The Best Grains for Diabetics

by Kara Bauer Patient Expert

As those with diabetes know, limiting carbohydrates, especially grains, is an important dietary step in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. However, when you do decide to enjoy a grain dish, there are a few options that will not only keep you on your path to recovery, but also provide you with an array of nutrients and health benefits.

Overall, consuming high glycemic index foods that have been processed/refined (stripped of all their vitamins, minerals, fibers and other nutrients) to make white varieties of rice, pasta, bread, bagels, crackers, and cookies can cause extreme ups and downs in blood sugar levels, overwork the liver and pancreas, and rob the body of existing vitamins and minerals such as calcium and magnesium from its storage banks in order to break down and digest the food properly.

Low glycemic index, complex, whole grains such as buckwheat, amaranth, millet, brown rice, quinoa, and kamut are ideal choices for someone with diabetes. Each one described below contains many key nutritional properties that can be helpful in both the prevention and management of diabetes.

Buckwheat: This "grain" actually comes from a fruit seed making it an ideal food for those with gluten sensitivity and diabetes. Research findings have shown that buckwheat can actually lower blood sugar levels. Buckwheat is high in magnesium, phytonutrients, and dietary fiber.

Amaranth: Also a non-gluten "grain," amaranth is high in protein (15 to 18 percent) and is a good source of calcium (116 mg per cup). It's rich in amino acids and contains more lysine than any other grain. It's also a great source of fiber, iron, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals.

Millet: This energy producing grain provides 26.4 percent of the daily value for magnesium, a co-factor for the enzymes involved in insulin secretion and glucose levels. It may help decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, blood lipid levels, and prevent gallstones. It is also high in fiber, phosphorus, and gluten-free.

Brown rice: Rice in its natural form is very nutritious, containing extremely high levels of manganese (88 percent daily value), which promotes a healthy nervous system and lowers cholesterol. When brown rice is processed into white rice, it loses the majority of its nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. In its organic form, it's high in fiber and selenium and great for lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Quinoa: This gluten free super food has the highest protein content of any other grain, containing all 9 essential amino acids. Like amaranth, it also contains close to 100 mg of calcium and is a good source of iron, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and many other vitamins and minerals. It is also loaded with magnesium making it another ideal preventative grain for type 2 diabetes.

Kamut: This grain contains many of the properties of wheat, but is much less allergenic, making it digestible even for some with gluten intolerance and wheat allergies. It has 20 to 40 percent of the protein contained in wheat and is higher in lipids, amino acids, magnesium, phosphorus, and many other vitamins and minerals, making it a highly nutritious alternative.

Kara Bauer
Meet Our Writer
Kara Bauer

Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.