Eat Beans for Better Blood Sugar with Diabetes

By

Kelli Miller

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Beans

Beans sometimes get a bum rap. Truth be told, beans boast an amazing number of health benefits. If you have diabetes, beans, and other legumes can help you maintain better control of your blood sugar.



What's a legume, you ask?

A legume is a plant whose seeds or fruit are found in a long case, called a pod. Beans, chickpeas and lentils are common legumes. Legumes are a low glycemic index food that won't cause sudden spikes in your blood sugar. The glycemic index looks at how fast a carbohydrate-containing food, like beans, raises your blood sugar (glucose) level compared to a baseline product like white bread. Foods low on the index breakdown slowly in the body, so you don't get a sudden rush of sugar into your bloodstream. High glycemic foods (like white rice), on the other hand, get digested more quickly, which can send your blood sugar soaring.

Learn tips on how to manage or reverse your diabetes.

Medical Reviewer: William Lloyd, MD Last Review Date: Oct 2, 2015

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Gregg, EW, et al. Association of an Intensive Lifestyle Intervention With Remission of Type 2 Diabetes. JAMA. 2012;308(23):2489-96.
  2. Bhupathiraju, SN, et al. Caffeinated and caffeine-free beverages and risk of type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;97(1):155-66.
  3. Miller, CK, et al. Comparative Effectiveness of a Mindful Eating Intervention to a Diabetes Self-Management Intervention among Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112(11):1835-42.
  4. Horikawa, C, et al. Diabetes and Risk of Hearing Impairment in Adults: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2013;98(1):51–8.
  5. Jenkins, DJ, et al. Effect of Legumes as Part of a Low Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012;172(21):1653-60.
  6. Diabetes Overview. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/
  7. Basics about Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/learn.htm
  8. Diabetes Health Concerns. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/problems.htm
  9. Diabetes Myths. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-myths/?loc=DropDownDB-myths&print=t
  10. Diabetes Statistics. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/?loc=DropDownDB-stats&print=t
  11. Sugar and Desserts. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sweeteners-and-desserts.html?print=t

Diabetes Superfood

Many diabetes nutrition guidelines recommend beans and legumes as part of a healthy diet. In fact, the American Diabetes Association includes them in their list of Diabetes Superfoods. Here's why beans and legumes are so good for you:

  • They provide slowly digested starch (carbohydrate), which reduces blood sugar spikes.

  • They are full of healthy fiber, so they keep you feeling full longer.  

  • They're packed with protein, which your body needs to work properly.

  • They are low in fat.

Studies show that adding 1 cup (190 grams) of legumes to your daily diet helps lower hemoglobin A1C levels. (That's your average blood sugar level for the last 2-3 months.) Some research hints that eating legumes at breakfast prevents spikes after that meal and subsequent ones that day.
And legumes are also good for your heart. A daily dose of beans and legumes can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease.

Adding Beans to Your Diet

There are many types of beans and legumes to choose from. You can choose canned or dried ones. Check the can for nutrition content, especially sodium and fat. (You’ll want to choose beans low in fat and sodium. They include:

  • Black beans

  • Dried peas (black-eyed and split peas)

  • Garbanzo beans

  • Kidney beans

  • Lentils

  • Lima beans

  • Pinto beans

  • White beans

Here are some easy ways to add them to your diet:

  • Make a bean salad or chili

  • Add them to soups or casseroles

  • Swap meat for beans in recipes

  • Snack on fresh veggies and a bean dip, like hummus

  • Add fat-free refried beans to your lunch or dinner

  • Choose vegetarian baked beans for a side dish

The American Diabetes Association offers many recipes using beans and legumes.
Remember, a healthy, balanced diet is very important if you have diabetes. Proper nutrition helps you control sudden changes in your blood sugar. Beans and legumes are only one part of this nutrition plan. Ask your doctor or nutritionist about the diet best suited for your overall health.

Was this helpful? (16)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd, III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 2, 2015

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Jenkins D, Kendall C, Augustin L, et al. Effect of Legumes as Part of a Low Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2012;172(21):1653–1660. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1384247
  2. Glycemic Index and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-in...
  3. A Guide to Choosing Protein Wisely. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2012-03/your-complete-guide-to.html
  4. Higgins JA. Whole Grains, Legumes, and the Subsequent Meal Effect: Implications for Blood Glucose Control and the Role of Fermentation. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012; 2012: 829238. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3205742/
  5. Diet and Diabetes: Recipes for Success. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/diet-and-diabetes-recipes-for-success

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