Are chickpeas good for diabetics?

10 Foods Diabetics Should Eat Daily

Making healthy food choices to control blood sugar is key for those with type 2 diabetes, but what if there were foods that not only kept diabetes under control, but also improved your diabetes and overall health – kind of how calcium can improve bone health? Researchers have identified some key functional foods that appear to improve the disease condition and possibly reduce risk.

Blueberries

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Eating the tiny blue fruit is a nutrient-dense way to get some of your daily carbs, and research also suggests that eating blueberries regularly – as well as other berries – improves insulin sensitivity. This means cells are more receptive to the body’s own insulin. Researchers also credit the anti-inflammatory effect of phytochemicals in berries as possibly reducing some of the cardiovascular risks seen with type 2 diabetes.

Oranges

Oranges, grapefruits, clementines – research suggests that consumption of citrus fruit has a positive, long-term effects on blood sugar, as well as cholesterol levels, thanks to the anti-inflammatory compound hesperidin and a healthy dose of soluble fiber. Additional research from Harvard School of Public Health suggests that eating the whole fruit, rather than the juice, was associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas, as well as beans and lentils, are well-known foods with a low glycemic index, making them good choices for diabetes, but new research suggests that eating legumes may actually have a therapeutic effect. In a 2012 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, individuals with type 2 diabetes consumed one cup of legumes daily as part of their carbohydrate intake for three months. When compared with other study participants, the daily legume eaters showed greater decreases in hemoglobin A1c values and decreases in blood pressure.

Dark Chocolate

Can a sweet treat really improve glucose control? Some research studies found that a small amount of high-quality, dark chocolate eaten daily decreases fasting insulin levels and blood pressure. Effects seen are attributed to compounds called polyphenols. Always discuss changes and additions to your diet with a medical professional first, but swapping a little bit of low-sugar, high-quality dark chocolate in place of other less healthy carbs could make your taste buds and glucose levels happier.

Plant-Based Meals

Vegetarians have a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but many have assumed it’s because they also tend to have lower BMIs. But a 2012 study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a high nutrient density (HND) diet – essentially centering daily intake around fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes while skipping the meat – has a big impact on those with diabetes. In fact, after following a HND diet for seven month, study participants had significant decreases in HgbA1c, blood pressure, and triglycerides, significant increases in HDL levels, and 62 percent had blood glucose levels within normal range.

Olive Oil

Replacing saturated and trans fats with healthier unsaturated fats is a key recommendation for all individuals, but the type of fats consumed may play an even greater role in the health of those with type 2 diabetes. That’s because diabetes is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Controlling weight, being active, and monitoring glucose levels through diet can help, but it’s important that heart-healthy fats and oils are the primary fats contributors to the diet. Consumption of extra virgin olive oil is associated not only with a decreased risk of diabetes, but some research suggests it may also improve glucose usage by cells thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects. Make olive oil your daily “go-to” when cooking and using oils in salad dressing, and also look for ways to incorporate nuts, seeds, avocado, and cold-water fish each week.

Green Vegetables

Higher Intakes of leafy greens and non-starchy, green vegetables in type 2 diabetics ages 65 and older was associated with decreased levels of HgbA1c and significant reductions in cardiovascular risk factors. It’s still being studied as to whether these effects are due to the nutrient-density of vegetables – specifically vitamins A, C, and E, and magnesium whose intakes have been associated with better glycemic control – or the substitution of these vegetables in place of less nutrient dense foods. Best results were seen when at least 200g of vegetables were consumed each day (about 3 to 3 ½ cups), with at least 70g from green veggies (about ¾ to 1 cup).

Nuts and Peanut Butter

Eating 5 servings per week of nuts (1 serving= 1 oz of nuts or 1 Tbsp of nut butter) was associated with a significant reduction in heart disease and stroke risk in women with type 2 diabetes in the long-running Nurses Health Study, while a 2011 study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that those with diabetes had improved blood sugar control and blood lipids when they ate 2 ounces of nuts daily in place of carbohydrates. Consider swapping out some refined carbohydrate calories for walnuts, almonds, or peanut butter – just be sure to watch the portion size and salt!

