One of the biggest benefits of the keto diet is stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
For people who are pre-diabetic or diabetic, this can be crucial for making sure that your symptoms are under control, and for those of you who haven’t yet had concerns in regards to diabetes, you’re significantly lowering your risks.
The most important thing to do if you want to stay on top of your blood sugar levels is to lower the amount of sugar and carbs you consume from food.
This means excluding all food with added sugar, as well as food that is high in carbs because these foods can increase your blood sugar almost instantly.
If you stay at 20-25 g net carbs per day, your blood sugar will also stabilize, but it’s also important where these carbs come from. You should avoid all processed food and focus on low-carb, nutrient-dense choices.
Additionally, there are some foods that can have a pronounced positive effect on blood sugar.
Want to know what these are?
Healthy Fats (in General)
Fats do not impact insulin production, as they are slower to digest and aren’t converted to glucose by the body.
Nevertheless, there are some sources of fat that are better than others – ideally, these are fats that have undergone minimal processing, and also animal fats, such as those contained in eggs and meat.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Healthy fats are excellent for blood sugar management, as they have a minimal effect on your blood glucose. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent choice for keto, as it is minimally processed.
Additionally, studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil can help reduce glycemic response in patients with type 1 diabetes after eating a meal that has a high glycemic index (1).
Although this is not directly relevant for you, as on keto basically any meal you’ll be having is going to be with a low glycemic index, it’s still important to know that which fats are particularly good for managing blood sugar.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are more readily burned off, instead of stored as fat.
Additionally, according to studies, coconut oil can help lower the risks of insulin resistance, which is one of the major contributing factors to type 2 diabetes (2).
When buying it, opt for virgin coconut oil, as it will be less processed than regular coconut oil.
Eggs contain a combination of protein and fat, and less than a gram of carbs, which makes them ideal if you’re trying to keep your blood sugar low.
Protein contained in eggs is complete, so one more reason to add them to your diet if you haven’t already.
Avocados contain a negligible amount of sugar, and because of that they have a very low glycemic index.
Additionally, the main type of carbs in avocados is D-mannoheptulose, which, according to studies, does not behave like sugar on a nutritional level, and might even have a positive effect on blood glucose levels (5).
Avocados help manage triglyceride levels, which is important for the successful management of type 2 diabetes.
Seafood such as tuna, halibut, trout, salmon are generally very low in net carbs, except for mollusks, such as clams and mussels, which contain between 3 to 5 g net carbs per 100 g.
Fish is excellent for keto and for blood sugar management, as it has almost zero carbs, and is a good source of both protein and omega 3 fatty acids.
If you have diabetes or are at high risk for developing it, it’s extremely important to have good control over your cardiovascular health, as diabetes puts you at risk for heart disease.
Foods rich in omega 3 are therefore excellent for diabetics, and you have plenty of choices. Tuna, salmon, trout, halibut are all good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, while having a minimal impact on your blood glucose.
You should still be aware of the fact that protein has an effect on blood sugar, although much less than carbs.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard, lettuce are one of the staples of the keto diet for many people, because of the fact that they’re very low in net carbs, while having outstanding micronutrient profiles.
They’re full of antioxidants, magnesium, and other essentials vitamins and minerals, and according to recent studies, they lower by 14% the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, if at least 1.35 of a serving is consumed daily (6).
What is considered a serving, you might wonder? A serving is 1 cup of raw or half a cup of cooked vegetables, so that’s definitely not difficult to add to your diet.
The intense colour of red cabbage is due to its high anthocyanins content.
Anthocyanins are flavonoids, which is found in purple foods, and that have a beneficial effect on blood sugar and have a mechanism of action that helps improve insulin sensitivity (7).
Red cabbage is somewhat higher in carbs – 5 g net carbs per 100 g, however, you can still fit some in your macros.
Another low-carb vegetable that is rich in anthocyanins is the eggplant.
Blueberries also contain anthocyanins, and as such their consumption is associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes (8).
They are one of the lower-carb types of fruit out there, and although you shouldn’t go overboard with them, a few berries at a time can even help satisfy a craving for something sweet.
If you look at the nutritional profile of 100 g garlic, you will notice that it is relatively high in carbs – it has 31 g net carbs per 100 g.
Nevertheless, what you’d typically consume as a single serving, a clove or two, would be completely reasonable for keto – one clove of garlic (of approx. 3 g) contains 0.9 g net carbs, which means that you can safely enjoy garlic and its many health benefits even when doing strict keto.
One of them has been demonstrated in a study from 2006, in which scientists discovered that garlic can be beneficial for lowering the levels of blood glucose, as well as of cholesterol and triglycerides (9).
Another review of a number of studies, which dates from 2014, has confirmed the hypothesis that garlic can help in lowering blood sugar (10).
