It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s a Sweet Potato?

Alexandria,
April 21, 2009

Shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and risks for life-threatening chronic diseases. No, this isn't a miracle elixir that you find on late night television. These are things you can find right in your grocery store: diabetes superfoods.

According the American Diabetes Association, diabetes superfoods have nutrients that are necessary for good diabetes management, including fiber, potassium, healthy fats, magnesium and antioxidants. People with many health conditions, including diabetes, need to closely monitor their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose. The nutrients included in these foods can promote good health and help prevent some of diabetes serious complications, such as heart attacks and strokes.

All of the foods in our list have a low glycemic index (GI) and provide key nutrients that are lacking in the typical western diet such as calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A (as carotenoids), C, and E," commented Sue McLaughlin, RD, CDE, President, Health Care & Education, American Diabetes Association. "There isn't clear research that points to the benefits of taking vitamin supplements, so always think first about getting your nutrients from foods."

The American Diabetes Association recommends including these superfoods in your meal plan:

  • Beans - Whether you prefer kidney, pinto, navy or black beans, you can't find more nutritious foods than beans.  Their high fiber content gives you nearly one-third of your daily requirement in just ½ cup. Beans are also are good sources of magnesium and potassium, important nutrients for people with diabetes. Although they are considered starchy vegetables, a ½ cup provides as much protein as an ounce of meat without the saturated fat. Use canned varieties to save time, but rinse first to remove excess sodium.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables - These powerhouse foods such as spinach, collards, and kale are so low in calories and carbohydrates, you can eat as much as you want.
  • Citrus fruit - Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes provide part of your daily dose of soluble fiber – important for heart health – and vitamin C.
  • Sweet potatoes - This starchy vegetable is packed full of fiber and vitamin A (as carotenoids) – important for vision health.  Try these in place of regular potatoes for a lower GI alternative.
  • Berries - Blueberries, strawberries and other varieties are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fiber.  Make a parfait alternating the fruit with light, non-fat yogurt for a new favorite dessert.
  • Tomatoes - Everyone can find a favorite with this old standby.  No matter how you like your tomatoes – pureed, raw, or in a sauce – you're eating vital nutrients like vitamin C, iron, and vitamin E.
  • Fish with omega-3s - Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, halibut, and herring are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health. Stay away from the breaded and deep fried fish. They don't count toward your goal of 6-9 ounces of fish per week.
  • Whole grains - These grains, such as pearled barley and oatmeal, are loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium, chromium, omega-3 fatty acids and folate. The germ and bran of the whole grain contain the important nutrients a grain product has to offer. Processed grains, like bread made from enriched wheat flour, do not have these vital nutrients.
  • Nuts - An ounce of nuts can go a long way in providing key healthy fats along with hunger management. Nuts also give you a dose of magnesium and fiber. Some nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flax seeds, also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Fat-free milk and yogurt - Everyone knows dairy can help build strong bones and teeth. In addition to calcium, many fortified dairy products are a good source of vitamin D. More research is emerging on the connection between vitamin D and good health.

"Some of these superfoods can be tough on the budget depending on the season and where you live," commented McLaughlin. "Look for lower cost options such as fruit and vegetables in season or frozen or canned fish. And remember, always think food first. Every day we learn more about the beneficial properties in food that keep us healthy especially plant foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These just simply aren't found in the supplement aisle."

Note to Editor: Recipes that contain these superfoods are available upon request.  Please contact Sarah Bradley (sbradley@diabetes.org or 703-549-1500, ext. 2231) for more information.

The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to Stop Diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.