Good Carbs for People with Diabetes

by Grace Rivers, RDN, CDCES

You wish you could eat carbs, but you have heard they are bad for you. What if you looked at carbs differently? What if you looked at the right ones and recognized them as the wholesome, antioxidant-filled foods they are for us? Not eating enough of the right kind of carbs can leave you struggling with productivity through your workday and unable to enjoy your downtime.

Let’s look at which ones to include.

Eat healthy carbs and aim to keep your blood sugars stable

The main foods containing carbs are whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Why are these carbs good?

Good carbs contain antioxidants such as potent vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They furnish vital nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and E and essential potassium and fiber. Lutein, lycopene, and anthocyanins are a few of the phytonutrients that help fight free radicals by scavenging them, helping prevent inflammation.

Good carbs can also contribute to cholesterol-lowering properties and heart protection.

Whole grains supply magnesium, manganese, thiamin, and an array of other nutrients. You can perk up your meals and be satisfied when you finish eating using a grain that cooks quickly.

Have you eaten some barley or oat bran lately? These are both filling, and barley is an excellent addition to soups. What about bulgur or brown rice? Bulgur is quick-cooking, and if you use instant brown rice, you can get dinner on the table more quickly and reap the benefits.

Beans, peas, and lentils provide you with a generous amount of fiber, promoting a healthier gut. Fiber not only improves digestion but can help control your weight.

If you experience gas formation with beans, be sure to soak them for at least six to eight hours and drain and rinse your beans before cooking them in clean water. Another option is to eat lentils which cook quickly and don’t require soaking. Different flavors exist in these gems, so venture out and try some different ones.

Northern beans have a mild flavor, while black beans and black-eyed peas provide a more robust taste to your palate. Lentils enhance meals with a mild filling flavor.

Veggies deliver good carbs in spaghetti squash and cauliflower rice. Other low-carb (non-starchy) veggies also fall into this disease-fighting group.

Corn and potatoes are starchy veggies, and they, too, offer a robust amount of disease-fighting nutrients to support good health. Not only that, but they add color, flavor, and fiber to your meals.

Fruits you may have been avoiding are apples, oranges, and pears. Bananas are nutritionally superb but aim for smaller ones because the sugar carbs can add up quickly. Remember to try pomegranate, apricots, peaches, mangoes, and berries. You have different varieties to choose from with many of these choices.

Nuts and seeds furnish crunchy, healthy fats, and they also give us fiber-filled carbs to keep our immune systems strong.

The not so good carbohydrates

Refined carbs from ultra-processed foods such as cakes, pies, candies, cookies, and sugar-sweetened beverages don’t contribute to good health. These are sometimes what you may refer to as sweet treats, and the keyword is “treats” (as in doing so only occasionally). It’s not that you eat a cupcake or a slice of pie that causes a long-term negative impact on your health; the issues come when too many of them get eaten too often. 

Food should not in any way lead you to feel like you are a terrible person or a failure. Be careful who you listen to and go enjoy the good carbohydrates.

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