Additionally, garlic aids in reducing blood pressure and has an antibacterial effect, which is why it’s commonly advised to eat garlic if you’re having a cold.
Apple Cider Vinegar
We have already covered apple cider vinegar (ACV) and its amazing benefits – if you have missed our article on it, check it here.
Definitely worth a try if you’re trying to lower your blood sugar.
Additionally, ACV inhibits the growth of bacteria such as e. coli, and can even help you lose weight and lower the amount of belly fat that you’re carrying.
According to studies, chia seeds lowers insulin resistance in rats and improves satiety and blood sugar levels in humans after a meal, on top of lowering blood pressure and heart disease risk (13, 14, 15).
More research is necessary to confirm these findings, however, they do look promising for the moment.
Additionally, chia seeds are packed with other important nutrients, such as fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, on top of being keto-friendly. No reason to not give them a try!
Raw Cacao and Very Dark Chocolate
Polyphenols contained in raw cacao and very dark chocolate (preferably raw, too, and with a cocoa content of 90% or more) have a number of health benefits, including improving insulin resistance and, as a consequence, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes (16).
On top of that, in the same review of the research, the authors are pointing out that cocoa might also aid in blood sugar management by having a pronounced hypoglycemic effect.
You might be thinking that chocolate is probably not keto-friendly, but let us correct you right here – if you stick to very dark chocolate and consume it in moderation (as in, having a piece of 10 g or so), and make sure to check the carb count, dark chocolate can very well belong in a keto diet.
For more information on chocolate and its benefits, check out our article on the topic.
Cinnamon contains antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative stress, and this is important news from people with diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions, since they are more prone to it than healthy individuals.
Cinnamon is pretty amazing in another way, too – it mimics insulin in the body, thus helping lower blood sugar by improving the transport of glucose to the cells (17).
Its effects are diverse – it helps control blood sugar after a meal, and even lowers fasting blood sugar (18).
Additionally, it helps lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and helps prevent complications in diabetes patients – pretty awesome for such a common spice, right?
There are two types of cinnamon that are commercially available – Ceylon and Cassia, of which Cassia is cheaper and easier to find.
Although the antioxidant content is higher in the Ceylon variety, Cassia is the one that has been used in a big part of the studies on cinnamon, so it’s a perfectly good option.
Cinnamon does contain some carbs, although for a serving of 1 tsp they’re at 0.07 g (net), which will be easy to fit into anyone’s macros.
Turmeric, and its active substance, curcumin, is another spice that certainly deserves more recognition for its benefits, among which is improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar through a number of different mechanisms of action (19).
In fact, a study from 2012 has demonstrated that curcumin supplementation in prediabetic patients can lead to a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, as compared to a control group (20).
Additionally, turmeric can reduce fat accumulation in the liver, thus helping prevent fatty liver disease, and has anti-inflammatory properties (21).
Yet another reason to add it to a healthy diet – besides being a tasty spice with a complex scent.
Careful with your clothes and kitchenware, though – turmeric is bright yellow and stains are difficult to remove.
According to research, green tea slows down the digestion of carbs, and help maintain lower blood sugar levels in diabetics by decreasing insulin resistance (22).
Studies show that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is lower in Japanese adults who consume 6 or more cups of green tea per day, compared to those who do not (23).
EGCG, short for epigallocatechin gallate, one of the polyphenols found in green tea, is found to mimic the effect of insulin in the blood, thus lowering the production of glucose by the liver (24, 25).
Additionally, because of its polyphenol content, green tea has anti-inflammatory properties, and also helps lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol.
Green tea is best enjoyed unsweetened – if you’re not used to the taste and flavour, it might take some time to start appreciating it, but you should definitely give it a try.
For those who are sensitive to coffee and caffeine, green tea might be an alternative worth exploring – it does contain caffeine, too, but the amount is lower and the effect is somewhat milder, with a slower onset.
Coffee, on the other hand, also has protective properties against type 2 diabetes for healthy individuals, however, actually raises post-meal blood glucose for people who already have it.
Overall, the keto diet is an excellent strategy for managing your blood sugar levels and making sure they stay within a healthy range, and also for keeping type 2 diabetes at bay and improving your insulin sensitivity.
The diet is very low in carbs (less than 20-25 g net carbs per day is the most common recommendation), which means that your blood sugar will not spike after meals, and will start stabilizing soon after you begin your keto journey.
As you could see above, there are a number of low carb foods that can give you a boost in keeping your blood glucose low, and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, we have selected foods that are awesome, tasty, full of essential nutrients and with a number of health benefits on top of improved blood sugar control. Make sure to incorporate these foods into your ketogenic meal plan to reap all the benefits.
Do you know of any other best foods that lower your blood sugar? If so, we’d love to add them to the list – just drop us a line with a link to the studies and we’d be more than happy to share the good news with our readers.