Around 30.3 million adults in the United States have a form of diabetes. A healthful diet can help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of complications.
Nuts are one of several foods that the American Diabetes Association lists as beneficial for people with the condition.
In this article, we describe why nuts can be of use to people with diabetes and look into five of the best nuts to incorporate into a healthful diet.
Why are nuts useful for diabetes?
Almonds may help reduce the risk of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes.
Nuts contain high levels of beneficial fats.
The unsaturated fats in nuts perform a range of important functions, such as supporting cell growth and protecting organs, including the heart.
Also, nuts are rich in protein, an essential nutrient, and they contain a range of other nutrients that are important for physical health, including:
However, not all nuts benefit people with diabetes. For example, it is important to avoid salted nuts because the salt may increase the risk of complications.
The following are the best nuts for people with diabetes:
Almonds have a range of benefits for individuals with this condition.
A study from 2011 found that incorporating almonds into the diets of participants with type 2 diabetes for 12 weeks positively affected blood sugar and reduced the risk of heart disease.
A more recent study, from 2017, looked into the effect of daily almond consumption over 24 weeks in people with type 2 diabetes. The authors found that incorporating almonds into the diet helped control blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Almonds reduce the body’s levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which can block arteries. They increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. This is part of the reason why almonds reduce the risk of heart disease.
Walnuts may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Walnuts are high in calories. However, a study in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that they do not have a major impact on body weight or composition.
The researchers assigned 112 participants at risk of diabetes either a low-calorie diet or a diet rich in walnuts for 6 months.
They found that the walnut-enriched diet was able to improve the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol without negatively affecting body composition.
In a study from 2018, researchers investigated the association between walnut consumption and diabetes risk in 34,121 people.
They found that people who had eaten walnuts in the past 24 hours were half as likely to have diabetes, compared with people who had eaten no nuts in this period.
Cashews can help improve the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
In a 2018 study, researchers gave 300 participants with type 2 diabetes either a cashew-enriched diet or a typical diabetes diet.
Those on the cashew-enriched diet had lower blood pressure and higher levels of HDL cholesterol after 12 weeks. The cashews also had no negative impact on blood glucose levels or weight.
Pistachios are relatively energy-dense, but they contain healthful amounts of fiber and beneficial fats.
As part of a 2015 study, researchers gave either a pistachio-enriched or a regular diet to participants with type 2 diabetes over 4 weeks.
They found that the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol was significantly better in the pistachio group, in comparison with the regular diet group. Those on the pistachio diet also had lower triglyceride levels, which indicate better heart health.
Peanuts are rich in protein and fiber.
Peanuts are a good source of protein and fiber. They can help with weight loss and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
One study from 2013 looked at the effect of peanuts on the diets of females with obesity who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that adding peanuts to cereal helped control blood sugar levels and appetite in participants. This can help with weight loss, which has a significant impact on diabetes risk.
As a diverse type of food, nuts can be easy to incorporate into a healthful diet. They can provide a good source of protein and beneficial fats for people with diabetes.
To avoid excess calorie intake, consider a serving size to be a small handful or one-fourth of a cup.
Nuts can make a simple snack. Most are safe to eat raw, and they are available in many grocery stores. People with diabetes should avoid salted varieties.