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Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics

April 18, 2008, last updated May 17, 2016

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Last updated July 8, 2016 (originally published April 18, 2008)
By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by Registered Nurses and
Certified fitness professionals on our Editorial Board]

What should someone with diabetes eat for breakfast? In other
words, is there really an ideal breakfast for a diabetic?  
According to researchers, the answer is two-fold.  The foods
should be
"low-glycemic", meaning they do not raise your
blood sugar rapidly. Second, the foods should keep your blood
sugar low and level for hours into the day.  

Let's start out with the basics. Build your plate around protein.
Proteins have zero glycemic-index value, meaning they will not
raise your blood sugar.

Proteins clearly have the edge over refined grains in keeping
blood sugar steady. By contrast, refined grains like white bread
are almost valueless from a dietary point of view, practically
junk foods. Plain white bread has a glycemic-index value of 71,
according to
Harvard University Health's glycemic index guide.
Any value over 55 is considered "high". For example, white
table sugar has a glycemic index value of 58.

But here is what is surprising. Certain rough,
whole grains
have the quality of lowering blood sugar levels and continuing
to lower them for hours or days after consumption. They, as a
supplement to the protein-core that should be the middle of
your plate at breakfast, seem to work better than protein alone.

Is there a clear winner --a clear "right choice" of breakfasts for
someone with diabetes among all foods and food groups?  It
turns out there is.    Researchers at Lund University in Sweden
have determined that those who eat certain grains for
breakfast have lower, well-regulated blood sugar throughout
the day, even up to and beyond dinner.

Here are the right grains someone with diabetes should eat:

1. Whole-grain barley (this grain worked best)
2. Whole grain rye
3. Other whole grains such as oats

Why do these particular grains have such a beneficial, long-
lasting effect on blood sugar?  The secret mystery lies in their
indigestible quality.   Article Continues Below.

When you eat indigestible carbohydrates, they ferment in the
large intestine. This bacterial process has been proved to have
a beneficial effect on a number of risk factors for metabolic
syndrome, such as markers for inflammation and level of insulin
efficiency. The process also makes you feel fuller longer.

Indigestible carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are not
broken down in the small intestine but rather reach the large
intestine, where they provide nourishment for the intestinal
bacteria. This triggers a fermentation process that produces
various components, such as short-chain fatty acids.
Components produced in the process of fermentation can enter
the blood and favorably affect the regulation of blood sugar
and keep you feeling fuller longer. They can also help alleviate
inflammatory conditions in the body, which in turn can entail a
reduced risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.   

"My results show that low GI in combination with the right
amount of so-called indigestible carbohydrates, that is,
fiber and resistant starch, can keep the blood-sugar level low
for up to ten hours, which means until after dinner," says Anne
Nilsson, author of the 2007 Lund University dissertation.

The study shows that even people who have had a breakfast
low in GI find it easier to concentrate for the rest of the
morning.   They may also have a beneficial effect on short-term
memory and mental acuity.  Experiments also showed that the
blood sugar increase following breakfast can be moderated in a
similar way by eating the right grain products the night

"The findings indicate that people with great fluctuations in
their levels of blood sugar run a greater risk of having a
generally lower cognitive ability," says Anne Nilsson.  Foods
with low GI offer several health advantages.   

Nilsson's 2007 research has been expanded upon and
confirmed by subsequent research. A 2009 study also from
Lund University led by Liza Rosen found that rye endosperm
(the whole grain  without the outside hull) as well as whole
grain rye produce far lower blood sugar readings than whole
grain wheat bread.

Another benefit these whole grains provide is that they help to
supply your body with magnesium.
Magnesium is involved in
over 300 essential chemical processes in your body. One of the
key functions of this mineral is to help to regulate your blood
sugar. Indeed, a 2010 study from Punjab Agricultural
University in India discovered that chronic magnesium
deficiency is associated with the development of insulin
resistance and high blood sugar levels. Certain nuts such as
almonds and whole grains are among the
foods which are high
in magnesium.

Oatmeal and Cinnamon

The alternative to barley and rye with your protein is oatmeal
topped with cinnamon. As we have seen in another article on
foods that lower blood sugar, oatmeal has been shown to
reduce blood sugar and cholesterol in people with Type 2

Cinnamon not only lowers blood glucose levels if you eat if for
at least 6 weeks but it keeps lowering your fasting glucose
levels for 20 days after that.  The cinnamon spice that works is
the common form of powder found in every grocery store and
kitchen, and the cinnamon pills but not the cinnamon oil.