Probiotics

Over the past few years, several studies have examined the effects that “good” bacteria may have on glucose regulation, with some focusing on yogurt intake and others focusing probiotic intake. Initial findings on all studies suggests that eating foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt, significantly improves fasting glucose levels and/or HgbA1c when consumed regularly and longer than eight weeks.

Cinnamon

The savory-sweet spice cinnamon appears to increase insulin sensitivity, thereby helping to reduce blood sugar. The exact mechanism for how the sweet spice does this, as well as a recommended intake, is still being investigated, but most research points towards cinnamon’s ability to aid in blood glucose control on a daily and long-term basis, and doesn’t appear to have any potential side effects other than adding a little flavor. Try sprinkling a little on foods you’re already eating, like oatmeal, yogurt, and nut butters.

As the health body explains, this could make a person’s diet unbalanced; high in fat and calories, which could lead to weight gain. This makes managing blood sugar levels harder and hikes the risk of heart disease.

“It’s important to think about the balance of your meals, which should be low in saturated fat, salt and sugar and contain more fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and oily fish,” it advised.

According to Diabetes UK, people should include the following blood-sugar friendly options in their everyday meals:

  • Choose basmati or easy cook rice, pasta or noodles. Or, try plantain, quinoa or bulgur wheat for a change.
  • Eat wholemeal roti and include dhal in your meals.
  • Use new potatoes instead of old potatoes – try sweet potatoes for a change.
  • Instead of white and wholemeal bread, choose granary, pumpernickel or rye bread.
  • Swap frozen chips for pasta or noodles.
  • Try porridge, natural muesli or wholegrain breakfast cereals.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

According to the NHS, symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around a person’s penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision

A plant extract has also been shown to lower blood sugar.

Why Eating More of This High-Fiber Food May Lower Your Diabetes Risk

Pulses are trending big time. That includes all types of beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. New products—from lentil chips to roasted chickpeas—are appearing on grocery story shelves, and desserts made with pulse flours and pureed pulses are all over Pinterest (black bean brownies, anyone?). There’s a lot to love about pulses: They’re gluten-free and eco-friendly, and loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. And now, there’s another reason to add more pulses to your diet: Recent research suggests they might help you stave off type 2 diabetes.

A new study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition tracked more than 3,300 adults who were at high risk of heart disease for four years. Researchers found that compared to those with a low intake of pulses (12.73 grams/day, or about 1.5 servings/week), those with a higher consumption (28.75 grams/day, equivalent to 3.35 servings/week) had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study also showed that participants who substituted half a serving of pulses a day for a similar serving of eggs, bread, rice, or baked potato had a lower incidence of diabetes.

RELATED: 6 Simple Diet Changes That Help Prevent Type-2 Diabetes

The health protection that pulses offer may be related to several factors. In addition to being rich in B vitamins and minerals (including calcium, potassium and magnesium), pulses have a unique macronutrient makeup: The protein, fiber, and carbohydrates that pulses pack help to slow digestion. This extends the feeling of fullness, delays hunger, and results in a low glycemic response—meaning pulses help your body regulate blood glucose and insulin levels.

Full disclosure: I’m obsessed with pulses. A few years ago I wrote a book called Slim Down Now, with pulses as the cornerstone. It contains an eating plan that incorporates a ½ cup serving of pulses per day, either as the protein in a plant-based meal, or as the fiber-rich starch in a meal that includes animal protein (like adding white beans to tuna salad). I had a lot of fun developing the recipes for the book, which include pulse-based pudding, smoothies, frozen pops, chocolate truffles, and brownies, in addition to savory dishes, like lentil stuffed peppers, and cannellini bean “lasagna.”

