Katie Ferraro by Katie Ferraro
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A diabetes diagnosis can leave even the most optimistic eater feeling downright downtrodden. It seems there are so many foods you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat when you have diabetes. But the reality is, you don’t have to resign yourself to a life of deprivation. There is a huge variety of food and beverage items that work well within a diabetic diet. To help you get started, here are four types of foods a person with diabetes may consider healthful.

Fresh Fruit

While fruit does contain sugar, it’s naturally occurring fruit sugar, which is remarkably different than the types of foods that contain refined or added sugars. Fruit can be your friend when you have diabetes, provided you keep portions in check. Stick to fresh fruits over canned and dried varieties (which contain a higher concentration of sugar) and steer clear of large servings of juice.

A medium-sized serving of fruit has about 15 grams of carbohydrate as well as valuable dietary fiber that aids in blood sugar control. Fruit also contains additional vitamins and minerals that you just don’t get in other “sweet” foods.

Whole Grains

Nutrition experts and diabetes educators alike recommend that people with diabetes consume the majority of their calories as carbohydrate. The problem is that people may frequently choose less-nutritious versions of carbohydrates and eat way too much of them.

If you’re looking for a good foundation on which to build your carbohydrate intake, check out whole grains, which are healthy alternatives to refined (or white) grains because they contain fiber that helps stabilize blood sugar level. Whole grains are also packed with the carbohydrates your body needs to fuel its cells, and contain additional vitamins and minerals.

Non-starchy Vegetables

Grace your plate with a colorful array of non-starchy vegetables. Potatoes, corn and peas fall in the “grains and starchy vegetables” category, because they contain more carbohydrate, and should be eaten less frequently than non-starchy vegetables if reducing carbohydrate consumption is your goal.

The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming three to five servings of vegetables per day. A serving is roughly one-half cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens and cruciferous plants, are low in carbohydrates and calories, plus they contain fiber and other nutrients, too.

Healthy Fats

People with diabetes do not have to fear fat. While it’s always a good idea to steer clear of the unhealthy fats (such as trans fat and saturated fats), mono- and polyunsaturated fats are a good choice because they can help lower bad (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) cholesterol levels.

Good fats, sometimes called “heart-healthy” fats, come from foods such as avocado, nuts and seeds, olives, and olive and canola oils. High-fat fish such as albacore tuna, sardines and salmon also provide valuable omega-3 fatty acids that can promote heart health.

So there you have it—focus on the nutritious foods you can eat while managing your diabetes, you’ll realize that you don’t have to deprive yourself. Rather, you’ll likely notice a boost in energy and overall health, simply by making good food choices.