10 healthy food swaps that will help manage blood sugar, diabetes

People with prediabetes or diabetes need to be extremely careful with their eating habits. As such, sometimes it can get tricky to ascertain which foods and drinks make for the best choices. But worry not, here are 10 picks by Dr Ganesh Kadhe, associate director, nutrition medical and scientific affairs, Abbott, that will ensure that your blood sugar levels are always maintained.

Beans (of any kind)

Lentils, kidney, black or chickpea beans are low glycemic index foods. It means that their carbohydrates are gradually released, and hence they’re less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. They’re so beneficial that a recent study found that eating a daily cup of beans for three months as part of a low-glycemic diet lowered (hemoglobin A1c) HbA1c level by half a percentage point.

Try it: Swap your regular dal for rajma from time to time.


You might think there’s no room for fruits in a diabetic meal plan, but apples are also low glycemic. Aiming for foods that are low or medium on the glycemic index is one way to manage blood sugar levels. Eating an apple a day has its benefits – they are high in fibre, vitamin C and fat-free! Not to mention a portable and easy snack option.

Try it: Toss an apple in your lunch bag or grab one between meals. Try baking them with a hint of cinnamon for warm treats when you crave desserts.


These crunchy nuts are rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps the body use its own insulin more effectively. Try adding more almonds into your diet to have your daily dose of this blood sugar-balancing mineral. Plus, almonds are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, protein, and fibre, which makes them a great way to help manage blood glucose levels.

Try it: For healthy snacking on-the-go, pack 30g portions of almonds into single-serve containers.

almonds, nuts, healthy food A quick and easy snack and a great source of magnesium. (Photo: Pexels)


This leafy green vegetable has just 21 calories per cooked cup and is filled with blood sugar-friendly magnesium and fibre. Additionally, you can enjoy spinach raw, sautéed with olive oil, in your favourite palak paneer or even blended, making it a versatile choice!

Try it: Toss a handful of baby spinach into your next smoothie or use it in place of lettuce in a salad.

spinach, healthy food Find new ways to add spinach to your diet. (Photo: Pexels)

Chia seeds

Losing or managing weight is one of the best things you can do to improve your blood sugar. Chia seeds can help with that. In one study, people with diabetes who added about an ounce of chia seeds to a calorie-controlled diet for six months shed four pounds and trimmed an inch-and-a-half from their waistlines. Aside from being packed with fibre, these gems also contain protein and provide 18 per cent of your recommended daily intake of calcium.

Try it: Combine a quarter-cup of chia seeds with one cup of 1 percent or non-fat milk and one-half cup of diced fruit. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy for breakfast the next morning.

Add a diabetes-specific formula

Along with lifestyle modifications and regular exercise, it is advised to add a diabetes-specific formula to your diet plan. Look for a formula that is designed with special ingredients like complex carbohydrates, vitamins and antioxidants to help manage steady release of glucose. Ideally, the formula must be included in your breakfast, lunch or dinner as a partial meal replacement in one of your modified meals which helps to keep blood glucose and weight under control.

Try it: Carry a serve of the formula in your shaker (to be consumed with water) so you’ll always have a healthy snack on hand — no matter how busy your day is.


Blueberries contain compounds that have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve how the body uses insulin. One study showed that eating the equivalent of about 2 cups of blueberries daily improved insulin sensitivity in overweight people with insulin resistance. They’re also a great source of fibre and other nutrients such as vitamin C and antioxidants.

Try it: Take half-cup of fresh blueberries (or defrosted, frozen blueberries) and spoon over plain, unsweetened yoghurt. You can even add a cup of blueberries to your smoothie.

fruits Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants as well. (Photo: Pexels)


Oatmeal isn’t just good for your heart, it can benefit your blood sugar too. Just like apples, steel cut and rolled oats have a low glycemic index. However, while steel cut and rolled oats are great picks, highly processed instant and quick oats tend to be higher on the glycemic index, so they’re not as blood sugar-friendly.

Try it: Opt for steel or rolled oats cooked oatmeal with masala as a savoury option and with blueberries for a sweet option and enjoy a hearty breakfast.


This golden spice contains curcumin, a substance that helps keep your pancreas healthy and prevent prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes.

Try it: Add turmeric to your daily cooking.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea has long been used for a variety of ailments. Existing research shows that it has antioxidant and anticancer properties, and a recent study has found that it may help manage your blood sugar levels as well. When participants in the study drank one cup of chamomile tea after meals three times per day for six weeks, they showed a reduction in blood sugar levels, insulin, and insulin resistance, said Dr Kadhe.

Try it: Replace an after-dinner cocktail with a freshly brewed cup of chamomile tea. Add a slice of lemon for flavour and an extra dose of vitamin C.

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