I found that pulses are incredibly easy to incorporate into a wide variety of dishes, and the women who tested my plan lost weight—without feeling hungry, deprived, or lacking energy. I also devoted an entire chapter to research on the health benefits of pulses, which, in addition to blood glucose regulation include weight and belly fat loss, cholesterol reduction, cancer protection, improved athletic performance, and higher overall nutrient intake.

RELATED: 10 Protein-Packed Pulse Recipes That Satisfy

Now, if you’re worried about the potential “side effects” of eating more pulses—namely bloating and gas—know that your body will adapt. A study from Arizona State University looked into the bean bloat phenomenon by observing 40 volunteers for eight weeks.

One group in the study added ½ cup of canned carrots to their diet each day, while the second ate an extra ½ cup of beans. In the first week, about 35% of the subjects who added beans reported an increase in flatulence (note: 65% did not!). By week two, only 19% reported excess gas. And the number continued to decline each week—to 11% by week four, and down to 3% by week eight.

If you want to boost your own pulse intake, you’ve got plenty of options: Whip beans or chickpea flour into smoothies, or choose pulse-based soups. Add black beans or chickpeas to omelets and salads. Snack on roasted chickpeas, hummus or other pulse dips. Use pulse noodles in place of grain versions, and swap all purpose flour for chickpea or fava bean flour in baked goods, or to thicken sauces.

You can also think outside the box with hummus: Use it as a salad dressing, or in place of cream to make vodka sauce. I also use mashed, seasoned white beans as substitutes for eggs or cheese in many vegan recipes. The possibilities are endless. And the result is always a delicious, filling, and satisfying way to protect your health.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.

The Benefits and Risks of Avocados for People with Diabetes

1. It won’t cause spikes in blood sugar

Avocados are low in carbohydrates, which means they have little effect on blood sugar levels. A recent study published in Nutrition Journal evaluated the effects of adding half an avocado to the standard lunch of healthy, overweight people. They discovered that avocados do not significantly impact blood sugar levels.

Part of what makes avocados a good choice for people with diabetes is that, although they are low in carbs, they are high in fiber. Many other high-fiber foods may still spike blood sugar levels.

2. It’s a good source of fiber

One half of a small avocado, which is the standard amount people eat, contains about 5.9 grams of carbohydrate and 4.6 grams of fiber.

According to the National Academies, the minimum recommended daily fiber intake for adults is:

  • women 50 years and younger: 25 grams
  • women over 50: 21 grams
  • men 50 years and younger: 38 grams
  • men over 50: 30 grams

A 2012 review published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine looked at the results of 15 studies involving fiber supplements (around 40 grams of fiber) for people with type 2 diabetes. They found that fiber supplements for type 2 diabetes can reduce fasting blood sugar levels and A1c levels.

You don’t need to take supplements to achieve these results. Instead, try eating a high-fiber diet. You can easily increase your fiber intake by eating more low-carb fruits, vegetables and plants, like avocados, leafy greens, berries, chia seeds, and nuts. Here are 16 ways you can add more fiber to your diet.

3. It may help with weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity

Losing weight — even a little — can increase your insulin sensitivity and reduce the likelihood that you will develop serious complications.

The healthy fats found in avocado can help you feel full for longer. In one study, after adding half an avocado to their lunches, participants had a 26 percent increase in meal satisfaction and a 40 percent decrease in desire to eat more.

When you feel full longer after meals, you are less likely to snack and consume extra calories. The healthy fat in avocados, called monounsaturated fat, can also help your body use insulin more effectively.

A 2007 study evaluated different weight loss plans in people with decreased insulin sensitivity. The researchers found that a weight loss diet high in monounsaturated fats improves insulin sensitivity in a way not seen in a comparable high-carb diet. A weight loss diet is a diet with restricted calories.

