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The Best Whole Grains for Type 2 Diabetes

Grains are made from edible seeds or kernels, in their whole form, these contain three components—the endosperm, the germ, and the bran. Refined grains, found in cakes, cookies, or white bread, are processed to remove these three components. Whole grains contain all components of the kernel making them a rich source of fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals. Whole grains are believed to help prevent diabetes and weight gain. When researchers investigate links between diet and diabetes, one of the most consistent findings is that people who eat more whole grains are less likely to develop this disease.

What is whole wheat?

Wheat is by far the most popular grain in the United States, and is the third most commonly eaten grain worldwide. Breads, pastas, bulgur, couscous, spelt (a relative of wheat) and many breakfast cereals are all derived from wheat. When eaten in their whole grain form, these foods provide insoluble fiber and phytochemicals that have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.

Read the ingredients and make sure it says whole wheat to ensure it is 100% whole grain or look for the whole grain symbol.


If you have been snubbing corn as a starchy food that has no place in your diabetes eating plan—you may reconsider after reading this. Corn has one of the highest levels of polyphenols- antioxidants in fruits and vegetables that are considered protective against type 2 diabetes. One serving of air popped corn (3 cups) has twice the amount of polyphenols as a typical serving of fruit plus it will give you 2/3 of your daily recommended whole grain intake. Choose air-popped corn and avoid microwaved popcorn with added fake butter and chemical flavorings. Try garlic powder and Parmesan cheese, a little bit of olive oil, fresh herbs and salt, or a sprinkle of cinnamon. Corn comes in a variety of forms: sweet corn, grits, corn bread, tortillas, polenta, and corn chips. Enjoy whole grain corn bread, baked blue corn chips served with salsa, or a simple corn on the cob. When buying corn products look for “whole” or “whole grain” corn on the label.

Brown rice

Rice is the most commonly eaten grain worldwide. It is also gluten-free making it a healthy whole grain alternative for those with wheat allergies or Celiac disease. Similar to whole wheat, the process of refining it involves removing all or most of the bran, and some of the germ. In doing so, many important nutrients are lost, including insoluble fiber and magnesium, both of which have been shown to enhance blood sugar metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. Replacing white rice with brown rice will add more fiber to your diet. One cup of white rice only has around .5g of fiber, whereas a cup of brown rice has 3.5g. You can start by mixing white and brown rice together and slowly increase the ratio of brown rice. Brown rice a slightly nutty flavor and a small amount fills you fast!


Oats are a slowly-digested cereal that are almost always sold in their whole grain form. The water and fiber in cooked oatmeal leaves you feeling full and satisfied. Oats contain beta glucan, a type of soluble fiber that is especially effective at reducing the glycemic index (GI) of a meal. This special type of fiber also has the added benefit of reducing cholesterol. Finding whole grain oats is easy! If the ingredient list states “oats” or “oatmeal” you can rest assured that you’re eating a whole grain. If you prefer instant oats, watch out for added sugar in the flavored varieties. Buy plain oatmeal and then add cinnamon, nutmeg, dried fruit, berries, or nuts to flavor it the way you like. Cook with a mixture of non-fat milk and coconut milk for a flavor boost.

Whole grains provide a powerful nutrient punch for people with diabetes. Compared to refined grains, they contain fiber, minerals, and antioxidants that will help you to regulate blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight.

Choose 100% whole grains at least 75% of the time. Swap out white bread, white rice, cakes, cookies, and the like with whole grain alternatives.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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