The #1 Best Food to Eat for Diabetics, According to a Dietitian
Diabetes affects an estimated 34.2 million people in the U.S., or 10.5% of the country's total population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020. For those with the condition, carefully monitored food intake is essential to staying healthy and reducing potential complications. Fortunately, there's one food you may already have on hand that experts consider a near-perfect addition to your diabetes diet: walnuts.
"Walnuts are a fantastic food to include in a diabetes-friendly diet," says dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, of Nutrition Now Counseling. "In one study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, after evaluating people who ate 56 grams of walnuts every day for 6 months, researchers found that the inclusion leads to an increased intake of key nutrients that lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes."
Manaker notes that a 2004 study published in Diabetes Care found that eating walnuts as part of a low- or modified-fat diet also helped individuals with diabetes improve their cholesterol ratio, potentially reducing their risk of heart disease—a condition that people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing than the general population.
In fact, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Circulation Research, among a group of 16,217 men and women who had been diagnosed with diabetes, those who increased their consumption of nuts after their diagnosis reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 11%, slashed their risk of coronary heart disease by 15% and reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and all-cause mortality by 25% and 27%, respectively.
So, why are walnuts particularly effective when it comes to diabetes management?
"Walnuts are low in carbs and contain nutrients like plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fiber—nutrients that may help support blood glucose control," says Manaker, who explains that the antioxidants in walnuts can also help support overall health.
If you want to add some walnuts to your regular routine, Manaker recommends "adding a handful of walnuts to your salad, topping your yogurt with walnuts, or simply eating them on their own." With a nutritional resume like that, you'd be nuts not to.
For more healthy eating tips for type 2 diabetes, check out our list of 26 Best and Worst Foods for Diabetics.