Jenilee Matz has a master’s degree in public health and worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a health communications specialist. She writes for several health publications including Everyday Health, HealthDay, and Diabetic Connect.

Having a sound diet is the foundation for good blood sugar control. But there are certain foods that keep your diabetes in check better than others.

These eight foods earn top blood sugar control honors

  1. Non-starchy vegetables. Fill your plate with non-starchy veggies like green beans, broccoli, kale, and spinach. Not only are these foods low in carbs, but they’re high in fiber too. This means they'll keep you full for longer than their starchy counterparts—potatoes, peas, and corn.

  2. Quinoa. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) makes many “super foods” lists because it’s one of the few non-animal sources of protein that’s considered a “complete protein.” One-half cup of cooked quinoa contains about 20 grams of carbs, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein, but it’s a whole grain, so it ranks low on the glycemic index. Use quinoa in place of rice in stir-fry and other dishes.

  3. Nuts. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, and the like are a great snack or salad topper choice for people with diabetes. Nuts are loaded with protein, fiber, and unsaturated (healthy) fat. What’s more, recent research suggests that eating 2.5 ounces of nuts per day may lower your A1c levels by up to .21 percent. Just watch your portion sizes since nuts are high in calories, and go for the unsalted variety.

  4. Chia seeds. This ancient seed packs a huge nutritional punch for its small size. One ounce of the seeds offers a whopping 11 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Chia seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect heart health. Mix chia seeds into yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies.

  5. Cinnamon. Preliminary studies have shown mixed results. However, some data suggests that adding cinnamon to your diet may lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 10 percent. More research is needed before experts can say if cinnamon is truly a “superfood” or not. But sprinkling some of the spice on your oatmeal, coffee, or sweet potatoes can’t hurt.

  6. Vinegar. A spoonful of vinegar may help your blood sugar go down, at least according to a handful of scientific studies. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to significantly slow down the usual post-meal rise in blood sugar in some research participants.

  7. Strawberries. Many people with diabetes shy away from fresh fruit because they're afraid of the sugar. But strawberries are high in fiber and water, making them a more satisfying snack than many alternatives.

  8. Steel-cut oats. The American Dietetic Association says unsweetened oatmeal is one of the best carbs for people with diabetes. That’s because it’s high in soluble fiber, meaning it will take longer to digest and won't cause your blood sugar to rise quickly.

Note that each person responds to steel cut oats differently. It’s best to start with a small portion to see how it affects you before moving on to a full serving.

What are your favorite foods for great blood sugar control?

To learn more on this topic:
5 Easy, Low-Carb Substitutions for Your Favorite Foods
Chia Seeds Help Control Appetite and Blood Sugar
Vigorous Vinegar Diabetic-Friendly Recipes