4. It’s loaded with healthy fats

There are several different types of fat, generally categorized as heathy fats and unhealthy fats. Consuming excessive amounts of saturated fat, and any amount of trans fat, raises your bad (LDL) blood cholesterol levels. Trans fats at the same time lower your HDL (healthy) levels. High LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels are associated with a higher risk of heart disease in people both with and without diabetes.

The good fats, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, raise your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. The good cholesterol in your blood helps clear out bad cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Good sources of healthy fats include:

  • avocado
  • nuts, like almonds, cashews, and peanuts
  • olive oil
  • olive, avocado, and flaxseed oil
  • seeds, like sesame or pumpkin seeds

Good News: Avocados Are Even Healthier Than You Thought

We’ll take any excuse to eat avocados. They’re delicious on everything from salmon to sweet potatoes to sushi; their creamy texture makes them the ideal base for dips (guac!), and yup, we’ve heard avocados can be a tasty topping for toast.

Need more reasons to love everyone’s favorite OG superfruit? We’ve got plenty. Avocados are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients that help with cholesterol, bone density, skincare, and more. To break down the endless science-backed health benefits of avocados, we sat down with Christy Brissette, MS, RD, a registered dietician and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition.

Heart Health

Slice an avocado in half and put the narrow ends next to each other and you’ll have a heart-shape. Just one way to help you remember that this special fruit is good for your heart! “Avocados are heart-healthy thanks to their good fats, fiber, and vitamin K,” Brissette says.

The American Heart Association recommends that most of the fat in your diet is unsaturated. Over 75 percent of the fat in avocados is unsaturated fat or “good fat,” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Good fats don’t raise LDL cholesterol levels (the unhealthy type of cholesterol) which is helpful for a healthy heart. One-third of a medium avocado contains 5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat.

Avocados are also a good source of fiber (11 percent daily value or 3 grams for one-third of a medium avocado). Including fiber-rich vegetables and fruit may reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Type 2 diabetes and being overweight (or obese) are both risk factors for heart disease.

This healthy fruit is also a good source of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.

RELATED: This Is the Best Way to Speed Up—and Slow Down—the Ripening of Avocados

A study in overweight adults found that replacing carbohydrate-rich foods at breakfast with an avocado led to more relaxed blood vessels and improvements in HDL (good cholesterol) levels and triglyceride lipoprotein levels compared to when the participants had a low-fat, high-carb meal with the same number of calories.

“Swapping out foods that contain saturated fat and swapping in avocado is a great way to get more heart-healthy fats,” Brissette says. “Some of my favorite swaps are using avocado as the fat in egg salad, creamy pasta sauce, as a spread for bread or instead of other fats and oils in baking.”

RELATED: 4 Insanely Clever Ways to Eat Avocados

Blood Pressure

“Using avocados to replace other fats can be a part of the DASH eating plan, which may help lower blood pressure,” says Brissette.

Getting less sodium is one way to help lower blood pressure, but trying to get more potassium into your diet is another important part of the equation. Avocados contain 250 milligrams of potassium (6 percent daily value) for one-third of a medium avocado. Potassium is an electrolyte that can help lower blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium.

Weight Management

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, keep it off, or make healthier choices, nutrient density can help guide your food choices. “Nutrient density means a food provides plenty of nutrition for fewer calories,” Brissette says. “Avocados check both boxes: a serving of avocado (one-third of a medium avocado) has 80 calories and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals and beneficial plant compounds.”

Avocados can help stave off hunger and make you feel more satisfied, thanks to their fat and fiber content. A serving of avocado contains 6 grams of healthy fat. “Fat helps you feel more satiated and satisfied which can help you better stick to your eating plan,” Brissette explains. Research suggests that diets that include healthy fats are easier to stick to than low-fat diets, and can lead to more successful weight loss.

Avocados are a good source of fiber, too, which provides bulk and can help you feel full more quickly and feel full longer. “This could lead to eating less while feeling more satisfied, which can help support your weight management efforts.”

