Spring means time to hit the farmers market for the freshest locally grown foods. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the community. But, having diabetes doesn’t mean saying goodbye to all of your favorite fruits and starchy vegetables. “Fruits and veggies are packed full of nutrients and vitamins that are beneficial for health in general, including for those with diabetes,” said Elizabeth Bernstein, MD, Medical Director at the Mission Diabetes Center. But savvy shopping at the farmers market combined with smart preparation in the kitchen is key.
“I tell my patients everything in moderation,” said Dr. Bernstein, who believes that even starchy vegetables such as corn, peas and sweet potatoes have their place in smaller portions. “If someone loves corn, they should have it, especially when local.” She qualifies this by adding that a half an ear of corn is 12-15 grams of carbs, and 45 grams is a reasonable target per meal – “So eat the corn, and go lighter on other carbohydrates.”
When it comes to fruit, Dr. Bernstein said berries are a good bet, noting that in general, a whole cup of strawberries is about 15 grams of carbs (again focusing on the smaller portion size). “I tell my patients to eat a slice of watermelon, just not the whole melon at one sitting,” said Dr. Bernstein.
Go for the Greens
That being said, the best way for persons with diabetes to fill up their farmers market baskets, and bellies, are with nonstarchy vegetables: leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach and bok choy, carrots, broccoli, green beans, cabbage and cucumbers, all of which have a lower glycemic load.
“The glycemic index or glycemic load does not always tell the whole story,” said Dr. Bernstein. “These tend to vary with how a food is prepared and with what other foods are consumed simultaneously.”
Once you get home, steaming, roasting or grilling vegetables are healthy recommendations. Pair with a whole grain for a meal low in carbohydrates and high in nutrients.
Elizabeth Bernstein, MD, is the Medical Director at the Mission Diabetes Center. (828) 213-4700