7 foods that could change a diabetic's life

When you think of managing blood sugar, odds are you obsess over everything you can't have. While it's certainly important to limit no-no ingredients (like white, refined breads and pastas and fried, fatty, processed foods), it's just as crucial to pay attention to what you should eat. We suggest you start here.

Numerous nutrition and diabetes experts singled out these power foods because 1) they're packed with the 4 healthy nutrients (fiber, omega-3s, calcium, and vitamin D) that make up Prevention's Diabetes DTOUR Diet, and 2) they're exceptionally versatile, so you can use them in recipes, as add-ons to meals, or stand-alone snacks.

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14 foods that could change a diabetic's life
1. Beans
Beans have more to boast about than being high in fiber (plant compounds that help you feel full, steady blood sugar, and even lower cholesterol; a half cup of black beans delivers more than 7 grams). They're a not-too-shabby source of calcium, a mineral that research shows can help burn body fat. In ½ cup of white beans, you'll get almost 100 mg of calcium—about 10% of your daily intake. Beans also make an excellent protein source; unlike other proteins Americans commonly eat (such as red meat), beans are low in saturated fat—the kind that gunks up arteries and can lead to heart disease.
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How to eat them: Add them to salads, soups, chili, and more. There are so many different kinds of beans, you could conceivably have them every day for a week and not eat the same kind twice.

2. Dairy
You're not going to find a better source of calcium and vitamin D—a potent diabetes-quelling combination—than in dairy foods like milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt. One study found that women who consumed more than 1,200 mg of calcium and more than 800 IU of vitamin D a day were 33% less likely to develop diabetes than those taking in less of both nutrients.
You can get these nutrients from other foods, but none combine them like dairy does. Stick to fat-free or low-fat versions of your favorite dairy foods—"regular" has a lot of saturated fat.

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How to eat it: Drink milk with some meals instead of soda or sugary juices, have yogurt or cottage cheese as a snack or dessert, and use milk to make oatmeal or thicken certain soups.

3. Salmon
Nutritionists can't recommend this seriously healthy fish enough. It's a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (3 ounces provides as much as 1,800 mg), healthy fats that reduce the risk of heart disease, whittle your waistline, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin resistance. Salmon is also one of the best nondairy sources of vitamin D around.

How to get it: Sauté a salmon fillet for dinner instead of chicken or meat once or twice a week (it's easy to season and toss in the oven), or add canned salmon to salads or omelets.

4. Tuna
Another amazingly healthy fish, a 3-ounce piece of tuna contains 1,300 mg of omega-3s and a respectable amount of vitamin D to boot. But tuna can be high in mercury, a compound that may cause neurological problems in huge doses.

To be safe, buy canned light tuna instead of albacore and limit your tuna intake to 12 ounces a week.

How to eat it: Make tuna salad sandwiches, pile on whole wheat crackers as a snack, or throw steaks on the grill instead of burgers.

5. Barley
One of the healthiest grains you're probably not eating, barley is rich in a specific kind of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Research shows beta-glucan can lower total and LDL cholesterol by preventing your body's ability to absorb it; one review found that consuming just 3 grams a day—about the amount in a single barley serving—can lower cholesterol by 8%.

Thanks to its fiber abundance, barley can also help steady your blood sugar while filling you up—a weight loss bonus. The grain even boasts a modest amount of calcium.

How to eat it: Look for hulled barley, which isn't as refined as the pearl barley that supermarkets typically carry (you may need to visit a health food store). Soak it overnight before cooking, then add to soups, stews, or rice pilaf.

6. Oats
Like barley and beans, oats are a diabetes power food because of their fiber content—a half cup of instant oats provides 4 g. Research shows that oat lovers can also lower total and "bad" LDL cholesterol and improve insulin resistance. All the soluble fiber oats contain slows the rate at which your body can break down and absorb carbohydrates, which means your blood sugar levels stay stable.

How to eat them: The easiest way is straight from your cereal bowl, but you can also sneak oats into all kinds of recipes, from pancakes to meat loaf to cookies.

7. Berries
Berries are nature's candy—but unlike sugary confections from the checkout aisle, they're loaded with fiber and antioxidants called polyphenols. A cup of blackberries supplies 7.6 g of fiber; blueberries contain 3.5 g. Berries' antioxidants are also good for your ticker: One 2008 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with heart disease risk factors who ate berries for 8 weeks had a drop in blood pressure and a boost in "good" HDL cholesterol.

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