Last updated on October 29th, 2023
Dealing with type-2 diabetes can be difficult. It involves making some significant changes to your diet and lifestyle to maintain healthy insulin levels and overall health. One of the biggest adjustments for people diagnosed with type-2 diabetes is the need to be cautious about what they eat, especially when it comes to snacking. With the diagnosis, it can feel like a lot of snack options are suddenly off the table because most conventional snacking options are considered unhealthy and they might cause blood sugar spikes.
The good news is that there’s a delicious and nutritious solution: nuts. These little powerhouses of flavour and health benefits contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients. Like any other great snack food, nuts are also inexpensive, easy to manage for storing and easy to pack when you’re on the go. When eaten in moderation, they are good for your heart, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels offering a tasty and satisfying way to maintain your health while enjoying delicious snacking options. Let’s take a closer look at the best nuts for diabetics to eat.
Nuts: A Good Choice for Diabetes and Heart Health
To understand which nuts are good for diabetics, we need to understand their nutrition profile. Nuts have these good fats called unsaturated fats, which are friendly to your heart and help your body deal with insulin better. This is very important for diabetes management. They’re also packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep your body in good shape.
But what truly sets nuts apart for diabetics is their ability to help control blood sugar levels. Despite being calorie-dense, they have a minimal impact on blood sugar when consumed in moderation. This is because they have a mix of good fats, protein, and fibre that work together to keep your blood sugar steady. Plus, eating nuts regularly can lower the inflammation in your body that is linked to heart disease and diabetes.
Including nuts in your diet can:
- Make your blood vessels healthier.
- Reduce inflammation linked to heart disease.
- Lower the risk of creating blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
- Decrease your chances of having high blood pressure.
- Make you less likely to develop heart disease early.
- Lower bad cholesterol levels (the LDL kind) and triglycerides, which can block your arteries.
Promoting Heart Health and Managing Diabetes with Portion Control
Portion Control Matters: Like all things, nuts are also good only if consumed in moderation. But like any delicious snack, having them in moderation is a bit of a task. Nuts, while undoubtedly nutritious, require careful portion control for individuals with diabetes. This is because nuts contain fats, even if they are mostly the healthy kind. Calories can still add up.
Ideal Portion Size: For most people with diabetes, the ideal portion is around 28 grams ( 23 almonds or 45 kernels of pistachios). This portion provides essential nutrients without overwhelming you with excessive calories. Consuming larger amounts can have counterproductive effects, potentially leading to an intake of too many calories, which could impact both your blood sugar levels and your body weight.
Nuts for Cholesterol Management: Diabetic people are at an increased risk of heart disease and hence, maintaining correct cholesterol levels is extremely important for them. Nuts come to the rescue here as well. Studies have even shown that eating a small handful of nuts every day can make your cholesterol numbers look better. That’s because nuts are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that your heart loves. So, adding nuts to your diet is a simple and tasty way to give your heart some extra love and keep your cholesterol in check, which is extra important when you have diabetes.
Boosting Heart Health: Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats, especially the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, that have been found to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This reduction is significant in lowering the risk of heart disease. Additionally, nuts have a unique ability to maintain or even increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream, further enhancing heart health for individuals with diabetes.
Best Nuts for Diabetes
Best nuts for diabetes management include almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and peanuts, as they are low in carbohydrates and rich in healthy fats and fibre, which can help stabilise blood sugar levels. These healthy nuts for diabetics can be a valuable addition to a well-balanced diet. Now, let’s explore the four best nuts for diabetic patients that are particularly beneficial.
Recommended Portion Size: 14 walnut halves can provide the health benefits without excessive calorie intake.
Walnuts have an impressive nutrient profile and are one of the nuts that diabetics can eat. These nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fibre. It is important to note that fats like omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by our body, and walnuts are an excellent source for it.
- The fats present in walnuts can improve the insulin sensitivity in one’s body and reduce the risk of heart related problems, which is often a concern for people with diabetes. The omega-3 fatty acids also give walnuts their anti-inflammatory properties, which enhances insulin sensitivity, making them an excellent choice for diabetics.
- Fibre can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, helping to prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar after meals.
- Walnuts contain essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which contribute to overall well-being and can support a diabetic’s nutritional needs.
Fun & Healthy Recipes to Try: Try Walnut and Roasted Chickpeas Chaat or Walnut and Lentil Patties for nutritious snacks that help manage blood sugar levels and boost overall well-being.
