In a nutshell: Replacing carbs with nuts may improve diabetes control

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New research suggests that diabetics struggling to control their blood sugar (glucose) and cholesterol levels should try replacing carbohydrate-rich snacks with nuts. Published in the journal Diabetes Care, the new study randomly assigned 117 adults with type II diabetes to replace their usual carbs with either a half-cup (2 ounces) unsalted mixed nuts or a no-sugar-added whole wheat muffin, or to go on a half-nut/half-muffin snacking regimen. After three months, those in the full nut group experienced an average 0.2 percent drop in their hemoglobin A1C level (an indication of long-term blood sugar control). This degree of lowering is small but significant. Their low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the bad cholesterol) levels also fell on average from 97 to 89 milligrams per deciliter. The other two groups did not see any improvements in their blood glucose or cholesterol parameters.

The study findings do not, however, imply that diabetics can simply add nuts to their diet, given that they are still laden with fat, says ACSH's Dr. Ruth Kava. Instead of eating chips and snacks heavy in starch, she says, diabetics should try replacing them with nuts because they are rich in fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats. A half cup of nuts is about 500 calories, so the high calorie content is a drawback to nuts; they must be used to replace, not add to, other snacks.