Diabetes Superfoods

There are many foods rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber that you can make part of your daily eating plan that are good for your health. Some of these include non-starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

“Superfood” is a term used by many food and beverage companies as a way to promote a food thought to have health benefits; however, there is no official definition of the word by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA regulates the health claims allowed on food labels to ensure there is scientific research to support the claims.  The list of foods below are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that are good for overall health and may also help prevent disease. 

Beans

Kidney, pinto, navy, or black beans are packed with vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and potassium. They are very high in fiber too.

Beans do contain carbohydrates, but ½ cup also provides as much protein as an ounce of meat without the saturated fat. To save time you can use canned beans, but be sure to drain and rinse them to get rid of as much added salt as possible.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Spinach, collards, and kale are dark green leafy vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, E, and K, iron, calcium and potassium.  These powerhouse foods are low in calories and carbohydrates too. Try adding dark leafy vegetables to salads, soups and stews. 

Citrus Fruit

Grapefruits, oranges, lemons and limes or pick your favorites to get part of your daily dose of fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium.

Sweet Potatoes

A starchy vegetable packed full of vitamin A and fiber. They are also a good source of vitamin C and potassium. 

Craving something sweet? Try a sweet potato in place of a regular potato and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Berries

Which are your favorites: blueberries, strawberries or another variety? Regardless, they are all packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Berries can be a great option to satisfy your sweet tooth and they provide an added benefit of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium and fiber. 

Tomatoes

The good news is that no matter how you like your tomatoes, pureed, raw, or in a sauce, you’re eating vital nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E and potassium.

Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fats may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Fish high in these healthy fats are sometimes referred to as "fatty fish." Salmon is well known in this group. Other fish high in omega-3 are herring, sardines, mackerel, trout, and albacore tuna. Choose fish that is broiled, baked or grilled to avoid the carbohydrate and extra calories that would be in fish that is breaded and fried. The American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2017 recommends eating fish (mainly fatty fish) twice per week for people with diabetes. 

Nuts

An ounce of nuts can go a long way in getting key healthy fats along with helping to manage hunger. In addition, they offer magnesium and fiber. Some nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flax seeds, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Whole Grains

It’s the whole grain you’re after. The first ingredient on the label should have the word “whole” in it. Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, B vitamins, chromium, iron and folate. They are a great source of fiber too. Some examples of whole grains are whole oats, quinoa, whole grain barley and farro.  

Milk and Yogurt

You may have heard that milk and yogurt can help build strong bones and teeth. In addition to calcium, many milk and yogurt products are a fortified to make them a good source of vitamin D. More research is emerging on the connection between vitamin D and good health. Milk and yogurt do contain carbohydrate that will be a factor in meal planning when you have diabetes.  Look for yogurt products that are lower in fat and added sugar.

Tips for Eating on a Budget

Some of the items above can be tough on the budget depending on the season and where you live. Look for lower cost options such as fruit and vegetables in season or frozen or canned fish. Foods that are easier on the budget year ‘round are beans and whole grains that you cook from scratch.

Learn more about how to include these and other healthful foods into your meals. The American Diabetes Association's book What Do I Eat Now? provides a step-by-step guide to eating right.

Give us your feedback!

What do you think of our diabetes superfoods list? Do you regularly eat many of these? Do you avoid any? Are we missing any on our list? Give us some feedback and discuss with others on our Eating Right With Diabetes message board!

  • Last Reviewed: February 2, 2015
  • Last Edited: October 11, 2017

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast