best vegetables for diabetes

The Role of Vegetables in Managing Type 2 Diabetes

Vegetables can play a valuable dietary role for people with type 2 diabetes. They provide fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that can help manage inflammation, support weight loss, and boost overall health.

What Vegetables Spike Blood Sugar?

People with type 2 diabetes can eat any food, but they may need to plan carefully to avoid blood sugar spikes. This will mean considering how portion size and carbohydrate content fit in with their specific diabetes meal plan.

Vegetables can provide variety and flavor. They can also be very filling while still being relatively low in calories.


Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels While Consuming Vegetables

In this article, we look at the best and not-so-best vegetable choices for people with type 2 diabetes, while also explaining the benefits of eating vegetables regularly as part of a nutritious meal plan for people who are regularly monitoring their blood sugar levels. 

Best Vegetables For Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy choices of vegetables for type 2 diabetes will most likely:

  • be fiber-rich
  • contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and;
  • contain nitrates, which may help to reduce blood pressure

In addition, people should choose a variety of vegetables, focusing particularly on the ones they enjoy. If a person rarely eats vegetables because they do not enjoy them, it may be time to do some experimenting! 

Eating a wide variety of foods, including a mix of vegetables, can help people with diabetes stay healthy while enjoying a range of tasty meals.


Studies show that high levels of blood sugar cause this sugar to oxidate and form free radicals — byproducts that can be harmful to body tissues and health.

There is also evidence that inflammation plays a role in the development and progression of type 2 diabetes. Antioxidants can help greatly reduce free radicals and manage inflammation.

Examples of antioxidants-rich vegetables include the following:



– Vitamin A and Carotenoids-Vision, reproductive, and immune system health Leafy Greens (Spinach), Non-Starchy (Peppers), Root (Carrots) Starchy (Sweet Potato-in moderation)
– Vitamin C-Blood pressure, heart, immune health Cruciferous (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts), Non-Starchy (Red Peppers), Low-Sugar Fruit (Tomato)
– Vitamin E-Immune system, red blood cell health Leafy Greens (Spinach), Cruciferous (Broccoli), Low-Sugar Fruit (Tomato)
– Protects Against Phenols-irritations to skin, eyes, nose, throat and nervous system Leafy Greens (Spinach, Cabbage), Cruciferous (Broccoli), Non-Starchy (Red peppers), Allium (Onion)
– Flavonoids-Heart health, blood circulation, protects against osteoarthritis Allium (Onion), Leafy Greens (Kale, Watercress), Root (Rutabaga, Turnip), Cruciferous (Broccoli)

Consuming a diet that contains a range of vegetables can benefit anyone’s health, and some antioxidants may have even more specific benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.

These special benefits include:

  • Alpha-Lipoic acid (ALA): Helps slow down metabolic syndrome, oxidative stress and diabetic neuropathy. Found in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach. 
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): Prevents side effects of drug reactions, toxic chemicals and breaks down excess mucus. Found in Allium vegetables, such as onion and garlic

Some experts have suggested that these antioxidants, in particular, might even help reduce the risk of diabetic complications.


People with type 2 diabetes often have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease because persistently high blood sugar levels can damage the heart and the blood vessels.

Eating foods naturally rich in nitrates may help reduce blood pressure and improve overall circulatory health.

Nitrates are chemicals that naturally occur in specific vegetables. Some manufacturers use them as preservatives in foods, such as cured bacon and cold cuts. It is best for people to choose vegetables with naturally high nitrate content rather than those with nitrate that manufacturers have added during processing.

Nitrate-rich vegetables include:

  • Leafy Greens-(Arugula, Lettuce)
  • Root-(Beet, Beetroot, Beet Juice)
  • Umbellifers-(Celery)
  • Rheum rhabarbarum-(Rhubarb)

Protein and vegetables

Protein-rich foods help people feel fuller for longer periods of time, reducing the urge to overeat or snack between meals.

Protein also stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas. In this way, it can help lower blood sugar levels after a meal or snack that combines a protein source with carbohydrates.

Daily protein recommendations depend on a person’s size, sex, activity level, and other factors, such as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. A person should consider consulting a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to help determine their unique daily protein needs.

Protein-rich vegetables include:

  • Cruciferous-(Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Bok Choy, Watercress)
  • Leafy Greens-(Spinach, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens)
  • Perennial/Fibrous-(Asparagus)
  • Herbs-(Alfalfa Sprouts)

Providing fiber

Vegetables can also be an excellent source of fiber.

Fiber may help in the following:

Foods that are high in fiber take longer to digest. A person will feel full for longer and be less likely to have a blood sugar spike. Raw vegetables have more fiber than cooked, ground, or otherwise processed vegetables.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 25 grams (g) of fiber per day for females and 38 g for males. This recommendation varies depending on body size, overall health, and similar factors.

