When it comes to vegetables, people with diabetes are advised to opt for nutrient- and fiber-rich ones, such as green leafy veggies. At the same time, they should avoid the ones with high starch and simple carbohydrates, like potatoes.
Dr Pallavi Patekar, consultant, internal medicine and diabetes, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Navi Mumbai, says, “Fiber in vegetables slows down the absorption of sugar and helps regulate blood sugar levels by preventing spikes in blood glucose levels after meals.” She adds that most low-carb and high-fiber vegetables, besides being great for diabetes management, also help in weight loss.
What vegetables are beneficial in diabetes management?
Experts point out that choosing certain low-carb vegetables can help people with diabetes manage their blood glucose levels better.
Dr Patekar says spinach is a vegetable with a low glycemic index. It is also rich in antioxidants and magnesium, which may help in improving insulin sensitivity. The magnesium in spinach may help regulate blood sugar levels. Besides high fiber content, it is rich in vitamins A, C and K.
According to Reena Poptani, clinical dietitian, Fortis Hospital Mulund, Mumbai, the insoluble fiber in spinach helps keep your blood glucose levels in control. She adds, “It has alpha lipoic acid (ALA), an antioxidant that can help with blood glucose management and reduces oxidative stress.”
Dr Patekar shares that when it comes to spinach, consuming it raw or slightly sautéed helps in retaining nutrients — it’s best to avoid overcooking it.
2) Ridge gourd
Ridge gourd is a low-carb and high-fiber vegetable frequently used in Indian cuisine. “Including it in the diet on a regular basis can help you curb your cravings, which could eventually lead to weight loss. This is beneficial for people with diabetes,” shares Poptani.
It is also packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6. Moreover, this vegetable has antioxidants that possess hypoglycemic traits. Its fiber content helps in digestion, improves metabolism and betters the insulin function, which helps in improved diabetes management.
You can use this vegetable in preparing sambar, chutney, curries and raita. It’s best to avoid excessive oil and spices while cooking ridge gourd.
3) Bottle gourd
Bottle gourd, an alkaline vegetable from the gourd family, is very low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. This vegetable contains about 92 percent water and 8 percent fiber.
Being low in both calories and carbohydrates, this vegetable can be included in the diet of people with diabetes. Dr Patekar says bottle gourd contains vitamins like C and B6, and minerals like zinc and magnesium.
Poptani cautions against having raw bottle gourd juice, which is bitter in taste, as it can be toxic and cause severe health complications. Instead, Dr Patekar advises, “The best way to prepare bottle gourd is by boiling it or cooking with minimal spices.” Moreover, it can be used to make soups or added to curries.
Broccoli is a powerhouse of fiber and nutrients for people with diabetes. Poptani explains that sulforaphane, a powerful phytochemical found in broccoli, is known to decrease diabetes-induced oxidative stress and inflammation, thereby improving insulin sensitivity.
Dr Patekar adds that sulforaphane may also help reduce cancer risk. “It reduces the effect of toxins and inflammation and may also slow down the growth of tumors,” she adds.
Dr Patekar suggests that while cooking, one should steam the broccoli instead of boiling it to preserve its nutritional content.
Both green and red cabbage are low in calories and carbohydrates, making them suitable for diabetic diets. Dr Patekar says the difference between green and red cabbage is that the latter contains more antioxidants. However, both varieties have fiber that aids in glucose management.
Cabbage can be eaten raw, in salads, or cooked in various dishes.
6) Okra or lady’s finger
Okra or lady’s finger, also known as bhindi, contains high amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. This adds to the digestion time, making it an excellent food choice for those with diabetes. Dr Patekar shares it contains polyphenolic compounds, which may help in glycemic control. Poptani adds that okra is a good source of phytochemicals (plant-based bioactive compounds with nutritional properties), antioxidants and other nutrients like potassium, linoleic acid, vitamin C, calcium, and folate.
The healthiest way to cook okra is to sautée it slightly or boil it. You can also include it in soups.
“Like most cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower contains beneficial compounds like glucosinolates and isothiocyanates which are good for metabolic health,” explains Dr Patekar. Moreover, it is low in carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index, which is beneficial for blood sugar control.
This vegetable can be easy to prepare as well. It can be eaten boiled, steamed, or as cauliflower rice.
Mushrooms can be quick and easy to prepare while being low in calories and high in fiber. Dr Patekar says mushrooms are beneficial for people with diabetes because they are rich in antioxidants and contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has been seen to improve immune response.
You can boil or grill mushrooms for eating. They can also be included in salads and other dishes with mild seasoning.