10 Best Foods for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, choosing the right foods can help keep you healthy and keep your blood sugar in the normal range.

"Diabetics are more at risk for heart disease," says Adee Rasabi, RD, CDN, CDE, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center in New York City. "So it's important to look for heart-healthy foods to lower this risk."

Next time you hit the store, make sure to pick up some of these top foods.

Diabetes Dos

1. Chicken. Lean chicken breast is a good source of high quality protein, says Keri Gans, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and the author of "The Small Change Diet." "Chicken won't raise your blood sugar and it's very versatile," she says.

Grill a boneless, skinless chicken breast and use as the base for a salad, or make a stir-fry with diced, boneless chicken and loads of vegetables.

2. Berries. Any type is great, so choose strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries. "Berries have a lot of fiber and don't spike your blood sugar," says Caroline Bohl,  MS, RD, CDE, of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center. Berries are lower on the glycemic index than other types of fruits, she notes. They also contain antioxidants that may help protect against cancer.

Try berries in a yogurt parfait, or tossed in a fruit salad. They also make a great topping for pancakes and waffles.

3. Quinoa. It's got carbohydrates, but it also has protein and fiber, and it's "fairly low" on the glycemic index, Bohl says. And, adds Rasabi, it's considered a "complete" protein because it contains all the essential amino acids. Quinoa cooks up in just 15 minutes—a real selling point for time-pressed cooks.

Try it with stir-fries rather than rice, or use in place of pasta.

4. Beans. Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and cannellini all have fiber and a good amount of protein. "But they are a starch," Bohl warns. "You have to factor them into your meal plan."

Versatile beans can be sautéed with seasonings and eaten as a side dish, or tossed into salads, pasta dishes, or soups.

5. Salmon. It's a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, Rasabi explains.

Salmon can be broiled or grilled, then topped with lemon slices. And if you don't like salmon, mackerel and tuna are also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Non-fat Greek yogurt. It's got more protein and fewer carbs than regular yogurt, says Rasabi, and it's lower in sodium, too. Take advantage of its thick consistency and creamy taste by using it as a base for healthy salad dressings or vegetable dips. "I also recommend it as a great substitute for sour cream," Rasabi says.

For dessert, try mixing non-fat Greek yogurt with your favorite fresh fruit.

7. Artichokes. They have silymarin, Rasabi explains, which is a valuable antioxidant that may help prevent skin cancer. Artichokes are rich in fiber, which helps control cholesterol.

Steam the chokes over boiling water for 30 to 40 minutes, then squeeze with lemon juice and pluck off the leaves with your fingers, Rasabi says. "Use your teeth to scrape off the rich-tasting skin, Rasabi says. "When you get to the heart, you have found the best part."

8. Walnuts. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, along with thiamin, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, and potassium, these are a protein-rich snack.

A handful will keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals, or you could chop a few walnuts on top of a stir-fry for a Thai accent, Rasabi suggests. Keep in mind that they do have calories, though. Just 14 halves, or one ounce, has 180 calories, Rasabi notes.

9. Almond milk. It's lower in carbohydrates and calories than cow's milk, and it's a very good source of calcium, Rasabi says. It's also great for those with lactose-intolerance, since it's lactose free.

10. Lentils. A rich source of fiber, which regulates blood sugar and is high in protein, lentils can be added to soups and salads, too.

Diabetes Don'ts

Remember that where carbs are concerned, portion control is essential. "Refined carbohydrates and sweets are not the ideal foods," says Rasabi. "White bread, cakes, cookies, and regular pasta all should be limited, of course."

As for foods to avoid, steer clear of baked goods made with trans fatty acids, sugary soda, and movie theater popcorn, says Gans.