Diabetes

Avocados are one of the only fruits that don’t contain sugar. When eaten alone, they don’t tend to significantly raise blood sugar much, so they aren’t even assigned a glycemic index value (a measure of a food’s effect on blood sugar levels). They’re a good source of fiber, and eating a fiber-rich diet may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

A study based on national survey data found that Americans who eat avocados had a 50 percent lower odds ratio for metabolic syndrome compared to people who didn’t eat avocados. Metabolic syndrome includes symptoms such as high blood sugar and more fat around the waist, and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (as well as heart disease and stroke).

Nutrient Booster

Thanks to the good fat in avocados, this unique fruit can help your body absorb more fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. That makes fresh avocado a great addition to your sweet potatoes, eggs, and leafy greens.

Immune System Support

Avocados contain 6 percent daily value for vitamin E per serving. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that supports your immune system and helps protect your cells from free radical damage.

Eye Health

When you think of foods for eye health, you probably think of carrots. Time to add avocados to that list! “Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that may help support eye health as you get older. These carotenoids could help prevent macular degeneration, which is worsening eyesight due to aging,” explains Brissette. Per serving, avocados contain 136 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Brain Health

Lutein is the main carotenoid in the brain. Brain levels of lutein are related to better cognitive performance in older adults. Research suggests that eating whole food sources of lutein, such as avocados, increases the amount of lutein in the blood more than taking lutein supplements.

In one study of adults ages 50 and older, eating one medium avocado a day for six months improved cognition—specifically, working memory and spatial planning—compared to the groups who ate a medium potato or a cup of chickpeas.

Bone Health

Avocados are a good source of vitamin K, a nutrient that supports healthy bones by helping maintain bone strength as you age.

Pregnancy

Avocados are a healthy choice throughout your pregnancy, while you’re breastfeeding, and beyond. The fiber and monounsaturated fats in avocados have been linked to better maternal health, birth outcomes, and breast milk quality.

A serving of avocado contains 6 grams of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats support normal growth and development of the nervous system and brain for your baby.

“If you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, folate and folic acid are probably on your radar as a key nutrient to get more of. It’s in your prenatal vitamin supplement, and you can get even more with healthy avocados,” says Brissette. “Avocados are a good source of folate, which is needed for brain function and to lower the risk of birth defects and premature birth.”

Rich, creamy and flavorful, avocados are a versatile fruit that add heft and health to many dishes. While avocados have a high fat content, they are also packed with nutrients and are a great way to add healthy fat to your diet.

“Avocados are very high in omega 3 fatty acids, the good kind of fat, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid,” said San Diego-based nutritionist Laura Flores. It accounts for about three-quarters of the calories in an avocado. Monounsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Avocados also have a higher percentage of protein — about 4 grams — than other fruits. Their sugar levels are also comparatively low.

Avocados contain many essential vitamins and minerals. Flores said that they are a good source of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin K and fiber, which aids digestion and helps maintain regularity. Additionally, avocados are high in magnesium, phosphorus, iron and potassium, containing even more potassium per gram than bananas, according to the New York University Langone Medical Center.

Fresh avocados contain lycopene and beta-carotene, which are important carotenoid antioxidants. The highest concentration of these antioxidants is located in the dark green flesh closest to the peel, according to the California Avocado Commission. Antioxidants help reduce cell damage.

Here are the nutrition facts for avocados, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:

Nutrition Facts Serving size: 1/5 medium California (1.1 oz / 30 g) Calories 50 Calories from Fat 35 *Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Amt per Serving %DV* Amt per Serving %DV*
Total Fat 4.5g 7% Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0% Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sodium 0mg 0% Sugars 0g
Potassium 140mg 4% Protein 1g
Vitamin A 4% Calcium 0%
Vitamin C 4% Iron 2%

Health benefits of avocados

Heart

“Avocados are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk for heart disease,” said Anne Mauney, a dietitian based in Washington, D.C.

