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Can diabetics eat nuts?

Nuts are nutrient-dense foods that can be part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes. Nuts contain healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, they are also high in calories and carbohydrates, so portion control is important. The key is moderation – incorporating nuts into your meal plan in sensible amounts can provide health benefits for diabetics without negatively impacting blood sugar levels.

Benefits of Nuts for Diabetics

Here are some of the key benefits of nuts for people with diabetes:

Heart Healthy Fats

Nuts contain mostly unsaturated fats which can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease in diabetics who are at elevated risk. Walnuts and almonds in particular contain omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for heart health.

May Improve Blood Sugar Control

Despite their carb content, studies show nuts may actually help improve long-term blood sugar control in diabetics. The protein, fiber, and healthy fats in nuts help slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. Pistachios and almonds have been shown to reduce post-meal glycemic response.

Provide Key Nutrients

Nuts contain important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that diabetics need. Almonds are a good source of Vitamin E. Walnuts have anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Cashews contain magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Increase Satiety

The protein and fiber in nuts helps you feel fuller for longer after eating them. This delayed satiety effect can prevent overeating and reduce dangerous blood sugar spikes. Studies show nut consumption leads to reduced appetite.

May Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Eating nuts regularly is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in diabetics. The healthy fats, nutrients, and antioxidants in nuts all contribute to improved heart health.

Nutrition Info for Common Nuts

Below is a comparison of the nutrition content in 1 ounce (28g) serving of various popular nuts:


Calories 163
Fat 14g
Protein 6g
Carbs 6g
Fiber 3.5g


Calories 157
Fat 12g
Protein 5g
Carbs 9g
Fiber 1g


Calories 185
Fat 18g
Protein 4g
Carbs 4g
Fiber 2g


Calories 160
Fat 13g
Protein 6g
Carbs 8g
Fiber 3g


Calories 196
Fat 20g
Protein 3g
Carbs 4g
Fiber 3g

As you can see, while the carb content per serving ranges from 4-9g, a large portion of those carbs comes from fiber. The high fat and protein content also helps slow digestion.

Effect of Nuts on Blood Sugar

Multiple studies have looked specifically at the glycemic impact of nuts in people with diabetes:

– A study in 24 people with type 2 diabetes found that adding about 1 ounce of mixed nuts to a meal reduced the post-meal blood sugar rise by 30% compared to a control meal.

– In a study in 48 people with type 2 diabetes, swapping out 20% of daily carb intake with walnuts for 6 months improved HbA1c levels (a measure of long-term blood sugar control).

– Several studies show adding nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pistachios to meals lowers the glycemic index and reduces post-meal blood sugar spikes in both healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes.

The results clearly demonstrate that consuming nuts in moderation has beneficial effects on blood sugar management for diabetics.

Best Nuts for Diabetics

While all nuts can fit into a diabetic diet in limited amounts, some are better choices due to their nutrition profiles and proven health benefits:


Walnuts contain the most omega-3 fatty acids, which improve heart health. Studies show walnut consumption helps reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation and inflammation in diabetics.


Almonds have been shown in studies to reduce blood sugar, insulin, and LDL cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. They are also rich in magnesium and antioxidants.


Pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they have minimal impact on blood sugar. Research in diabetics found pistachios improve cholesterol and antioxidant levels.


Pecans are rich in monounsaturated fats that increase insulin sensitivity and help manage blood sugar. They also contain polyphenols that act as antioxidants.


Cashews contain magnesium, which helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. They have a lower fat content than most other nuts.

Portion Control is Key

While the effects of nuts on blood sugar are generally positive, it’s important for diabetics to practice portion control. The calories and carbs in nuts can add up quickly, leading to blood sugar spikes if you eat too many. Here are some tips:

– Stick to a 1 ounce serving, about a handful. Measure portions to avoid overeating.

– Be mindful of servings in recipes that call for nuts or nut butters. Adjust other carbs in the meal accordingly.

– Choose raw, unsalted nuts instead of candied or heavily salted varieties that have added sugars.

– Pair nuts with non-starchy vegetables, protein foods, or high fiber carbs like beans to help manage blood sugar response.

– Talk to a registered dietitian about fitting nuts into your individualized meal plan in appropriate amounts.

