7 Immune-Boosting foods for people with Diabetes

Christine Zalnieraite

2021 Sep 22

10 min read

People with diabetes are prone to a reduced immune function due to varied reasons. They have high blood sugar levels that impair the proper activity of the immune system. Condition like this impacts the nerves by damaging them, and a decreased flow of blood to the hands and feet is also observed.

The nerve damage can lead to injuries going unnoticed that can also cause infections. Due to the lack of proper immune functioning, people who have diabetes are more exposed to diseases. In addition, given the condition of slow wound healing, it does not create the right circumstance when the wound is infected and leads to inflammation.

The unsolicited advice

Diabetics find themselves being advised to exercise and let go of even the healthier choices in their diet. Focus is concerned with other things while the healthy diet is highly neglected. Given that the individual takes the required amount of vitamins and nutrients, the body’s immunity can be enhanced. However, the critical vitamins for diabetes are neglected.

Essentials Vitamins such as A, B, C, D, and E are necessary to ensure the immune system’s health. However, everything that consists of these vitamins is not healthy to consume. Choices that are high in sugar, fat, and sodium content should not be considered. For this reason, we are here to clear the mist and present to you your ideal choices. 

The following foods improve your immune system and do so while keeping your blood sugar levels in check.

1. Green leafy Vegetables

Vitamin A and C

For a healthy diet, green leafy vegetables are always on the top of the list. This is because they contain vitamin A and C that are essential nutrients for a diabetic patient. In addition, vitamin A helps with night blindness, immune system boosting, mineral absorption in the body, and wound healing.

On the other hand, vitamin C helps with metabolism regulation, bone strengthening, and collagen production. Vitamin C also functions as an antioxidant for the body.

Impact on Immunity

Green leafy vegetables help people with diabetes with the immune system. Studies suggest that vegetables, like spinach and cabbage, lower the risk of diabetes 2 by 14%. They contain a lower glycemic index, which means lower consumption of carbohydrates.

Leafy vegetables also contain magnesium and fiber, which can prevent high sugar levels in the blood. In addition, green leafy vegetables contains high antioxidant content and starch-digesting enzymes while having minimal impact on blood sugar levels. They can also regulate metabolism to keep one’s body working in optimal condition.

How to use

Green leafy vegetables carry a wide variety that you can be used in your diet to make it healthy. An adult human must take 1 to 2 cups of leafy vegetables per week. You can use them in salads, wraps, smoothies, sandwiches, and more. You can make your fusion by adding different vegetables and seasonings to create a healthy bowl.

Do not hesitate to chop a few leaves of these healthy choices and add them to your main meal.

2. Citrus fruits

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits are considered the primary source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for healing wounds and fighting infections. It is commonly known for its role in the growth and development of body tissues, but it is also necessary for the immune system. In addition, it enhances the production of white blood cells and protects cells in the human body.

Impact on immunity

Citrus fruits like orange, grapefruits, and lemons are widely used. They are a perfect alternative for people with diabetes because they cannot consume fruits with high sugar content. 

Citrus fruits also contain fiber which helps in the maintenance of sugar levels and also constitutes potassium and folate. Potassium is directly required for the activation of the immune response. All in all, citrus fruits can decrease inflammation, improve heart health and lower the risk of kidney stones.

Vitamin C, along with these valuable nutrients, enhances the immunity of people with diabetes without disturbing the sugar level.

A 100g of orange has 12g carbohydrates and 9g sugar, while a 100g of grapefruit has 11g carbohydrates and 7g of sugar. However, 100g of lemon consists of 9g carbohydrates in total and 2.5g of sugar.

How to use

It is preferable to eat the fruit raw and not to make juice. Consuming it in the raw form helps the intake of required fibers. On the other hand, drinking juices can dangerously increase the sugar level, which is harmful to people with diabetes.

3. Mushrooms

Vitamin B and D

Mushrooms have large proportions of vitamin B and D. These vitamins are good for diabetic individuals because they help improve their immune systems. Vitamin B6 is best known for its production of white blood cells, strengthening the immune system, and transportation of oxygen.

Vitamin D is also known for its calcium absorption abilities, but little do people know that it lowers the risk of infections. 

Impact on immunity

The intake of mushrooms positively impacts the immune system. In addition, they do not disturb the sugar levels in diabetic patients and instead control them. They are also of great help in minimizing cholesterol levels. In addition, they display anti-diabetic properties, which make them an ideal choice.

They contain antioxidants that are required for improved heart health and lower cancer risk. In addition, beta-glucan is also present that plays a role in heart protection and regulates sugar levels.

All these essential contents, and essential vitamins for diabetes, create a suitable option in a healthy diet. Moreover, its low carbohydrate content, i.e., 2 grams per raw cup, and low sugar content, i.e., 1 gram per cup, makes it ideal and healthy.

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How to use

Add it to your meals according to your liking. You are not restricted to using them in cooked form or raw. You can garnish it on your salads, add in your soup, consume as a main course, or sauté it.

4. Beans

Vitamin B

Beans contain a high quantity of Vitamin B. Vitamin B is very beneficial for diabetic patients as it can help in strengthening their immune system against high sugar levels in the body. Vitamin B-1, also known as Thiamine, is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates from food, creating neurotransmitters, and synthesizing certain hormones in your body.

