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Eat More Legumes for Better Diabetes Control

If you have type 2 diabetes, you probably already know that you need to keep a close eye on what you eat. Certain foods can affect how well you manage your condition. A recent study suggests people with diabetes should try adding more legumes to their diet. Researchers found that eating more of them may lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Photo of dried beans and legumes

Loving legumes

Legumes are foods that include beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Such foods are naturally high in protein and fiber - two components that may boost heart health. Legumes are also rated low on the glycemic index, which measures the amount of sugar in a food. Eating foods on the low end of the index may help control diabetes better.

"Legumes, which we always thought were good for the heart, actually are good for the heart in ways we didn't expect," says lead researcher David Jenkins, M.D., at the University of Toronto. Among people with diabetes, "not only did their glucose control become better, but - and this surprised us - it had a significant effect on blood pressure."

For the study, researchers had 121 people eat either 1 cup of legumes or 1 cup of whole-wheat foods a day. After about three months, researchers noted both groups saw a drop in blood sugar and blood pressure levels. But those eating legumes had the most improvement in both levels.

Focusing on a better diet

Experts stress that people with diabetes should focus on a healthy diet. Legumes can certainly play a part in that, even if you can't eat a cup a day. Other studies have suggested that legumes can lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.

"Legumes will do well for you," says Dr. Jenkins. "They will help you keep your blood pressure down and your blood glucose under control. They can help you keep your cholesterol down, too."

This study was published in a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study was partially funded by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, a nonprofit organization representing legume growers in Canada.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - Diabetes and Diet

American Diabetes Association - Food and Fitness

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse - What I need to know about Eating and Diabetes

December 2012

A Healthy Lifestyle for Type 2 Diabetes

Following a healthy meal plan and getting regular physical activity can help you control your blood sugar and stave off complications. Here are some healthy living tips from the American Diabetes Association:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods each day. Try new foods and eat different foods within each section of the USDA's Choose My Plate food plan.

  • Eat foods that are high in fiber. These include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Eat less fat. Fats, particularly saturated fats and cholesterol, increase the risk for heart disease.

  • Use less added sugar. You don't have to give up dessert, but you should practice moderation. Many sugar-free, low-calorie, and low-fat desserts are available.

  • Don't salt your food. When shopping or eating out, choose foods that are lower in sodium. Most of your daily sodium intake comes from processed, prepackaged foods, such as canned goods and frozen meals.

  • Engage in moderate to vigorous physically activity daily. Try to get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise each day.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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