Safest Ways to Add Nuts for Diabetics

Here are some of the best ways for diabetics to safely incorporate nuts into their diet:

As a Snack

Have a measured 1 ounce portion of nuts on their own or paired with another protein like cheese for a filling, balanced snack.

In Salads

Chopped nuts add crunch, flavor, and healthy fats to leafy green or vegetable salads.

On Yogurt

Top plain Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of chopped nuts for added protein, fiber, and nutrients.

In Oatmeal

Add a tablespoon of nuts to oatmeal for a nutritious breakfast option.

In Baked Goods

Use a small amount of nuts or nut butter in muffins, bars, or other baked goods in place of some flour or sugar.

As Nut Butter

Have peanut, almond, or other nut butter on whole grain toast or apples/celery for a filling snack.

In Pesto

Make pesto with basil, olive oil, garlic, and walnuts/almonds for a flavorful sauce on chicken, fish, or whole wheat pasta.

In Trail Mix

Make your own diabetic-friendly trail mix with nuts, seeds, and a little dried fruit for an energizing snack.

Nuts to Avoid or Limit for Diabetics

While most nuts can be healthy choices in moderation, there are some varieties diabetics should consume sparingly if at all:

Macadamia Nuts

Extremely high in fat and calories, so they can lead to weight gain and poor blood sugar control. Should be eaten only occasionally.

Brazil Nuts

Contains selenium, which is beneficial but can be toxic in high amounts. Limit to 1-2 brazil nuts per day.

Candied or Salted Nuts

Avoid nuts cooked in oil or sugar or heavily salted, as these drive up carbs, sodium, and calories. Go for raw or lightly roasted.

Flavored Nut Butters

Choose plain nut butter instead of ones with added oils, sugars, or chocolate that enhance the calorie and carb content.

Nut and Dried Fruit Trail Mixes

The combination of nuts with sugar-dense dried fruits can spike blood sugar. Make your own mix limiting dried fruit portions.

Sweet Nut Baked Goods

Avoid pies, cookies, cakes and other items with large amounts of nuts and added sugars, flours, and oils.

Precautions for Diabetics Eating Nuts

Here are some important precautions people with diabetes should take when incorporating nuts into their diet:

– Check with your doctor before significantly increasing nut intake, especially if you take medication that lowers blood sugar. The fiber and fats in nuts further reduce glycemic response.

– Monitor portion sizes carefully. Even healthy foods like nuts can negatively affect blood sugar control if overeaten. Stick to recommended serving sizes.

– Be consistent. The blood sugar lowering effects of nuts come with regular, moderate consumption, not sporadic overindulgence.

– Don’t solely rely on nuts to manage blood sugar. Focus on overall balanced, diabetic-friendly meals and snacks.

– Look at net carbs. Fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar like other carbs. Total carb counts on nuts are misleading – the net carbs are much lower.

– Check labels for added sugars or salt in flavored or processed nuts and nut butters. Added ingredients increase carb counts.

– Pair nuts with other healthy foods like non-starchy veggies, lean protein or high fiber carbs to prevent blood sugar spikes.

Sample Menu with Nuts for Diabetics

Here is a sample menu incorporating nuts into diabetic-friendly meals and snacks:

Breakfast: Greek yogurt topped with 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts and cinnamon. 1/2 grapefruit.

Lunch: Tuna salad made with 1 Tbsp chopped almonds over spinach, with an apple.

Snack: 1 oz (small handful) mixed raw nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans).

Dinner: Grilled chicken over quinoa salad with 1 Tbsp sliced almonds, lettuce, cucumber, tomato.

Dessert: 1/4 cup trail mix with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries.

This menu contains a variety of nuts for their beneficial fats, nutrients, and fiber. The portions are controlled at about 1 ounce per serving and paired with protein, vegetables, and high fiber carbs. A registered dietitian can help create a custom diabetic nut-inclusive meal plan.

The Bottom Line

Research shows that nuts can be a healthy addition to a diabetic diet when consumed in moderation. They provide heart-healthy fats, proteins, nutrients, and fiber that help control blood sugar when eaten as part of an overall balanced meal plan. Stick to recommended 1 ounce serving sizes, be consistent, and pair nuts with low glycemic foods like non-starchy vegetables. With portion control and smart pairing, nuts can provide great health benefits for diabetics without spiking blood sugar levels.