Also, Vitamin B-9 (folic acid) is crucial for DNA replication, proper cell division, and keeping the metabolism under optimal state. 

Impact on immunity

Beans are the ideal immune food for diabetic patients. They contain carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index and have a rich quantity of vitamin B, fiber, and protein. Therefore, they help in absorbing more minerals from your food and keep your body at low risk. That is why beans are considered a “superfood for diabetic patients.”

Beans can be an excellent alternative to meat as beans contain high protein but low carbohydrates and saturated fat. In addition, for your proper bowel functioning, beans contain fiber that can help your metabolism work correctly without pushing it to its limits.

For diabetic patients, it is advised to have around 3 to 6 cups of beans per week. Since it’s an overall healthy food, you can go for more if you love them. 

How to use

With a wide variety of beans, you can use any bean in any way you like. For example, you can eat them with a bowl of salad, gluten-free bread slices, and in a taco or soup. Beans can be a little bland for your taste, but you can use some seasonings of your liking.

5. Chicken soup

Vitamin A, B6, and C

Vitamin A is famous for its anti-inflammation abilities. It plays a part in the development of the immune system and hence enhances immune function. Vitamin B6 is vital for the production of white blood cells and T- cells. Vitamin C is an antioxidant in itself and supports immune cells’ functioning. Its deficiency can lead to reduced immunity and a higher rate of infections.

Impact on immunity

It does not surprise anyone that chicken is a good choice for people with diabetes. This is because a chicken soup has a higher number of vitamins and constitutes minerals essential in maintaining the immune system. For example, zinc and iron are found in chicken soups to enhance immune system function and activate immune cells.

The additional ingredients like vegetables in the soup can make a phenomenal main meal.

Its ability to reduce sugar levels is also one of the essential things in improving the immune system for people with diabetes. In addition, the existence of antioxidants plays a vital role, and carnosine reduces inflammation during the first stage of infections.

How to use

The chicken soup should be made out of chicken broth instead of fatty, creamy ingredients. In addition, the chicken breast should be utilized for the soup because it is low in fats. When buying from stores, a serving that has less than 600 mg sodium should be preferred.

6. Yogurt

Vitamin A and B

Yogurt is an excellent resource of vitamins for diabetes. It contains vitamin B-5 (also known as pantothenic acid) and vitamin B-12 (also known as cobalamin), which are responsible for red blood cells production, lowering sugar levels in the blood, producing certain hormones, and proper functioning of the nervous and digestive system. 

Yogurt is also full of vitamin A, which is very helpful in bone growth, production of white blood cells, wound healing and acts as an antioxidant to keep our immune system safe and healthy.

Impact on Immunity

Yogurts are jam-packed with calcium and other nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins. They can help in making your immunity stronger against diseases. However, it can cause some problems for diabetic patients because of the high levels of carbohydrates. Nevertheless, it does not mean that you have to skip yogurt if you’re a diabetic patient.

With calculated nutrition and intake, a diabetic patient can also take other yogurts like Greek or probiotic yogurt. Greek and probiotic yogurts contain double amounts of protein with fewer carbohydrates, which is an ideal condition against diabetes. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can go for vegan substitutes for yogurt.

How to use

It is advised to take around 6 to 8 ounces of yogurt per day if you’re a diabetic patient. Before buying any yogurt, make sure to read the label and the number of nutrients. Yogurt with high carbohydrates must be avoided for diabetes. You can use yogurt in your smoothies, dips, desserts, and baking, etc.

7. Nuts

Vitamin E

For diabetes, nuts are one of the wealthiest immune-boosting foods out there. They contain a hefty amount of vitamin E, which is used for the defense against diabetes, arthritis and is very beneficial for the immune system, glowing skin, and cellulose.

Vitamin E is also considered a “powerhouse of antioxidants” because of its exemplary neutralizing of free radicals. 

Impact on Immunity

Nuts are considered ideal for diabetic patients. They contain unsaturated fats that can help in the growth of cells. They also have other essential nutrients like protein, magnesium and potassium fiber, etc. However, not all nuts can be good for diabetic patients. Salted nuts should be avoided as they can increase the risk of complications.

Nuts like almonds, walnut, peanut, cashew, and pistachio can help regulate the sugar level in the blood, which is beneficial for patients of diabetes-2 type. They are also helpful against heart diseases and weight loss. Nuts also function as antioxidants. 

How to use

With such a variety, nuts can be used in varied ways. The ideal approach is to consume at least 100 grams of nuts per week for diabetic patients. It can add luxury to salads, sugar-free desserts, or be used as a snack, i.e., roasted nuts. 

Making the right choices is nothing short of a necessity when fighting something like diabetes. Your immune system requires boosters to prevent worsening the condition. Look through your options, and do not hesitate to make your diet diverse and versatile.

Written by

Christine Zalnieraite

Christine is a registered and licensed dietitian (RD, LD) with more than eight years of professional experience. Christine is an expert in dietetics that includes human nutrition and the regulation of the proper individual diet. She alters patient's nutrition based on their medical condition and individual needs. Education: Master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Food Safety and two Bachelors of Science - Bachelor in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, and Human Nutrition and Food Safety. Also, she continues to deepen her knowledge in Ph.D. studies of Medical Science and Dietetics.

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