(BlackDoctor.org) — When you need to eat right, it’s hard not to focus on the foods you CAN’T eat. But when it comes to diabetes, while there are certain foods that you really do need to avoid, such as white flour-based, refined, fatty and processed foods, it’s very important to actually enjoy what you eat – or else eating poorly will only become even more tempting.
Numerous nutrition and diabetes experts have singled out the below power foods because they’re not only packed with four of the most essential nutrients (fiber, omega-3s, calcium, and vitamin D), they’re also delicious and versatile.
You’re probably thinking of lettuce, but this category of veggie—a staple of Southern cooking—is incredibly diverse, with choices such as turnip, mustard, and beet greens, as well as chard. All are outstanding sources of fiber (1 cooked cup of any of the aforementioned supplies between 3 and 6 g) and calcium (100 to 250 mg per cup).
Greens may also be good for your heart, thanks to the folate they contain. This B vitamin appears to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that in high amounts can raise heart disease risk. Research shows getting 400 mcg of folate a day can lower homocysteine by 25% (a cup of cooked turnip greens contains 170 mcg).
Eat up: Unless you’ve grown up with greens, you may consider them an acquired taste, but prepared just right, they’re delicious! Use them in entrées, sandwiches, and salads. Or simply toss mustard, collard, or beet greens with artichoke hearts and sauté in olive oil.
Beans have more to boast about than being high in fiber (plant compounds
that help you feel full, steady blood sugar, and even lower
cholesterol; a half cup of black beans delivers more than 7 grams).
They’re a not-too-shabby source of calcium, a mineral that research
shows can help burn body fat. In ½ cup of white beans, you’ll get almost
100 mg of calcium—about 10% of your daily intake. Beans also make an
excellent protein source; unlike other proteins Americans commonly eat
(such as red meat), beans are low in saturated fat—the kind that gunks
up arteries and can lead to heart disease.
Eat up: Add them to salads, soups, chili, and more. There are so
many different kinds of beans, you could conceivably have them every day
for a week and not eat the same kind twice.
Like their bean cousins, lentils are loaded with fiber—1 cup cooked
contains a whopping 16 g. That same cup also delivers close to 360 mcg
of folate, just shy of the 400 that adults need each day. If you’re not a
meat person, lentils are a good alternative source of protein; they
also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Eat up: Add to soups and pastas for extra texture, or enjoy as a
side dish in lieu of beans. Feeling more adventurous? Try a spicy Indian
dish that uses lentils as a staple ingredient, like tadka dal, made
with green chiles and garlic.
They may be tiny, but the seeds of the flax plant pack a big health
punch. Flaxseed is best known as a source of fiber and alpha-linolenic
acid (ALA), which your body converts to omega-3s EPA and DHA. In several
large studies, researchers have found a link between increased ALA
intake and lower odds of heart disease, heart attack, and other
cardiovascular issues. These magic seeds also show promise for lowering
cholesterol and blood sugar.
Eat up: Add ground flaxseed to all kinds of food, such as oatmeal, low-fat cottage cheese, and fruit smoothies.
Rich in antioxidant flavonoids, this deceptively decadent sweet may help
improve your good and bad cholesterol and reduce your blood pressure.
One ounce contains 136 calories and 8.5 g of fat, so nibble just a
little. A great combination: shaved or melted dark chocolate over
raspberries or strawberries for a light and healthy dessert.
Nutritionists can’t recommend this seriously healthy fish enough. It’s a
rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (3 ounces provides as much as 1,800
mg), healthy fats that reduce the risk of heart disease, whittle your
waistline, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin resistance. Salmon
is also one of the best nondairy sources of vitamin D around.
Eat up: Sauté a salmon fillet for dinner instead of chicken or
meat once or twice a week (it’s easy to season and toss in the oven), or
add canned salmon to salads or omelets.
Another amazingly healthy fish, a 3-ounce piece of tuna contains 1,300 mg of omega-3s and a respectable amount of vitamin D to boot. But tuna can be high in mercury, a compound that may cause neurological problems in huge doses. To be safe, buy canned light tuna instead of albacore and limit your tuna intake to 12 ounces a week.
Eat up: Make tuna salad sandwiches, pile on whole wheat crackers as a snack, or throw steaks on the grill instead of burgers.
Berries are nature’s candy—but unlike sugary confections from the checkout aisle, they’re loaded with fiber and antioxidants called polyphenols. A cup of blackberries supplies 7.6 g of fiber; blueberries contain 3.5 g. Berries’ antioxidants are also good for your ticker: One 2008 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with heart disease risk factors who ate berries for 8 weeks had a drop in blood pressure and a boost in “good” HDL cholesterol.
Eat up: Wonderful alone, berries are also tasty when stirred into oatmeal, ice cream, or even salads. Fresh berries freeze well, so if you’re not going to eat them right away, store them in your freezer so you always have some on hand.
Believe it or not, some studies have linked peanut butter to reduced diabetes risk. The fiber content (2 tablespoons has almost 2 g) may have something to do with it. And since this classic comfort food contains mostly monounsaturated fat, it’s considered heart healthy. The calories are on the high side, however, so pay attention to the serving size.
Eat up: Peanut butter can be enjoyed so many different ways, such as spread over whole wheat toast or waffles for breakfast, or over baked pita chips, apples or celery for a delicious and filling snack.