High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are associated with a higher risk of heart disease, but the vitamin B6 and the folic acid found in avocados can help regulate it.

A seven-year study published in 2013 in Nutrition Journal found that avocados were associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which refers to a group of symptoms shown to increase the risk of stroke, coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory agent

“Avocados have great anti-inflammatory properties,” said Flores. She listed avocados’ “phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols” as being able to “help both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.”

Lowering cholesterol

Avocados may help not only lower bad cholesterol, they may also increase levels of good cholesterol. A 1996 study in the journal Archives of Medical Research found that patients with mild hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) who incorporated avocados into their diet for one week had a 22 percent decrease in bad cholesterol and triglycerides and an 11 percent increase in good cholesterol. Avocados also improved cholesterol for people who already had good lipid levels, but were shown to be especially effective in those with mild cholesterol problems. Avocados can help in this way because of their high amount of the beta-sitosterol compound, which is associated with lowering cholesterol.

Regulating blood sugar

According to Reader’s Digest, avocados’ high levels of monounsaturated fats can help stop insulin resistance, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the soluble fiber in avocados can help keep blood sugar levels steady. In comparison to other fruits, the low carb and sugar levels in avocados also help maintain blood sugar.

Regulating blood pressure

Avocados’ high levels of potassium can help keep blood pressure under control. The American Heart Association reported that potassium helps regulate the effects of salt, which can increase your blood pressure.

Vision

According to Avocado Central, the website of the Hass Avocado Board, avocados are an excellent source of the carotenoid lutein, which reduces the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Immune system

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant associated with immune system health. A 2000 report in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society stated, “The immune system works best if the lymphoid cells have a delicately balanced intermediate level of glutathione.” Avocados are a good source of this substance, according to American National University.

Pregnancy and preventing birth defects

According to the California Avocado Commission, avocados are a great choice for moms-to-be. Avocados contain a significant amount of folic acid, which is essential to preventing birth defects like spina bifida and neural tube defects.

Cancer

“Avocados have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, skin and prostate,” said Flores. This is “due to the unusual mix of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics.” Furthermore, a 2007 study in the journal Seminars in Cancer Biology found that the phytochemicals in avocados encourage cancer cells to stop growing and die.

Digestion

The fiber in avocados helps keep digestion on track, encouraging regular bowel movements, healthy intestines and a healthy weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Skin

The vitamin C and vitamin E in avocados help keep skin nourished and glowing, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Avocado and B12 cream may be useful in treating psoriasis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Health risks

As with many other fruits, avocados’ primary risks are related to overconsumption. “Consuming too many avocados may lead to weight gain because of the fat content, even though it is an unsaturated fat,” said Flores. “It can also lead to nutritional deficiencies, since fat is digested slower and leaves you feeling fuller longer than other nutrients.”

Additionally, avocado allergies, while uncommon, do exist. They are typically associated with latex allergies, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include a stuffy nose, wheezing, coughing and edema. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating an avocado, try cutting the fruit out of your diet to see if the symptoms disappear. If they persist or are severe, consult a doctor.

