Research credits the Mediterranean diet with lots of health benefits, including its ability to help balance blood sugars and prevent long-term complications of chronic conditions like diabetes. Here are six foods from the Mediterranean diet that can help improve your blood sugar levels.
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We can all agree that sugar is sweet, but high blood sugar? Not so much. When it comes to carbs and other foods that affect blood sugar levels, the info can start to get a little sticky. You may have heard things like, "Eat enough of the right type of carb, but not too much of the wrong type, and don't eat too much at once, but also don't go too long without eating." It can be easy to get confused. But not to worry, several foods in the Mediterranean diet can help you improve your blood sugar levels deliciously.

Your blood sugar level, or blood glucose, is the amount of glucose (AKA simple sugar) in the blood. All of the food we eat is broken down into glucose because it's a form of energy our body's cells can easily use. Your blood distributes and delivers this glucose throughout your body, where it's then used as energy to fuel your cells and organs and to get you through your daily activities. Basically, your blood sugar helps regulate your energy levels, how well your organs and hormones function and can affect things like mood, sleep and weight loss.

Keeping blood sugar levels steady and avoiding serious drops and spikes can help ensure that your body continues to function properly. When blood sugar levels are consistently too high, the hormones that are released in response to blood sugar, like insulin, and the organs that release those hormones, like the pancreas, begin to not function properly. The domino effect that follows can include damage to the pancreas, insulin resistance, kidney dysfunction, nerve damage, heart disease and vision problems. As you can see, keeping your body and blood sugar levels balanced is important, and choosing the right foods can make sure everything continues to run smoothly. That's where the Mediterranean diet comes in.

Roasted Salmon Caprese

The Top Mediterranean Diet Foods for Better Blood Sugar

The Mediterranean diet features lots of good-for-you foods that have a positive effect on your overall health, with one major benefit being better blood sugar balance. Plus, it's an easy-to-follow eating pattern, so you can realistically stick to it for life. Unlike with many fad diets, you won't find a long list of foods you "shouldn't" eat or other strict rules with the Mediterranean diet. Just lots of delicious healthy foods! Here are the top Mediterranean diet foods to eat more of to help balance your blood-sugar levels.

1. High-fiber whole grains

Oats, whole-wheat pastas and breads, and grains like brown rice, quinoa, bulgar, farro, buckwheat and millet are all complex carbohydrates with fiber. Complex carbohydrates have more nutrients and take longer for your body to digest than simple, or "refined" carbohydrates, so they help fill you up and don't cause the same swings in blood sugars.

Incorporating about ½ cup of whole grains at each meal can ensure your body gets the carbs and sugar it needs without spiking levels too high and too quickly.

2. Colorful vegetables

Load your plate with vegetables and you'll soon see the benefits they deliver. Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, sweet potatoes, peppers and eggplant are all full of fiber to help stabilize blood sugar levels. Plus, veggies (and fruit) contain additional nutrients, like vitamins A and C, that can help protect your body from damaging inflammation that can occur from high blood sugars. The more color and variety you include, the wider range of helpful nutrients you'll receive, so be sure to incorporate lots of different fruits and veggies into your daily diet.

3. Fresh or frozen fruit

Next time someone tells you to never eat fruit because it's bad for you, please roll your eyes as dramatically as you can. Then go grab a piece of fruit and enjoy it. Fruit is high in fiber, and research shows that people who incorporate fruit into their diet see better blood sugar control, as the fiber slows the absorption of sugar. Some fruits are naturally higher in sugar than others, like pineapple and mango, so sticking to one serving at a time is a good way to still get your fill of these tasty foods without seeing your blood sugars rise too quickly.

If you want to pack in the fiber, choose bananas, berries and other whole fruits, like apricots, apples, peaches and pears. And frozen and canned fruits are great options, too! Just make sure you're choosing options without added sugars (e.g., canned fruit packed in water instead of in sugary syrup).

4. Beans and legumes

Are you sick of hearing the word "fiber" yet?! Too bad! Here it is again, this time in beans and legumes like lentils, chickpeas, black beans and split peas. Not only do these healthy foods include fiber, but they also include protein—another nutrient that helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Like fiber, protein slows down digestion, which means you won't see such sudden blood-sugar spikes after a protein-rich meal.

5. Healthy fats

The Mediterranean diet incorporates heart-healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, chia and flaxseed. Like fiber and protein, fat also helps to slow down digestion, thus slowing down the rate at which glucose enters your system. Plus, these healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties.

6. Fish and lean protein

Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and albacore tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of healthy fat that combats inflammation. So, not only do these foods help stabilize blood sugars, but they also help to protect your heart—and the rest of your body. Lean chicken and turkey are lower in saturated fat (the type of fat that can harm our heart when we eat too much), but high in satisfying protein, so make your plate protein focused! (Here's why it's important to take care of your heart when you have diabetes.)

Bottom Line

Eating more of these good-for-you foods not only makes it easier to balance your blood sugars daily, but including them in your diet may also help protect against long-term complications from diabetes. Fill your plate with these healthy foods, while cutting back on sugary sweets and beverages and other simple carbs that can quickly spike your blood sugar, and you're well on your way to better balance.