Prior to 2003, researchers believed that the active ingredient in
cinnamon that lowered blood sugar was a compound called
"methylhydroxychalcone polymer" or MHCP.  Predictably,
companies rushed to a sell MHCP pills. However, one of the
original cinnamon study's researchers (Dr. Richard Anderson
of  a US Department of Agriculture affiliated lab,  conducted a
further study in 2004 which showed that MHCP was in fact not
the active ingredient producing the beneficial effects on blood
sugar).  The true active agent that gives cinnamon its power to
lower blood sugar and cholesterol is  "polyphenol type-A
polymer".  (Read more about the Top 10
health benefits of

Brown Rice

Another great way to introduce low-glycemic grains into your
breakfast is through whole grain bread made from brown rice.
A 2011 study from Kwandong University in South Korea found
that brown rice improved metabolism in diabetic patients and
also reduced their waist circumference when consumed daily
over a 12-week period. (Read more about
why your waist size
matters in general to your overall health.)

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are seeds such as
flax seeds are high in fiber and have
been found to be effective in helping to regulate blood sugar.
Grind the seeds and sprinkle them over plain, Greek yogurt.

Vitamin D Foods

Several research studies have linked low levels of Vitamin D
with diabetes and poor blood sugar management. Vitamin D
plays a vital role in managing your blood sugar. The best way
to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D is of course to make sure
that you are exposed to sunlight.  Getting out into the sun
without sun shades and without your arms exposed can help
keep your Vitamin D levels high. But many of us live in areas
where sunlight is scarce, especially in the winter.

The Vitamin Council recommends that you try to eat foods (or
take supplements) that will supply you with at least 5000
international units of Vitamin D -- particularly Vitamin D-3. Oily
fish such as salmon and of course dairy products are among
foods rich in Vitamin D.

So, here is a wonderful breakfast to start your day:

Egg whites
1 cup of oatmeal, hot, topped with an omega-3 butter
walnuts (also heart healthy)
low-fat dairy

What  Diabetics Should Drink With Breakfast

Dr. Anderson recommends that you sprinkle cinnamon even in
your hot teas or orange juice. As for your choice of tea, choose
chamomile. Recent research has determined that daily
consumption of chamomile tea reduces complications of

Should you drink milk?  Milk helps prevent Type 2 diabetes,
according to new 2010 study. Researchers from Harvard
University and Montefiore Medical Center studied 3,700 people
and found that those who drank the most milk had a 60%
lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes. That's good news, if you
don't already
have diabetes. Unfortunately, the study did not
say that those who
already have diabetes will benefit from
drinking even more milk. Bottom line for now? Drink a glass of
low-fat milk a day, in accordance with standard dietary
guidelines from the American Heart Association but don't
increase your milk consumption if you already have diabetes.

Aloe Juice Helps Control Blood Sugar

In 1996, a study from Majodol University in India discovered
that aloe vera had "anti-diabetic" effects. People who drank
aloe vera juice for 2 weeks experienced lower blood sugar. Try
adding aloe vera juice as your breakfast drink or have it with
dinner if you are experiencing high fasting blood sugar in the
mornings. By the way, the study also found that triglyceride
levels fell in people who drank aloe juice.

Should Diabetics Drink Coffee?

What about coffee? The news here is mixed. New research has
found that drinking
coffee can reduce your overall risk for
developing diabetes by 30%, provided you drink several cups a
day.  And,for those who are already diabetics, coffee has also
been found effective in lowering your blood sugar levels 2
hours after eating (postprandial levels). Interestingly, coffee
does not reduce your fasting blood sugar levels.  Moreover,
drinking coffee at lunch time appears to have more impact than
drinking it at breakfast. The bottom line for coffee? Coffee is an
ally against developing diabetes and can help to lower your
post-eating readings. Enjoy.

Calorie, Carbohydrate and Fat Facts: One cup of black coffee
contains between zero and 10 calories (depending on the type
of coffee beans), 3.1 grams of carbohydrates and 0.2 grams of  


Of course, the right whole grains are only one part of the ideal
breakfast. People with diabetes should also eat some protein at
each meal. Why? Proteins have few if any carbohydrates, for
one thing, which means they will  not spike your blood sugar
levels. Second, proteins keep you feeling fuller longer, an
advantage for those with Type II diabetes who are trying to
achieve or maintain your  
ideal waist size or body weight.

Of course not all proteins are created equal. The preferred
proteins for diabetics should be high in protein but low in
calories and saturated fat.  

The best source of protein for breakfast if you are diabetic are
egg whites.

