If you are a snack lover (and we are too!), you probably know that noshing on chips or sugary doughnuts isn’t the best choice as your go-to daily snack option. But according to 2019 research published in Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, there are plenty of other between-meal bites that can support your weight management goals, even if you have diabetes—by keeping blood glucose levels in check, positively impacting your quality of life, helping manage your appetite, and boosting satiety. Follow these criteria to simply (and deliciously!) find the best snacks to meet your needs.

How to Pick the Best Snacks for Weight Loss When You Have Diabetes

Focus on Fiber

One of the most effective secret weapons for managing both blood sugars and weight is fiber—the indigestible carbohydrates that are found in foods like fruit, veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds. Data published in PLOS Medicine showed that following a higher-fiber diet can be an important component of diabetes management, resulting in improvements in measures of glycemic control, blood lipids, body weight and inflammation. And while the researchers did not identify one “best” way to achieve the optimal fiber intake, their findings did suggest that increasing daily fiber intake by 15 grams to 35 grams resulted in improvements in glycemic control.

Fiber may specifically help those who are trying to lose weight. According to a 2018 review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fiber may improve satiety by slowing the absorption of food, which may, in turn, help people eat less and lose weight as a result.

Go for “Good” Fats

There are four main types of fat: saturated, trans, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people living with diabetes focus on eating “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, while limiting saturated fats and avoiding trans fats. People with diabetes have about a two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease than those without the condition, making supporting heart health incredibly important. And choosing good fats, like mono- and polyunsaturated fats, instead of the other kinds, is known to help promote a healthy heart.

Eat Those Antioxidants

While antioxidants aren’t a must-have in a diabetes-friendly snack, they do offer some real bonuses. Antioxidants greatly reduce risk for some of the complications of diabetes, like developing heart disease, per 2020 research published in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine. According to another study, published in the journal Antioxidants in 2021, dietary antioxidants may also play a positive role in the composition of your gut microbiota (the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract), helping to reduce inflammation and body weight, and to manage diabetes.

Choose Plant-Based Proteins

Including plant-based protein in your snack has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, per research published in Foods—which is a good thing for anyone with diabetes. And it may play a significant role in reducing body weight. Results of a 2018 clinical trial, published in Nutrition & Diabetes, found that consuming a plant-based diet was linked to reductions in both body weight and insulin resistance.

Other evidence suggests that people with chronic diseases, like diabetes, who eat more plant-forward diets have better body mass index (BMI) measurements, as well as improved cholesterol levels—two important factors for managing diabetes.

The #1 Snack for Weight Loss When You Have Diabetes

Opting for something that naturally contains fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats and plant-based protein is your best bet if you’re looking for a weight-loss and diabetes-friendly snack. And a serving of pistachios checks all of these boxes, and more.

For starters, 2023 data published in Nutrients shows that people living with diabetes who eat more nuts in general have lower fasting serum glucose levels than those with a lower nut intake.

That’s why diabetes guidelines recommend dietary patterns that incorporate nuts, like pistachios. A study conducted by Cornell University researchers and published in the journal Nutrients found that pistachios have a high antioxidant capacity. In fact, their levels rival those of other popular antioxidant-containing foods, including blueberries, pomegranates and cherries.

But pistachios aren’t only a source of antioxidants. They are one of the very few antioxidant-rich foods that are also a complete protein—meaning they have all nine essential amino acids normally found in animal-based proteins. So they’re a perfect choice for people looking to eat more plant-based foods.

One 1-ounce serving of pistachios has as much protein as an egg (6 grams) and as much fiber as 1/2 cup of broccoli (3 grams), and is a good source of nutrients like vitamin B6 and phosphorus. Plus, about 90% of the fats found in pistachios are the “good” unsaturated kind.

When it comes to weight management, one important detail to keep in mind is that pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie nuts, with only 160 calories per ounce, which is equivalent to about 49 pistachios. As a bonus, research published in Appetite found that in-shell pistachios may also help you “fool yourself full” because the leftover shells can be a visual cue for portions, potentially curbing intake. Research also found that people who snacked on in-shell pistachios that they had to crack consumed fewer calories compared to those who were served shelled pistachios. The study authors suggest that the difference in calories consumed among those who were provided with shelled versus unshelled pistachios may be due to the additional time it took to crack open the nuts, or even the extra volume perceived when eating in-shell nuts. Ultimately, of course, eating fewer calories overall is key to weight loss.

If your diabetes-friendly diet requires you to include carbohydrates at snacktime, a serving of a lower-glycemic fruit, like blueberries or prunes, can pair well with a serving of pistachios to fuel your body and deliver a slew of beneficial nutrients. No matter how you enjoy your pistachios, know that cracking these classic nuts open between meals can help you reach your health and nutrition goals—while enjoying every bite.

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