Avocado facts

  • Avocados, native to Central and South America, have been cultivated in these regions since 8000 B.C.
  • The major commercial producers of avocados are the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia.
  • California produces 95 percent of all avocados grown in the United States.
  • The avocado is colloquially known as the alligator pear because of its shape and the leatherlike appearance of its skin.
  • There are dozens of varieties of avocados, including the Hass, Fuerto, Zutano and Bacon varieties.
  • The Hass variety is the most popular type of avocado in the United States. The average California Hass avocado weighs about 6 ounces (170 grams) and has a pebbled, dark green or black skin.
  • The Fuerte avocado, usually available during winter months, has smoother, brighter green skin.
  • The word “avocado” is derived from the Aztec word “ahuacatl,” meaning testicle.
  • Avocados are the fruit from Persea americana, an evergreen tree that can grow up to 65 feet.
  • Avocados vary in weight from 8 ounces to 3 lbs. (226 grams to 1.3 kilograms), depending upon the variety.
  • An avocado is ripe and ready to eat when it is slightly soft, but it should not have dark sunken spots or cracks. An avocado with a slight neck, rather than a rounded top, was probably tree-ripened and will have better flavor.
  • Because healthy carotenoids lie just under the skin, the best way to peel an avocado is what the California Avocado Commission calls the “nick and peel” method. Cut the avocado lengthwise. Hold both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they separate. Remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise into long quarter sections. Using your thumb and index finger, grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, the same way you do with a banana skin.

Can Beans and Rice Work in Your Diabetes Diet?

THURSDAY, April 12, 2012 — White rice and anything made with white flour are big diabetes diet “don’ts.” Multiple studies have shown that as you digest these “white” foods, your body essentially treats them like sugar, which can cause a blood-sugar spike in patients with the disease and also increase a person’s risk for developing diabetes. (Rice consumption is one reason diabetes rates are high among Asian populations.) Beans, meanwhile, are a complex starch that’s thought to be a healthy component to most diets. Beans are high in fiber and protein, and contain essential nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and folate, as well as a compound that can inhibit the blood’s ability to absorb sugar.

So when you combine the good and the bad, does it add up to a diabetes-friendly dish? That’s the question researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University posed in their recent study published in Nutrition Journal as part of an effort to help tailor diabetes care to cultural groups. After examining the blood glucose levels of adults with type 2 diabetes who consumed either pinto beans and white, long grain rice, black beans and white, long grain rice, red kidney beans and white, long grain rice or white, long grain rice alone, researchers found that the pairing of any type of beans with rice can help stop unhealthy blood sugar spikes.

In the trial, blood glucose levels were significantly lower for the three bean and rice groups compared to the rice-only group after 90, 120, and 150 minutes. Because beans and rice are a popular food combination in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, researchers believe this new finding can help people living with type 2 diabetes in those cultures adhere to a diet that will help them better manage their diabetes or decrease their disease risk

“As healthcare practitioners, it is vital that we are culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of others who are different from us,” researchers wrote in the study abstract. “Dietary recommendations, materials and counseling should be culturally sensitive andtake into account valued traditional foods such as beans, especially when the scientific evidence supports their beneficial role in the diet.”

For more diabetes news, follow @diabetesfacts on Twitter from the editors of @EverydayHealth.

I’ve started eating a lot more beans. Why? They are healthy and cheap. They make me feel good, and it turns out they taste great if you prepare them right. Research shows that beans are even better if you have diabetes.

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A woman in my neighborhood got me started. We were talking about diabetes, and she said she had been diagnosed with Type 2 five years ago. But she now eats beans with every meal, and all her numbers are back to normal, including her glucose tolerance test. I figured I should look into it.

Of course the first place to look is always Diabetes Self-Management‘s Amy Campbell. Here’s what she wrote in 2007:

“Beans are a rich source of protein. One cup of beans contains about 16 grams of protein, the same as 2 ounces of meat or chicken. People who are vegetarians typically use beans and bean products as their main source of protein. Beans contain no cholesterol…and only about 1 gram of fat (non of it saturated, either).”

That’s just the start. Amy says beans “also contains about 15 grams of fiber…which can help lower cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease…Beans are also a great source of iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as vitamin A and folate.”

That column was from five years ago. Since then, others have been shouting the praises of beans even more loudly. According to Jim Healthy, editor of the Web site My Healing Kitchen, “Beans are best for diabetes,” because “they are loaded with all-important fiber, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars in your bloodstream, assists your body’s insulin response to glucose, and helps you burn fat faster.” They will limit the spikes in glucose levels after meals. (See last week’s blog entry “Stop Spiking Those Sugars!”)

