For people with prediabetes, diabetes, or other conditions that affect blood sugar, diet is a major part of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Although factors like body weight, activity, stress, and genetics also play a role in blood sugar maintenance, following a healthy diet is critical for blood sugar control (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
While some foods, including items high in added sugar and refined carbs, can contribute to blood sugar fluctuations, others can optimize blood sugar control while promoting overall health (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Here are 17 foods that may help regulate your blood sugar.
1. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
Sulforaphane is a type of isothiocyanate that has blood-sugar-reducing properties.
This plant chemical is produced when broccoli is chopped or chewed due to a reaction between a glucosinolate compound called glucoraphanin and the enzyme myrosinase, both of which are concentrated in broccoli (5).
Test-tube, animal, and human studies have shown that sulforaphane-rich broccoli extract has powerful antidiabetic effects, helping enhance insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar and markers of oxidative stress (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Broccoli sprouts are concentrated sources of glucosinolates like glucoraphanin, and they’ve been shown to help promote insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes when supplemented as a powder or extract (8Trusted Source, 9).
Additionally, eating cruciferous vegetables has been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that the best way to enhance the availability of sulforaphane is to enjoy broccoli and broccoli sprouts raw or lightly steamed, or to add active sources of myrosinase like mustard seed powder to cooked broccoli (12Trusted Source).
Seafood, including fish and shellfish, offers a valuable source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may help regulate blood sugar levels.
Protein is essential for blood sugar control. It helps slow digestion and prevents post-meal blood sugar spikes, as well as increases feelings of fullness. Plus, it may help prevent overeating and promote excess body fat loss, two effects that are essential for healthy blood sugar levels (13Trusted Source).
A high intake of fatty fish like salmon and sardines has been shown to help improve blood sugar regulation.
For example, a study in 68 adults with overweight or obesity who consumed 26 ounces (750 grams) of fatty fish per week had significant improvements in post-meal blood sugar levels, compared with those who consumed lean fish (14Trusted Source).
3. Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds
Brightly colored and packed with fiber and antioxidants, pumpkin is a great choice for blood sugar regulation. In fact, pumpkin is used as a traditional diabetic remedy in many countries like Mexico and Iran (15Trusted Source).
Pumpkin is high in carbs called polysaccharides, which have been studied for their blood-sugar-regulating potential. Treatments with pumpkin extracts and powders have been shown to significantly decrease blood sugar levels in both human and animal studies (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18, 19Trusted Source).
However, more research is needed to determine how whole pumpkin, such as when it’s eaten roasted or steamed, may benefit blood sugar.
Pumpkin seeds are packed with healthy fats and proteins, making them an excellent choice for blood sugar control as well.
A 2018 study in 40 people found that consuming 2 ounces (65 grams) of pumpkin seeds reduced post-meal blood sugar by up to 35%, compared with a control group (20Trusted Source).
4. Nuts and nut butter
Research has shown that eating nuts may be an effective way to help regulate blood sugar levels.
A study in 25 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that consuming both peanuts and almonds throughout the day as part of a low carb diet reduced both fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels (21Trusted Source).
Also, a review found diets emphasizing tree nuts at an average daily intake of 2 ounces (56 grams) significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term blood sugar control, compared with a control diet, in people with type 2 diabetes (22Trusted Source).
Okra is a fruit that’s commonly utilized like a vegetable. It’s a rich source of blood-sugar-lowering compounds like polysaccharides and flavonoid antioxidants (23Trusted Source).
In Turkey, okra seeds have long been used as a natural remedy to treat diabetes due to their potent blood-sugar-lowering properties (24Trusted Source).
Rhamnogalacturonan, the main polysaccharide in okra, has been identified as a powerful antidiabetic compound. Plus, okra contains the flavonoids isoquercitrin and quercetin 3-O-gentiobioside, which help reduce blood sugar by inhibiting certain enzymes (23Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
Although animal studies suggest that okra has powerful antidiabetic properties, human research studies are needed.
6. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are rich in fiber and healthy fats and well known for their health benefits. Specifically, flax seeds may help reduce blood sugar levels.
In an 8-week study in 57 people with type 2 diabetes, those who consumed 7 ounces (200 grams) of 2.5% fat yogurt containing 1 ounce (30 grams) of flax seeds per day experienced significant reductions in HbA1c, compared with those who consumed plain yogurt (27Trusted Source).
What’s more, a review of 25 controlled studies found that eating whole flax seeds led to significant improvements in blood sugar control (28Trusted Source).
7. Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are rich in nutrients, such as magnesium, fiber, and protein, that can help lower blood sugar. They’re particularly high in soluble fiber and resistant starch, which help slow digestion and may improve blood sugar response after meals (29Trusted Source).
For example, a study in 12 women demonstrated that adding black beans or chickpeas to a rice meal significantly reduced post-meal blood sugar levels, compared with eating rice alone (29Trusted Source).
Many other studies have shown that eating beans and lentils can not only benefit blood sugar regulation but also possibly help protect against the development of diabetes (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).
8. Kimchi and sauerkraut
Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are packed with health-promoting compounds, including probiotics, minerals, and antioxidants, and eating them has been associated with improved blood sugar and insulin sensitivity (33Trusted Source).
A study in 21 people with prediabetes found that eating fermented kimchi for 8 weeks improved glucose tolerance in 33% of the participants, while only 9.5% of participants who consumed fresh kimchi showed improved glucose tolerance (34Trusted Source).
Another study in 41 people with diabetes demonstrated that following a traditional Korean diet rich in fermented foods like kimchi for 12 weeks led to greater reductions in HbA1c than a control diet (35Trusted Source).
