7 Good Carbs for Diabetes That Nutritionists Want You to Eat

Updated: Jan. 31, 2024

If you have diabetes, you can (and should) eat carbs. The key: eating proper portions and choosing carbs that will help control blood sugar. Here are some suggestions for good carbs for people with diabetes.

Low GI Food and Blood Sugar Testing Equipment
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Choosing the best carbs if you have diabetes

When you have diabetes, you need to be smart about choosing healthy food. Although low-carb diets are popular, carbohydrates are actually an important part of a well-rounded diet.  That’s because they’re the body’s main source of energy and they are some of the most nutritious types of food you can eat.

It’s true that carbohydrates are found in sugary drinks and candy, but they are also in fruit, dairy, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and more. Carbs do drive blood sugar, so if you have diabetes, you need to choose wisely.

From oatmeal to lentils, here are some good carbs for people with diabetes.  They’re tasty ways to feel full, get all the nutrition you need, and help you control your blood sugar.

Oatmeal porridge in bowl for healthy breakfast
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1. Healthy carb: Oatmeal

Eating oats (the kind without added sugar) can slightly lower both fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1c, a three-month measure of blood sugar levels. Why is oatmeal so good for you?  That’s because of its relatively high fiber content, which slows down digestion and blunts the impact of blood sugar on the body. Have 1/2 cup cooked.

Make a savory oatmeal: Top with a soft-cooked egg and mushrooms and onions sautéed in low-sodium vegetable broth.

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sliced sweet potato
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2. Healthy carb: Sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are also a source of carbs that are good for people with diabetes. These orange spuds are digested more slowly than the white variety, thanks to their high fiber content. Season with a dash of cinnamon, shown to help control blood sugar. Have 1/2 cup cooked.

Make a snack: Top a baked sweet potato with cinnamon and almond butter.

brown rice
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3. Healthy carb: Brown rice

Whole grains like brown rice contain all three parts of the fiber-rich grain kernel, while white rice and other refined grains have only the endosperm intact. The fiber helps to slow the speed at which carbohydrates hit your bloodstream. Have 1/3 cup cooked.

Make rice pudding: Mix rice with equal parts light coconut milk, and combine with dried cranberries and cinnamon; cover and soak overnight.

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Green and red lentils in wooden spoons on sackcloth
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4. Healthy carb: Lentils

The 2015-2020 Guidelines for Americans recommend eating more protein-rich pulses, such as lentils and beans. And for good reason: Along with 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, 1/2 cup cooked lentils contains potassium, which helps to control blood pressure. This is especially important because two in three people with diabetes have high blood pressure or take medication to lower blood pressure, according to the American Diabetes Association. Have 1/2 cup cooked.

Make a salad: Combine with diced pears and apples, dried cranberries, fruit-infused balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.

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5. Healthy carb: Freekeh

Like rice, this ancient grain offers fiber: Each 1/3 cup serving of the cooked grain has up to 13% of your daily need. It also contains the mineral manganese, important for blood sugar control. Have ⅓ cup cooked.

Make a salad: Combine with arugula, tomato slices, diced red onion, feta, olive oil and lemon juice.

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Greek yogurt
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6. Healthy carb: Plain Greek yogurt

A 3/4 cup serving of plain 2% fat Greek yogurt contains about 7 grams of carbs (about half the amount in a slice of bread), along with essential nutrients, such as protein and calcium. Getting enough calcium is essential for people with diabetes, who may be more likely to have poorer bone density. Have 3/4 cup.

Make a parfait: Mix with sliced strawberries and chopped almonds.

Bowl of blueberries
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7. Healthy carb: Wild blueberries

Wild blueberries have three to five more antioxidants—which may play a role controlling blood sugar—than traditional blueberries, according to research out of University of Alaska Fairbanks published in the Universal Journal of Circumpolar Health. Have 3/4 cup defrosted frozen wild blueberries.

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Make a smoothie: Blend with frozen banana slices, almond butter, and almond milk.