Best foods to lower your blood sugar without medication

May 8, 2024

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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Key Points

  • Lowering blood sugar levels and reducing insulin spikes can help you stay healthy longer.
  • Your diet is a powerful tool in managing or preventing prediabetes and diabetes.
  • Balancing your meals with enough protein, fiber, and healthy fats can make a big difference.

Struggling with high blood sugar, prediabetes, or diabetes can feel like a constant balancing act. It’s not just about managing symptoms; it’s about finding long-term stability. 

One of the best tools at your disposal? Your diet. 

What you eat plays a pivotal role in controlling and lowering your blood sugar levels. Adjusting your food choices can lead to better blood glucose balance and overall health. 

Whether you're looking to tweak your eating habits or overhaul them, understanding how different foods affect your sugar levels is a great place to start.

What are low glycemic (GI) foods? How do they lower blood sugar?

Low-glycemic (GI) foods don't cause your blood sugar to spike quickly after eating them. They break down more slowly in your digestive system, which means sugar is released gradually into your bloodstream.

This slow release of sugar helps stabilize blood sugar levels, providing a steady and reliable stream of energy instead of sharp spikes and dips in insulin levels.

Let's explore low-glycemic foods that help lower blood sugar levels.

Whole vegetables

Including whole vegetables in your diet is a great way to help manage blood sugar levels. Here are a few vegetables that are particularly good for that:


Broccoli is low-calorie and rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, contain a powerful antioxidant called sulforaphane, which helps lower blood sugar and inflammation in the body.


A close cousin of broccoli, cauliflower is a non-starchy vegetable that is low in carbs and rich in fiber and nutrients. 

It is also versatile and can be used in many dishes (it's even grated and used as a rice substitute called 'riced cauliflower'). By lowering the total glycemic index of your meal, it helps balance your blood sugar levels.


Spinach is excellent for anyone monitoring their blood glucose levels. It is low in carbohydrates and rich in dietary fiber, which results in a low GI and helps stabilize blood sugar.

Says Registered Dietitian Rita Faycurry, RD," Spinach is full of nutrients, including a chemical called glutamine, which has anti-inflammatory properties. It also provides plant-based iron, magnesium, and potassium. Magnesium also helps you lower inflammation and keep blood sugar levels in check. To start with, consider having a small bowl of spinach 2-3 times a week."

Adding spinach to your diet is easy, even on a busy day. Eat it raw, steam it, or chop and mix it into stir-fry dishes, soups, sandwiches, or omelets.


Kale is a superfood known to lower high blood sugar levels. A small study out of Japan found that eating kale helped stabilize blood glucose spikes after a meal.

Additionally, this leafy vegetable is packed with powerful nutrients like magnesium and Vitamin C, both of which help regulate blood glucose. Kale is also high in dietary fiber, which slows down digestion and helps you stay full longer.

Bell peppers

Bell peppers are loaded with goodness and a great way to get your daily intake of whole vegetables. The assortment of colors can make your plate look vibrant and inviting, and they have a low glycemic index, which prevents blood sugar spikes. 

Add them to a stir fry, omelet, or scrambled eggs for easy, nutritious meals. You can even eat them raw in salads.


Cucumbers are very low in carbohydrates and high in water and fiber, making them an excellent choice for managing blood sugar. 

Faycurry RD cautions, "Some people experience bloating or gas after eating cucumbers because they are fiber-rich and contain a chemical called cucurbitacin. Try eating them in smaller amounts first to see how your body responds to them."


Nuts and nut butters are a great way to add healthy fats to your diet. They are relatively lower in carbohydrates, rich in fiber, and even contain protein. They help you feel full faster and for a longer time, preventing your blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly. 

Remember, nuts are nutritious but high in calories, so just a handful of nuts daily is enough to meet your daily requirements.


Like nuts, seeds are packed with nutrients, protein, fiber, healthy fats, and more. Flaxseeds, for example, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and pumpkin seeds are great sources of magnesium and zinc. Magnesium and fat help control blood sugar. 

Like nuts, seeds may be powerful, but they are only needed in small amounts. The easiest way to get your seed intake is to sprinkle mixed seeds into your breakfast oats or toss them on a salad.

Flaxseeds and chia seeds

Flaxseeds and chia seeds have other superpowers. They are exceptionally high in soluble fiber (when you put them in water, they form a gel-like substance). This soluble fiber slows down the digestive process and how fast sugar is absorbed from your meal, keeping insulin spikes at bay.

Faycurry, RD advises, "One ounce of chia seeds packs 10 grams of dietary fiber—just a handful per day is enough. However, they can expand up to 8 times their size when wet. If consumed dry, they may compact into a hard mass in your gut. It’s best to soak them; even 5 minutes helps, but 20 minutes will create a good, pudding-like texture. If you must eat them dry, drink plenty of water."

If you are trying to control your high blood sugar, figuring out what and how much to eat can be complicated. However, you do not have to do it alone. 

A Registered Dietitian can simplify it by tailoring a nutrition plan just for you. Want to talk to an expert? Fay can help you find a Registered Dietitian near you, covered by insurance.

Healthy oils

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends cooking with more plant-based oils and seed oils instead of animal-based fat.