9. Chia seeds
Eating chia seeds may help benefit blood sugar control. Studies have linked chia seed consumption to reductions in blood sugar levels and improvements in insulin sensitivity.
A 2020 review of 17 animal studies concluded that chia seeds may help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, as well as potentially reduce disease risk, including the risk of diabetes (36Trusted Source).
Also, a study in 15 healthy adults showed that participants who received 1 ounce (25 grams) of ground chia seeds alongside 2 ounces (50 grams) of a sugar solution had a 39% reduction in blood sugar levels, compared with those who consumed the sugar solution alone (37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
Kale is often described as a “superfood” — and for good reason. It’s packed with compounds that may help decrease blood sugar levels, including fiber and flavonoid antioxidants.
A study that included 42 Japanese adults demonstrated that consuming either 7 or 14 grams of kale-containing foods with a high carb meal significantly decreased post-meal blood sugar levels, compared with a placebo (39Trusted Source).
Research has shown that the flavonoid antioxidants found in kale, including quercetin and kaempferol, have potent blood-sugar-lowering and insulin-sensitizing effects (40Trusted Source).
Numerous studies have linked berry intake with improved blood sugar control. Berries are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and they make an excellent choice for people with blood sugar management issues.
A 2019 study found that eating 2 cups (250 grams) of red raspberries with a high carb meal significantly reduced post-meal insulin and blood sugar in adults with prediabetes, compared with a control group (41Trusted Source).
In addition to raspberries, studies have shown that strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries may benefit blood sugar management by enhancing insulin sensitivity and improving glucose clearance from the blood (42Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source).
In addition to being creamy and delicious, avocados may offer significant benefits for blood sugar regulation. They’re rich in healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and adding them to meals has been shown to improve blood sugar levels.
Numerous studies have found that avocados may help reduce blood sugar levels and protect against the development of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions, including high blood pressure and high blood sugar, that increases chronic disease risk (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source).
However, keep in mind that many studies that have investigated the effects of avocado intake on blood sugar levels were funded by the Hass Avocado Board, which could have influenced aspects of the studies (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source).
13. Oats and oat bran
Including oats and oat bran in your diet may help improve your blood sugar levels due to their high content of soluble fiber, which has been shown to have significant blood-sugar-reducing properties (48Trusted Source).
An analysis of 16 studies found that oat intake significantly reduced HbA1c and fasting blood sugar levels, compared with control meals (48Trusted Source).
What’s more, a small study in 10 people found that drinking 7 ounces (200 mL) of water mixed with 1 ounce (27.3 grams) of oat bran before eating white bread significantly reduced post-meal blood sugar, compared with drinking plain water (49Trusted Source).
14. Citrus fruits
Although many citrus fruits are sweet, research shows that they may help reduce blood sugar levels. Citrus fruits are considered low glycemic fruits because they don’t affect blood sugar as much as other types of fruits like watermelon and pineapple (50Trusted Source).
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit are packed with fiber and contain plant compounds like naringenin, a polyphenol that has powerful antidiabetic properties (51Trusted Source).
Eating whole citrus fruits may help improve insulin sensitivity, reduce HbA1c, and protect against the development of diabetes (50Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source).
15. Kefir and yogurt
Kefir and yogurt are fermented dairy products that may help regulate blood sugar. Research has linked kefir and yogurt intake to improved blood sugar control.
For example, one 8-week study in 60 people with type 2 diabetes showed that drinking 20 ounces (600 mL) of kefir, a probiotic-rich yogurt drink, per day significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and HbA1c, compared with drinking kefir that did not contain probiotics (55Trusted Source).
Yogurt may also benefit blood sugar. A 4-week study in 32 adults demonstrated that consuming 5 ounces (150 grams) of yogurt daily improved post-meal insulin and blood sugar levels, compared with their baseline (56Trusted Source).
Eggs are an exceptionally nutritious food, providing a concentrated source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some studies have linked egg consumption to better blood sugar control.
A study in 42 adults with overweight or obesity and either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes showed that eating one large egg per day led to a significant 4.4% reduction in fasting blood sugar, as well as improvements in insulin sensitivity, compared with an egg substitute (57Trusted Source).
What’s more, during a 14-year follow up study in 7,002 Korean adults, frequent egg intake of two to less than four servings per week was associated with a 40% lower risk of diabetes, compared with eating eggs one time or less per week, in men but not women (58Trusted Source).
Apples contain soluble fiber and plant compounds, including quercetin, chlorogenic acid, and gallic acid, all of which may help reduce blood sugar and protect against diabetes (59Trusted Source).
Although total fruit consumption has been shown to decrease diabetes risk, eating specific fruits, including apples, may be particularly beneficial for lowering blood sugar and reducing the risk of developing diabetes (60Trusted Source).
A study that included data from over 187,000 people found that a higher intake of specific fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, was associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes (60Trusted Source).
Furthermore, a study in 18 women found that eating apples 30 minutes before a rice meal significantly reduced post-meal blood sugar, compared with eating rice alone (61Trusted Source).
The bottom line
Following a healthy dietary pattern is essential for optimal blood sugar control.
Whether you have prediabetes, diabetes, or want to lower your risk of developing these conditions, including the foods listed above as part of a nutritious diet may help reduce your blood sugar levels.
However, keep in mind that your overall dietary intake, as well as factors like your activity level and body weight, are most important when it comes to optimizing blood sugar control and protecting against chronic disease.
Author: Jillian Kubala
Source: Health Line: The 17 Best Foods to Lower (or Regulate) Your Blood Sugar