Recommended Portion Size: A typical recommended serving size is about 24 almonds or a small handful of almonds.
- Almonds are known for their magnesium content, a mineral that can play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels. Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, which is particularly beneficial for those with diabetes.
- Apart from this, almonds offer a satisfying crunch, making them a delightful snack.
- They are also high in fibre and heart-healthy fats, contributing to their overall health benefits.
Fun & Healthy Recipes to Try: Almond and Vegetable Upma, a savoury and satisfying option, and Almond and Spiced Yogurt Dip, a tasty accompaniment to veggies or whole-grain crackers.
Recommended Portion Size: A typical serving size is about 45 pistachios or a small handful of pistachios.
- Pistachios, also called “skinny nuts” are packed with antioxidants such as lutein, β-carotene, and γ-tocopherol that help combat the harmful free radicals in the body. By neutralising these free radicals, pistachios can assist in preventing cell and tissue damage, contributing to overall well-being.
- Pistachios are considered a complete protein source and are also high in potassium and unsaturated fatty acids, which act as antioxidants and help lower the oxidative stress in the body.
Fun & Healthy Recipes to Try:
Pistachios make for a delectable standalone snack but can also be had in the form of home-made sugar free biscuits or mixed with milk which is flavoured with saffron and cardamom.
Recommended Portion Size: A typical serving size is about 28 peanuts or a small handful of cooked peanuts.
- While technically legumes, peanuts are often included in the nut category due to their similar nutrient profile. They are a cost-effective source of protein and healthy fats, making them a favourite among many.
- Peanuts can help stabilise blood sugar levels when consumed in moderation, and their affordability makes them accessible to a wide range of people with diabetes.
Fun & Healthy Recipes to Try:
For a diabetes-friendly snack, one can whip up a tasty peanut butter dip to accompany sliced apples or spread peanut butter on toasted whole wheat bread. Another delicious choice is a spicy and tangy peanut chaat, perfect for an evening treat.
Other than these best nuts for type 2 diabetes, here are some healthy nuts that people with type 2 diabetes can try.
5. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are known for their unique creamy texture and rich flavour. They are high in monounsaturated fats, the same heart-healthy fats found in olive oil. These fats have been shown to improve heart health and insulin sensitivity, making macadamia nuts an excellent choice for diabetics.
Cashews are another worthy option for diabetic people. They are low in sugar and high in protein, making them a satisfying and nutritious snack. Additionally, cashews provide essential nutrients like iron and zinc, contributing to your overall well-being.
7. Mixed Nuts
If you prefer variety, mixed nuts can be a convenient way to enjoy different flavours and nutrient profiles. However, it’s essential to be mindful of portion control when indulging in mixed nuts. The mix usually contains a variety of nuts, and it’s important to be aware of the specific types and their effects on blood sugar.
Worst Nuts for Diabetics
While all nuts have their unique nutritional profiles, not all of them are equally good for diabetics, so it’s important to make informed choices.
Here are some nuts that diabetics should enjoy sparingly or avoid entirely.
1. Honey-Roasted or Salted Nuts
Nuts coated in sugar syrups or coated in salt are best if avoided by diabetics. The added sugar and salt significantly increase the calorie and carbohydrate content, making them a bad option for blood sugar control.
2. Candied Nuts
Candied nuts, often seen as a delightful treat, are loaded with sugar. Their sugar content negates the potential benefits of the nuts themselves. Diabetics should steer clear of these sugary temptations.
The Health Benefits of Nuts for Diabetics
Weight management is a critical aspect of diabetes care. Excess body weight can exacerbate insulin resistance and make blood sugar control more challenging. The best nuts for insulin resistance, despite being calorie-dense, can actually support weight management.
The combination of healthy fats, protein, and fibre in nuts promotes a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. This can help curb your appetite and reduce overall calorie intake, making it easier to maintain or lose weight while still enjoying delicious and nutritious snacks.
2.The protein in nuts can increase the thermic effect of food (TEF). This means that the body expends more energy to digest protein-rich foods, helping to boost metabolism and support weight loss.
3. Fibre and Digestive Health
Fibre is a key component of many nuts and plays a crucial role in digestive health. Soluble fibre, in particular, has been shown to slow the absorption of glucose, helping to stabilise blood sugar levels after meals. It can also lower blood cholesterol levels, which is beneficial for overall heart health.
