When I was a kid, my mother made me eat a spoonful of dry fruit mixture every day. Based on a recipe from her father, who dabbled in herbal medicine, the mixture was supposed to be “good for health” and I was supposed to gulp it down, no questions asked. Now I know why it had that tag—the mixture was made up of different nuts and seeds, and research increasingly points at them as being a powerhouse of nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, good fats and minerals.
Nuts and seeds are not only good for general health, they also have protective effects for persons with diabetes. Read on to know which are the best nuts and seeds for diabetics.
Why they are good: Almonds have been found to reduce both fasting and post-meal blood glucose and insulin levels. They also play a role in reducing oxidative stress, which is the underlying factor in diabetes as well as heart disease.(1) (2)
How to consume: It’s best to eat almonds raw and unsalted; you may dry roast them but avoid roasting them in oil. Add shaved or chopped almonds to oatmeal, breakfast cereals, salads and yoghurt.
Why they are good: A 2015 study showed that high blood glucose levels reduce the antioxidant activity of cells; this effect can be reversed by the oil present in walnuts.(3) So taking walnuts regularly has a protective effect against oxidative stress which is responsible for many of the complications of diabetes. Another study found that consuming 30 grams of walnuts (approximately 7-8 walnuts) daily for a year causes weight loss and reduces fasting insulin levels (a marker of metabolic problems such as diabetes) in people with diabetes.(4)
How to consume: It’s best to consume walnuts raw and with the skin intact although the skin may give a slight bitter taste. This is important because most of the antioxidants in walnuts reside in the skin. Smell the walnuts before buying to make sure they’re not rancid. Crush the walnuts and add into salads, vegetable stir-fry dishes or yoghurt.
Why they are good: A 2014 trial found that giving pistachio to persons with diabetes helps to reduce fasting blood glucose and HbA1c levels.(5) Another study found that pistachios helps to reduce post-meal blood glucose levels, which makes them beneficial for diabetics.(6)
How to consume: Buy unshelled pistachio nuts and shell them when eating. Avoid the salted and sweetened pre-shelled varieties which are rich in salt and sugar. Add the crushed pistachio kernels into fruit or vegetable salads.
Why they are good: Pumpkin seeds have been found to contain ingredients that have a blood glucose-lowering effect and eating these seeds may help people with diabetes to maintain their sugar levels.(7) These seeds are rich in dietary fiber too, a factor that is believed to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.(8)
How to consume: Eat pumpkin seeds raw or roasted. Sprinkle into soups, cereals, salads, smoothies or yoghurt.
Why they are good: A study found that consuming flaxseed powder helped to reduce fasting blood glucose as well as HbA1c levels.(9)
How to consume: Flaxseed if not chewed properly, may not get digested and just wash out of your body. So, it’s good to grind the seeds and add the powder into baked foods, oatmeal, cereals, smoothies or yoghurt. You can even add a little powder into the dough for making rotis and pooris.
Why they are good: A 2007 trial showed that when people with diabetes consume chia seeds, there is a significant reduction in certain risk factors for heart disease. Supplementing a diet with chia seeds may help to prevent heart-related complications in people with diabetes.(10)
How to consume: Chia seeds are bland and don’t need to be ground like flaxseed. So, they’re relatively easy to eat. Simply add them into breakfast cereal, pudding, porridge, vegetable and rice dishes or yoghurt.
Now that you’re enthused about adding nuts and seeds into your diabetic diet, you’re probably wondering how much of each you should use. The American Heart Association recommends four servings of unsalted nuts a week, with one serving being equal to one small handful of the whole nut.(11)
It’s important to remember that although these nuts are healthy, they still contain 80% fat and while this is a healthy type of fat, it will still add to your calories. So make sure you eat them in moderation and to compensate, cut down on the other fatty foods in your diet after consulting your doctor or dietitian.
Photo source: Storyblocks
- D.J.A. Jenkins, C.W.C. Kendall, A.R. Josse, S. Salvatore, F. Brighenti, L.S.A Augustin et al. Almonds Decrease Postprandial Glycemia, Insulinemia, and Oxidative Damage in Healthy Individuals. J. Nutr. December 2006; 136(12); 2987-2992 . Available online at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/12/2987.long
- S. Li, Y. Liu, J. Liu, W. Chang, C. Chen, O. Chen. Almond consumption improved glycemic control and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental. April 2011; 60(4); 474-479. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2010.04.009
- L. Laubertová, K. Koňariková, H. Gbelcová, Z. Ďuračková, I. Žitňanová. Effect of walnut oil on hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines production. European Journal of Nutrition. March 2015; 54(2); 291-299. Available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-014-0710-3
- L.C. Tapsell, M.J. Batterham, G. Teuss, S.Y. Tan, S. Dalton, C.J. Quick et al. Long-term effects of increased dietary polyunsaturated fat from walnuts on metabolic parameters in type II diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug; 63(8); 1008-15. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.19. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19352378
- M. Parham, S. Heidari, A. Khorramirad, M. Hozoori, F. Hosseinzadeh, L. Bakhtyari et al. Effects of Pistachio Nut Supplementation on Blood Glucose in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Rev Diabet Stud, 2014, 11(2):190-196. DOI 10.1900/RDS.2014.11.190 Available online at: http://www.soc-bdr.org/content/rds/archive/11/2_summer/original_data/pistachio_nut_in_diabetes/?showfulltext=1
- C.W.C. Kendall, S.G. West, L.S. Augustin, A. Esfahani, E. Vidgen, B. Bashyam et al. Acute effects of pistachio consumption on glucose and insulin, satiety hormones and endothelial function in the metabolic syndrome. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2014) 68, 370–375. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.275 Available online at: http://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2013275
- G.G. Adams, S. Imran, S. Wang, A. Mohammad, M.S. Kok, D.A. Gray et al. The hypoglycemic effect of pumpkin seeds, Trigonelline (TRG), Nicotinic acid (NA), and D-Chiro-inositol (DCI) in controlling glycemic levels in diabetes mellitus. Crit. Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014; 54(10):1322-9. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.635816.
- J.W. Anderson, P. Baird, R.H. Davis, S. Ferreri, M. Knudtson, A. Koravm et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr; 67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.
- U.V. Mani, I. Mani, M. Biswas, S.N. Kumar. An Open-Label Study on the Effect of Flax Seed Powder (Linum usitatissimum) Supplementation in the Management of Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Dietary Supplements. 2011; 8(3): 257 – 265. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3109/19390211.2011.593615
- V. Vuksan, D. Whitham, J.L. Sievenpiper, A.L. Jenkins, A.L. Rogovik, R.P. Bazinet et al. Supplementation of Conventional Therapy With the Novel Grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) Improves Major and Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care 2007 Nov; 30(11): 2804-2810. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc07-1144 Available online at: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/11/2804.long
- Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health. Mayo Clinic. Available online at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/ART-20046635?pg=2