Some healthy oils to help control blood sugar include:

Extra virgin olive oil

Studies suggest that the monounsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oil can help people with type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugar management and reducing HbA1C levels.

Sesame oil

Sesame oil is a staple of many Asian countries and is loaded with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A study reported that it helped lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Avocado oil

Avocado oil is heart-healthy and helps regulate high blood sugar. Its high smoke point means it can be used to cook various dishes. The disadvantage is the cost; cooking regular meals with avocado oil may be too expensive.

Canola oil

Canola oil is an affordable, plant-based oil with a high smoke point. It can be used to cook a variety of dishes. One small clinical trial found that eating a low glycemic index diet with canola oil helped improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Note: Use healthy fats in moderation when preparing your meals. 


Benefits of protein in your diet

Protein is excellent for keeping blood sugar steady because it slows down how quickly sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. This means you avoid those big spikes after meals, which helps keep your energy levels consistent throughout the day.

Plus, it makes you feel fuller longer, which helps control blood sugar and your appetite.

How much protein do you need?

According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, 10-35% of your diet should come from protein.

Faycurry RD adds, "While some studies show that a ketogenic, low-carb diet can help people control their blood sugar levels, not everyone can sustain this type of restrictive diet in the long term. There are other effective diabetes diets, like the Mediterranean diet, to consider."

As a general rule of thumb, The Diabetes Plate Method recommends filling a quarter of your plate with protein. However, individual protein needs may vary; a Registered Dietitian can tailor your protein intake for you.

Animal protein sources

Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, and trout. The ADA recommends eating fatty fish two times a week if you have diabetes

Chicken is a lean protein with no carbohydrates, so it's a great addition to a meal to manage your blood sugar levels. It does not lead to insulin spikes and helps you feel full faster. Three ounces of chicken breast (about the size of your palm) has 27 grams of protein

Turkey breast is similar to chicken because it is lean meat containing no carbohydrates and will help you meet your protein requirements. Three ounces of turkey breast offers about.

Vegetarian protein sources

Beans and other legumes have been a staple in diets since the beginning of farming. Native to Central and South America, beans spread to Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world as a reliable and affordable protein source for the masses.

Faycurry RD elaborates, "One cup of cooked beans has approximately 15 grams of protein. Just like a Mediterranean diet, a vegetarian diet that includes legumes, beans, and lentils has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. A Registered Dietitian can help you figure out how much protein you need, because everyone's protein requirements are different.”

So, beans, other legumes, and lentils are some of the best plant-based protein sources. They offer protein, are widely available, and are cost-effective options when cooking for a family.

If you want to follow a low-carb diet, consider lentils, peas, green beans, black beans, or kidney beans, as they contain fewer carbohydrates.

Other vegetarian protein sources include tofu, tempeh, dairy, sprouted lentils like mung beans, and nutritional yeast.

Whole grains

Faycurry RD says, "Consider choosing brown rice instead of white, steel-cut oats over quick-cook oats and unsweetened whole-grain cereal for breakfast. If you like a sweeter taste in the morning, throw in some fiber-rich fruits like apples, pears, and berries."

The ADA's Diabetic Plate Method recommends filling a quarter of your plate with whole grains. Studies show this can help prevent insulin spikes, lower insulin resistance, and delay the onset of diabetes.

Whole fruit

There's a myth that you can't eat fruit if you have diabetes, but that's not true. Fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals. Though they have sugars, they also contain fiber, which helps manage those sugars.

Like vegetables, fruit offers a healthy mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps us manage blood sugar levels and get the nutrients we need. The secret lies in how much fruit you eat and in what form.

Faycurry RD explains, "Fruit does have the sugar fructose, so portion size matters. Try starting with 2-3 servings a day. A serving of most fruits is 1/2 cup, except for berries, which is 3/4 cup. Consider fresh, high-fiber fruits like apples, berries, and pears.”

She adds, “It's best to avoid or limit canned or dried fruits, as they're usually loaded with added sugars. Also, go for whole fruits instead of juice; they have more fiber and won't spike your blood sugar levels as much. And a pro tip: pair your fruit with some protein or healthy fats, like nuts or a bit of cheese, to balance it out."

Here are some low glycemic index (low gi) fruits to consider:

  • Apple: A medium apple gives you about 5 grams of fiber and 19 grams of sugar.
  • Pear: A medium pear gives you 5.5 grams of fiber and about 17 grams of sugar.
  • StrawberriesHalf a cup of strawberries gives you 2.7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of sugar.

The best part is that everyone can benefit from eating this way. You can also follow these tips whether you are on diabetes weight loss medications like Ozempic or not.

How to build diabetes-friendly meal plans?

A healthy plate includes all food groups, and half your plate is filled with non-starchy vegetables. Ideally, the rest of the meal has sides of whole grains and lean protein. Portion sizes can vary based on your individual nutritional needs. Fruit can be added to a meal or eaten as a snack. 

Do you have prediabetes or diabetes and would like to lower your diabetes risk? A personalized diabetes diet plan developed by a Registered Dietitian can help you find what works best for you. Fay can help you find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist near you, covered by insurance.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.


Fay Nutrition has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Chandana Balasubramanian is an experienced healthcare executive who writes on the intersection of healthcare and technology. She is the President of Global Insight Advisory Network and has extensive experience working in the medical devices and life sciences industries. Chandana holds a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.