Calorie, Carbohydrate and Fat Facts: A large egg's white
weighs about 38 grams with 3.9 grams of protein (about 1
teaspoon of protein) , 0.3 grams of carbohydrate and 62
milligrams of sodium. It contains about 20 calories, and has
about 40 different proteins. It contains hardly any fat.

Here is a list of the proteins found in egg whites and what they
do inside your body.

Ovalbumin (54% of the egg white)--Nourishmentblocks
digestive enzymes
Ovotransferrin 12% --Binds iron
Ovomucoid 11% --Blocks digestive enzymes
Globulins 8% --Plugs wholes and defects in membranes, shell
Lysozyme 3.5% --Enzyme that digests bacterial cell walls
Ovomucin 1.5% T--chickens egg white; inhibits viruses
Avidin .06% --Binds vitamin (biotin)
Others 10% --Bind vitamins, block digestive enzymes.

Egg white also has near zero amounts of dietary cholesterol,
making it the ideal protein not only for control of sugar levels
that affect diabetes but also ideal for heart health. And, new
studies have found that
people who eat 4 eggs a week have
33% lower incidence of diabetes.

Other proteins you can consider are fish (salmon, white fish,
other cold-water fish) and extremely lean turkey and fowl.

Diabetes Breakfast ---Should You Skip the Bacon?

Should you skip bacon, ham and other meats in a diabetes-
friendly breakfast?  Meat, unlike carbohydrates, is generally
thought to be low-glycemic or glycemic neutral. But that
popular belief may in fact be completely wrong.

Studies that have looked at the effect of eating vegetarian diets
on your risk of developing diabetes have discovered that those
who follow vegetarian and vegan diets have significantly less
incidence of diabetes.

In a landmark study conducted by the Harvard School of Public
Health in 2002, researchers followed the eating patterns of 42,
504 men in the health professions over a period of 12 years.
None of the men had diabetes, heart problems or cancer at the
start of the study.

Sifting through the dietary habits of the men, doctors
discovered that those men who ate so-called “western” diets
high in red meat were 59% more likely to develop Type 2
diabetes, compared to men who were vegetarian.

Other studies prior to the 2002 study and since have confirmed
this finding -- eat less red meat if you want to lower your risk
of diabetes.

In particular, processed red meat raises your risk for diabetes
and other diseases, a 2012 study from Harvard School of Public
Health has found. This study, led by Drs. Micha and Mozaffarian
found that processed red meat puts you at a 51% higher risk
for diabetes than red meat alone.

Bottom line --- skip the bacon and ham if you want to lower
your risk for Type 2 diabetes.


The order in which you eat the parts of your meal matters, in
terms of blood sugar control.
Eat your protein, oil and
vegetables before you eat your carbohydrates to minimize
impact on blood sugar.

Foods That Lower Blood Sugar -Natural Insulin Foods / Does
Drinking Coffee Affect Diabetes -A Comprehensive Review /
Peaches and Other Stone Fruit Fight Diabetes and Obesity
Best Exercises to Lower Blood Sugar

Divide Your Breakfast into Several Mini-Breakfasts to Lower
Blood Sugar and Lose Weight

Alcohol and Diabetes -Do They Mix?

Need to Control Blood Sugar?--Eat Your Veggies Before Your

Just Standing Up More Can Lower Your Risk of Diabetes
Break Through Your Diet Plateau

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Quinoa-The New Superfood?
Break Through Your Diet Plateau
Magnesium-The Forgotten Essential Mineral
How Many Calories Do I Burn

Ideal Breakfast for Hypoglycemia























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Sample Breakfast

1 slice of rye bread

1 egg

1 cup of black coffee

Total calories: 98

Total Carbohydrates: 5.8 grams

Total Fat: 1.1 grams

Rye Bread: 1 regular slice weighing
38 grams contains ( 12 to 15.5
grams carbohydrates), 1.1 gram fat,
68 to 70 calories

Egg: 20 calories, 0.3 grams of
carbohydrates, 0 grams fat

Coffee: 0 calories, 3.1 gram,s
carbohydrates,0 fat

What Do You Think?
In addition to the standard eggs and coffee, studies have found that adding
certain whole grains can help diabetics manage blood sugar longer
throughout the day.
This is our Leftover Veggie Omelet.  We use 3 egg whites and 1
yolk, whipped to increase the volume.  Separately, sautee onions in
a spray of olive oil until caramelized. Mix in yesterday's vegetables
with the onions.  Top with a grating of cheese.