What can I eat? If that’s not the first question you ask after a diabetes diagnosis, it’s probably a close second.
You figure fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list (they are); lean meats, some fish, and healthy whole grains make the cut too. Those you expect; these you may not: oils, olives, nuts and seeds, avocados, and dark chocolate. These five foods are packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs (moo-fahs) for short.
Incorporating “good” unsaturated fats into a fruit-veggie-lean-protein-whole-grain diet helped people with prediabetes reduce their risk of developing full-blown type 2 by almost 60 percent, according to a landmark government study. And now, emerging research points to MUFAs in particular as potential superheroes for controlling blood sugar, reducing insulin resistance, and fighting belly fat specifically visceral belly fat, the dangerous kind found deep in your abdomen and strongly associated with prediabetes and diabetes.
Of course, you can’t simply add lots of chocolate or handfuls of nuts to an unhealthy diet and expect great results. The key is to work right-size portions of oil, olives, nuts and seeds, avocados, and dark chocolate into the mix of healthy foods you’ll eat at every meal. Here’s a closer look at how these five fab foods help fight diabetes and boost your health, plus some delicious recipes you can try today.
Choose your MUFA: Canola oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, peanut oil, pesto sauce, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, walnut oil
Diabetes-friendly facts: Research shows people with type 2 diabetes who followed a Mediterranean diet enriched with MUFAs had their fasting blood sugar drop by 30 points—that’s enough to lower the doses of diabetes medications, or in some cases, eliminate them entirely. MUFAs also lower insulin resistance—which is when cells throughout the body stop responding to insulin’s commands to take in sugar from the bloodstream; eating saturated fat actually increases resistance, according to Swedish scientists.
Added health bonus: Extra virgin olive oil contains antioxidants that short-circuit the growth of heart-threatening plaque on artery walls. Canola, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower oils are rich in vitamin E, which may help prevent atherosclerosis and colon cancer.
One serving equals: 1 tablespoon
Try this:Balsamic Roasted Carrots recipe
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Choose your MUFA: Black olives, black olive tapenade, green olives, green olive tapenade
Diabetes-friendly facts: Sprinkle sliced olives over pasta or spread tapenade on your favorite crackers and you set in motion body-chemistry changes that usher dangerous visceral fat out. When researchers at Penn State University assigned 53 overweight adults to a low-fat diet packed with carbs or a higher fat diet with plenty of MUFAs, the MUFA group saw a 20 percent reduction in visceral fat.
Added health bonus: Rich in copper and iron—which protect your nerves, thyroid gland, and connective tissue throughout the body—as well as vitamin E.
One serving equals: 10 large olives or 2 tablespoons of tapenade
3. Nuts and Seeds
Choose your MUFA: Almonds, Brazil nuts, natural peanut butter, dry-roasted cashews, dry-roasted peanuts, dry-roasted sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, roasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts
Diabetes-friendly facts: One step before prediabetes is metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that can also lead to heart attacks, strokes, some forms of cancer, and even dementia. Exercise helps fight metabolic syndrome, and so do MUFAs: One study found that among people who followed a Mediterranean eating plan with extra nuts and a Mediterranean diet with an extra serving of virgin olive oil, the rates of metabolic syndrome dropped 14 percent and 7 percent, respectively. People who followed a low-fat diet only saw a 2 percent drop.
Added health bonus: These little nutritional powerhouses are full of fiber, protein, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and other nutrients—many of which help protect your heart, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and keep you feeling full.
One serving equals: 2 tablespoons
Try this:Fruit and Nut Muffins recipe
Choose your MUFA: Florida avocado, Hass avocado