Healthy cites the research of James Anderson, MD, from the University of Kentucky, who found that people with Type 1 were able to reduce insulin use up to 38% by eating beans.

And a writer on Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong.com site wrote, “Beans are a superfood: rich in fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, yet low in fat and cholesterol free.” He mentions a study by JL Sievenpiper and associates that showed lowered fasting blood sugar levels and A1C levels in people who ate beans and other “pulses,” as this family of foods is called.

Edible beans include kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, soybeans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, and dried peas, and probably some more I haven’t heard of. Usually they do not have a strong taste, meaning that you can season them any way you want. You can find about 30 tasty recipes for beans on , a whole bunch more at My Healing Kitchen, and at other Web sites such as The Bean Bible.

Beans might not just rock your world. They could help save it. As a vegetarian protein source, they are great for the environment. You can raise at least twenty pounds of bean protein with the same amount of land, water, and energy needed to raise one pound of meat protein. This means beans have a vastly lower “carbon footprint” than meats, and don’t have all pollution and contamination problems of meat. They also enrich soil instead of depleting it.

Important as well is that beans are cheap. Matt Jabs at Debt-Free Adventure says he lowered his family’s monthly food bill by almost 40% by using beans instead of meat. Jabs says you save more money by buying dry beans and cooking from scratch, instead of wet beans in cans.

Why don’t people eat more beans, then? You know, it’s the gas thing. But Amy Campbell has some answers for that, too:

• If you soak dry beans, discard the water and cook in fresh water. With canned beans, discard the can water and rinse them.

• Season with ginger, coriander, turmeric, fennel.

• Add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda to the soaking water.

• Lentils, black-eyed peas, lima beans, white beans, and chickpeas may be less gas-producing than kidney beans or black beans.

Campbell also says that your body will probably get used to beans over time and have less of a gas problem.

I’d give you some recipes of my own, but I’m not a very good cook. I’d love to hear yours. Great for health, budget, and the environment — beans really rock!

Want to learn more about beans? Read “The Beauty of Beans (Part 1),” “The Beauty of Beans (Part 2),” and “Beans May Improve Blood Glucose Control,” then try our recipes for Refried Beans, Quick White Bean Soup, and Black Beans and Rice.

Power Foods for Diabetics: Beans

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Living with diabetes is no easy feat—the careful planning, constant monitoring, and dietary limits can be daunting for anyone, whether you were diagnosed yesterday or years ago. Power Foods for Diabetes is a cookbook that’s totally here to help you solve your dietary dilemmas.

Sign up for our new weekly newsletter, ThePrep, for inspiration and support for all your meal plan struggles.

The stars of the show? Twenty “power foods” recommended by the American Diabetes Association that aim to make living with the disease easier—and healthier! We’re highlighting a few of the essentials that will fit right in with your fall and winter menus.

Spotlight on: BeansBeans are, well, magic, of course! A rock-star power food, beans pack protein and fiber into your daily meals. Some of their superpowers include lowering blood glucose levels, reducing cholesterol, and helping you lose weight – all essential for diabetics and healthy eaters alike. Although canned and cooked beans feature these health benefits, dried beans are a great source of potassium, calcium, folate, and other B vitamins. In other words, beans are total overachievers just dying to be included in your next meal.

Fun Facts:

  • Beans are an easy way to meet daily fiber requirements (25 grams for women, 38 grams for men).
  • Use them in soups, stews, casseroles, salads, or dips.
  • Canned beans can pack a secret punch of sodium—look for unsalted varieties or rinse them before using to remove 40% of the sodium.

Check back soon for more highlights and recipes from Power Foods for Diabetes. (And in the meantime, pick up your copy at a bookstore near you.

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More Resources for Diabetics:

  • Diabetic Recipes
  • Diabetes-Friendly Holiday Dishes
  • Carbohydrates and Diabetes

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