4. Antioxidants and Inflammation
Inflammation is a major factor in the development and progression of diabetes and its complications. Antioxidants, which are present in various nuts, help combat inflammation by neutralising harmful free radicals in the body.
5. Heart Health
Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease. Nuts can help mitigate this risk in several ways:
- Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels, reducing blood clot formation, and decreasing inflammation.
- Monounsaturated fats, present in macadamia nuts and almonds, can reduce LDL cholesterol levels, which is beneficial for heart health.
- Fibre in nuts can also contribute to heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
6. Other Nutritional Benefits
In addition to the specific benefits for diabetics mentioned above, nuts offer a wide range of essential nutrients:
- Vitamins: Nuts contain various vitamins, including vitamin E, which is important for skin health, and B vitamins, such as niacin and folate, which support energy metabolism and nerve function.
- Minerals: Nuts are rich in minerals like magnesium, which plays a role in blood sugar control, and phosphorus, which is vital for strong bones and teeth.
- Protein: Nuts are a good source of plant-based protein, making them an excellent option for individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets. The protein content in nuts can help regulate blood sugar levels and support muscle health.
Soaking Nuts: Nutrient Benefits and Enhancing Digestibility
Soaking almonds and walnuts, in particular, before consuming them can have several health benefits. This practice is especially relevant when it comes to almonds, where soaking and removing the peel can further enhance the nutrient absorption. Some more advantages of soaking nuts are:
- May Improve Digestibility: Soaking nuts can make them easier to digest. For example, soaking almonds can reduce the antinutrient levels in them. This can in turn lead to better nutrient absorption.
- Enhanced Nutrient Bioavailability: Soaking reduces the presence of tannins and phytic acid, which can bind to minerals and make them less available for absorption. By soaking the nuts, you make the minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, more available for absorption.
- Peeling Almonds: Almond peels contain tannins, which are compounds that can inhibit nutrient absorption. By removing the peel, you minimise the impact of these tannins and enhance the overall nutrient absorption from almonds.
- Best Time to Consume: While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to when you should consume soaked nuts, the evening is often considered an ideal time. This is because it aligns with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, and the fats and proteins in nuts can provide a steady source of energy to keep you satisfied until bedtime.
Just remember to rinse and drain them properly after soaking to remove any residual compounds that may have been released during the soaking process.
How to Incorporate Nuts into Your Daily Diet in Addition to Snacks?
The versatility of nuts allows for various ways to incorporate them into your diet beyond simple snacking. Here are some ideas:
- Add a sprinkle of chopped nuts to your morning cereal or oatmeal.
- Include nuts in smoothies and shakes for an extra nutrient boost.
- Have some overnight soaked nuts in your oat puddings.
- Top your salad with a handful of toasted nuts and seeds for added crunch and protein.
- Incorporate nuts into sandwiches, wraps or pulao for a satisfying crunch.
- Use crushed nuts as a healthier and flavourful alternative to breadcrumbs when you need to coat something.
- Toss nuts into stir-fries or roasted vegetable dishes for added texture and a nutty flavour.
- Prepare a custom trail mix with your preferred nuts, dried fruits, and a touch of dark chocolate for a balanced and satisfying snack.
- Keep a small container of nuts with you for an on-the-go energy boost.
- Consuming 10-12 soaked and peeled almonds before bedtime can help counteract the dawn’s phenomenon, which often leads to high fasting sugar levels in the morning.
Incorporating the right nuts into your diet as a diabetic can be a delicious and beneficial choice. With proper portion control and a focus on the best nuts for diabetes, you can manage your blood sugar levels, support heart health, and enjoy the nutritional advantages that nuts offer. Remember that while nuts are a valuable addition to your diet, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist to create a personalised dietary plan that suits your specific needs.
Read More: Is Ketogenic Diet Safe For Diabetics?
FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
Nuts that lower the blood sugar level are the best nuts for prediabetes. Some examples are:
While salted nuts can be enjoyable, it’s wise to choose unsalted varieties. Excessive salt can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease, which is already a concern for diabetics.
Yes, nuts can aid in weight management. Their combination of healthy fats, protein, and fibre can help you feel full and satisfied, potentially reducing overall calorie intake.
Sugar or salt roasted nuts and candied nuts are best avoided due to their high carbohydrate and sugar content. These can lead to rapid blood sugar spikes.
Absolutely! Nuts can be added to salads, yoghurt, oatmeal, and even used as a coating for baked chicken or fish. Their versatility makes them a valuable ingredient in various dishes.
The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.