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Foods that help manage blood sugar levels

To celebrate Nutrition Month, the registered dietitians (RDs) at Sunnybrook Academic Family Health Team will be sharing compelling evidence for medical nutrition therapy in the management of chronic disease. Medical nutrition therapy involves the use of nutrition assessment, therapy, and counselling for the purposes of improving a health condition.  Each nutrition fact will be followed by a recipe to help translate evidence into real-life practice. Stay tuned for a new post every week in March! 

Medical Nutrition Therapy and Diabetes

Medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian can lower your blood sugars (HbA1C) by 1-2%.  One of the tools recommended by the most recent 2013 Canadian Diabetes Association guidelines is using the glycemic index. Glycemic index, also known as GI, measures how quickly a carbohydrate food raises your blood sugar levels. The GI is measured on a scale up to 100. The higher the number, the faster it raises your blood sugars. Choosing low GI foods can therefore help people manage their blood sugar levels.

Fun fact: The glycemic index has a Toronto connection – it is based on the research of Dr. D. Jenkins and colleagues from the University of Toronto!

Here are some examples of high and low GI foods. Try replacing one of your high GI foods with a low one to improve your meal.

Instead of (high GI)… Try this (low GI)…
White bread Pumpernickel
Corn flakes Oatmeal
Potato, baking (Russet) Sweet potato
Short-grain rice Parboiled rice
Pasta, overcooked Pasta, cooked al dente (5-8 min)

Oats are one of our favourite low GI foods, but it is the slow cooking type that is low GI.  Instant oats are often packed with sugars, and may still raise your blood sugars quickly since they score higher in the glycemic index.

Here is a new way to prepare your oats – no cooking required!

oatmeal breakfast, berries

Overnight Oats  

Serves 1

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk* and/or yogurt
  • Toppings** (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine ½ cup oats and 1 cup of milk into a bowl.
  2. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Add desired toppings.  Serve cold, or reheat for a warm bowl of oatmeal.

*You can use any variety of milk/alternative such as soy, almond, etc.

**Ideas for toppings: berries, apples, peaches, banana, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, slivered almonds, walnuts, dried dates, peanut butter, cinnamon, etc.

To connect with a registered dietitian, patients of the Sunnybrook Academic Family Health Team should ask their family doctor for a referral. If you have prediabetes or diabetes, you may call SUNDEC at 416-480-4805.

About the author

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Annie Hoang

Annie Hoang is a Registered Dietitian with the Sunnybrook Academic Family Health Team.

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