Here are some vegetables that contain protein and fiber. The table shows how much protein, carbohydrate, and fiber each raw vegetable contains per 100 g (around 3.5 ounces), according to the USFDA:


Protein in Grams (g)

Carbohydrate (g)

Fiber (g)

Spinach 2.86 3.63, of which 0.42 is sugar 2.20
Bok Choy 1.50 2.18 1.00
Asparagus 2.20 3.88, of which 1.88 is sugar 2.10
Mustard Greens 2.86 4.67, of which 1.32 is sugar 3.20
Brussels Sprouts 3.38 3.80, of which 2.2 is sugar 3.80
Broccoli 2.57 6.27, of which 1.4 is sugar 2.40
Cauliflower 1.92 4.97, of which 1.91 is sugar 2.00

leafy greens

Vegetables to limit

People with diabetes can eat anything they choose as long as it fits in with their specific meal plan. A person will need to take into account the amounts of carbohydrates they are eating at any meal or throughout the day.

Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, are high in carbohydrates, but people with diabetes do not need to avoid them. Instead, they can work with a Registered Diabetes Nutritionist to develop a meal plan that includes the vegetables they enjoy.

Are low-GI vegetables best?

A glycemic index (GI) ranking rates foods according to their:

  • Dietary fiber content
  • Added sugar
  • Starch-to-sugar ratio
  • Liquid-to-solid ratio

The GI produces a measure of how much glycemic potential there is in each gram of carbohydrates — in other words, the chance of that food raising blood sugar levels.

The theory is that the body absorbs blood sugar faster from high-GI foods than low-GI foods. This means that foods that are high on the GI index are more likely to lead to a blood sugar spike, and a person with type 2 diabetes may want to consider eating them in moderation.

The chart below shows the approximate GI value of some popular vegetables.

It is essential to note, however, that many factors can affect the rate at which the body absorbs sugar. As a result, the GI may not be a reliable indicator of “good” and “bad” vegetables or other foods for people with diabetes.


Approximate GI Value


Carrots, raw 16 Low
Chickpeas dried and boiled 31 Low
Frozen green peas, boiled 39 Low
Chickpeas canned in brine 41 Low
Sweetcorn-frozen and heated 47 Low
Yam 51-63 Medium
Sweet Potato-peeled, cubed, and boiled 59 Medium
Boiled sweetcorn 60 Medium
Carrots, peeled, boiled, and ground 60-77 Med/High
Beets 64-80 Med/High

Why Choose Vegetables?

Reasons for choosing vegetables include the following:

  • They provide a range of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • The carbohydrates in vegetables provide energy but are less likely to cause a blood sugar spike than those from baked goods and sweet snacks.
  • Vegetables with a low to moderate GI ranking, such as raw carrots, can help manage blood glucose levels.
  • Nitrate-rich foods, such as beets, can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Eating a range of vegetables can provide the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants the body needs to stay healthy.
  • Vegetables can be a filling, low-calorie option for people managing their weight.

Diabetes Meal Tips

Here are some health tips for eating vegetables with type 2 diabetes:

  • Opt for fresh foods where possible.
  • When buying canned foods, choose those without added sugar or salt or drain the liquid before use.
  • Flavor vegetables with herbs, spices, or low-salt seasonings. Drizzle with lemon juice or try a vinegar pepper sauce.
  • Boil, bake, or grill vegetables or roast them in a little vegetable oil rather than frying them. This will reduce calories and fat intake.
  • Leave the peel on vegetables when possible to boost the fiber content.
  • Where appropriate, opt for raw vegetables as they contain more nutrients.
  • When adding high-fiber foods to the diet, introduce them gradually to prevent abdominal discomfort.


Here are some more tips for making the most of vegetables in your meal plan:

  • Aim for half a plate of non-starchy vegetables, such as asparagus, a quarter of carbs, such as potato, and a quarter of lean protein, like chicken breast.
  • Use vegetables such as celery sticks, raw carrots, and sliced peppers as snacks or with a yogurt-based dip instead of candies, cookies, or chips.
  • Swap sweetened juices for vegetable juices or vegetable smoothies, but note that the additional processing will put these forms higher on the GI scale than eating the raw vegetable.
  • Aim for a variety of colors on the plate, as a range of colors tends to reflect a range of nutrients.

For people with diabetes, the best approach for a healthy lifestyle is to focus on a balanced, varied diet. Vegetables have high nutritional value but are just one part of your diabetes management plan.  Don’t forget your daily moderate exercise! Work with your healthcare team to develop a sound diabetes meal plan, an effective exercise routine, and a blood sugar monitoring schedule to navigate you on your journey to better health and wellness.

Learn More With CopilotIQ Today!

If you need help creating and following a healthy meal plan that aids in managing your type 2 diabetes—CopilotIQ is here for you. A nurse will build a personalized meal plan around your life and needs. Contact us to learn more. 

Join the 1000’s of CopilotIQ members reversing their diabetes and blood pressure.