast.

Sugary Beverages

These are undoubtedly the worst drink choices for seniors with diabetes. Sugary beverages like soda rarely have any substantial nutritional benefits and are, of course, loaded with sugar. Please note that diet sodas are also harmful. Even though they have less sugar, they can cause heartburn or acid reflux if too much is consumed. 

Because of their high sugar content, insulin levels in the body get overwhelmed. In return, sugary beverages ramp up blood sugar levels, making them a very unhealthy option for diabetic seniors.

Instead, swap out soda or other sugary beverages with water, tea or any of the nutritional drinks we mentioned earlier. These will prevent a greater risk for heart disease and will keep your diabetes under control.

Trans Fats

These types of fats are unhealthy, and should be avoided by diabetics to maintain good health and stable management of diabetes. These fats are found in margarines, creamers, spreads and frozen dinners. These fats are added as a preservative to maintain a long shelf life for the food.

These fats put people at a higher risk for heart disease, which is especially important to note for diabetics. In fact, the FDA is working on banning trans fats from foods due to their detrimental health effects.

Fruit-Flavored Yogurts

Now, while we said low-sugar greek yogurts are healthy options for diabetics, fruit-flavored yogurts are not as good for your body. These yogurts are typically very high in sugar, affecting blood sugar levels as a result.

While usually low in fat, the high sugar content is what makes fruit-flavored yogurts a bad option for seniors with diabetes. Instead, look for the low-sugar options that we discussed earlier.

Dried Fruits

Fruit is generally a wonderful source of nutrients and vitamins, and is one of the best foods for diabetics. However, dried fruits are a different story. 

When fruit is dried, nutrients are higher in concentration due to the water’s removal. This also means that the fruit’s sugar content is more concentrated, making dried fruit a risky food for diabetics. Raisins, for example, are dried grapes. Raisins thus have a concentration of carbohydrates that is three times the amount of that found in grapes.

Of course, you don’t have to give up fruit altogether. Low-sugar fruits like berries or apples can have health benefits for diabetics. But, due to their higher concentration levels, dried fruits should be avoided and substituted for hydrated fruits.