Is pickled beets good for diabetics?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body processes blood glucose, also known as blood sugar. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone needed to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, meaning the body’s cells do not properly respond to insulin. Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy in women who did not have diabetes prior to becoming pregnant.

A healthy diet is important for all people with diabetes to help manage blood sugar levels. While certain foods like processed sugars and refined carbs can spike blood sugar, other foods can help stabilize it. Pickled beets have recently grown in popularity as a diabetic-friendly food, but are they actually a smart choice for diabetics?

Nutrition Profile of Pickled Beets

To understand if pickled beets are beneficial for diabetics, it is important to look at their nutrition profile:


– Carbohydrates: Pickled beets contain 13 grams of carbohydrate per 1 cup serving. The majority of these carbs come from natural sugars. For comparison, 1 cup of cooked fresh beets contains 15 grams of carbs. The pickling process does slightly reduce the carb content.

– Fiber: Pickled beets contain 3 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving. Fiber helps slow the digestion and absorption of carbs, which can prevent blood sugar spikes.

– Protein: Pickled beets contain 2 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Protein is also important for blood sugar management.

– Fat: Pickled beets contain 0 grams of fat per 1 cup serving. They are very low in fat.


– Manganese: Pickled beets are high in manganese, containing 24% of the Daily Value (DV) in just 1 cup. Manganese helps regulate blood sugar.

– Vitamin C: They contain 12% DV for vitamin C. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and may provide protective benefits.

– Folate: Pickled beets contain 10% DV for folate. Folate helps prevent certain birth defects and may promote heart health.

– Potassium: They contain 9% DV for potassium. Potassium supports nerve signaling and muscle contractions.

Overall, pickled beets offer a decent nutrient profile with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant-based carbs. The fiber and nutrients give them an advantage over many processed carb sources like white bread or chips. Next, let’s analyze the effects pickled beets may have on diabetes management.

Effects of Pickled Beets on Blood Sugar

Studies looking specifically at pickled beets are limited. However, research on vinegar and fermented foods suggests pickled beets may have the following benefits for diabetics:

Delayed Carb Absorption

The vinegar brine used to pickle beets may delay the absorption of carbs from the beets. One study in people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes found that consuming vinegar with a carb-containing meal reduced post-meal blood sugar by 20% compared to a placebo (1).

Increased Insulin Sensitivity

Some research shows vinegar may improve insulin sensitivity after carb-heavy meals in people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes (2, 3). Better insulin sensitivity means the body more efficiently transports glucose out of the blood and into cells.

Promoted Gut Health

Pickled beets are a fermented food. Fermented foods contain probiotics, which are beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotics and fiber from pickled beets may improve gut health and digestion in diabetics. Studies link imbalances in gut bacteria to inflammation and insulin resistance (4).

Overall, pickled beets may have beneficial effects on blood sugar management due to delayed carb absorption, improved insulin sensitivity, and probiotic content. However, portion control remains key.

Are Pickled Beets Good for Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

The effects pickled beets may have on blood sugar control could potentially benefit both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetics must supplement with insulin through injections or an insulin pump. Carefully monitoring carb intake and pairing carbs from pickled beets with proteins or fats may help prevent blood sugar spikes.

For type 2 diabetics, pickled beets could be a better choice compared to refined carbs thanks to fiber and nutrients. However, moderating portions is still important to prevent excess carbohydrate intake.

Research specifically looking at pickled beets in either type 1 or type 2 diabetics is needed before definitive recommendations can be made. But generally speaking, pickled beets in moderate portions may be a smart addition to a diabetic diet.

Other Diabetes-Friendly Nutrient-Dense Foods

In addition to pickled beets, other nutrient-dense foods diabetics can incorporate include:

– Non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc. These provide fiber with minimal carbs.

– Legumes like lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, etc. Legumes have fiber, plant-based protein, and minerals.

– Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. These provide fiber, fat, and plant protein.

– Fruits like berries and citrus fruits have fiber and antioxidants that benefit blood sugar control.

– Whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and 100% whole wheat bread or pasta provide fiber.

– Fatty fish like salmon are rich in omega-3s that reduce inflammation and promote heart health.

– Spices including cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, and ginger have anti-inflammatory effects that may enhance insulin sensitivity.

This wide variety of whole, nutrient-dense foods can help stabilize blood sugar when incorporated as part of an overall balanced diabetic diet. Portion control and carb counting is key.

Recommended Intake of Pickled Beets for Diabetics

Most experts recommend the following intake amounts of pickled beets for diabetics:

– 1-2 servings per week, but no more than 1 serving (1/2 cup) per day

– Always pair with a source of protein like nuts, cheese, or plant protein

– Drink plenty of water

– Monitor blood sugar before and after meals containing pickled beets to assess individual response

– Limit other high-carb foods on days when pickled beets are consumed

– Take any metformin or other diabetes medications as prescribed

Consuming pickled beets sparingly as part of an overall healthy diet can allow diabetics to reap benefits like nutrients and antioxidants without spiking blood sugar. Anyone on medications or insulin should monitor closely and consult a healthcare provider if considering adding pickled beets. Moderation and portion control are key.

Best Practices for Choosing and Eating Pickled Beets

Not all pickled beets are equal when it comes to nutrition and sodium content. Follow these tips for choosing quality products:

– Select fermented, refrigerated varieties over shelf-stable versions. Refrigerated beets undergo live fermentation with beneficial probiotics.

– Check the ingredient list. The only ingredients should be beets, water, vinegar, salt, and spices. Avoid added sugars.

– Opt for low-sodium versions whenever possible, ideally with less than 350mg sodium per serving.

– Look for brands clearly labeled as “no sugar added” or “unsweetened.”

– Avoid pickled beets with artificial colors or preservatives.

Once purchased, here are some best practices for preparing and eating pickled beets:

– Rinse pickled beets to remove excess vinegar and salt.

– Portion out 1/2 cup serving size into a bowl or storage container.

– Pair with protein source like sardines, cottage cheese, walnuts, or tofu.

– Add to salads for flavor and color.

– Use as a vibrant addition to grain bowls and Buddha bowls.

– Add as a topping to tacos or sandwiches in place of sugary condiments.

With smart purchasing choices and proper portioning, pickled beets can be a tasty way for diabetics to add variety to their diet and benefit from unique nutrients.

Potential Downsides of Pickled Beets for Diabetics

While pickled beets have proven benefits, there are a few potential downsides diabetics should consider:

Carb Content Adds Up Quickly

If portion sizes are not monitored closely, the carb content in pickled beets can quickly surpass recommended amounts for carb-controlled meal planning.

High Sodium

Even in low-sodium varieties, pickled beets are relatively high in sodium. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium to 1500mg per day, which is easy to exceed with multiple servings of pickled beets.

GI Symptoms

Some people experience gas or digestive upset from fermented foods. Start slowly with 1-2 tablespoons daily and build up.

Interactions with Medications

Anyone on insulin or oral diabetes medications should consult their healthcare provider before adding pickled beets because of the potential to lower blood sugar. Doses may need adjusting.

Not a Free Food

Some people mistakenly assume because pickled beets have vitamins and nutrients, they can eat unlimited portions. Moderation is still key to prevent blood sugar spikes.

As long as proper portion sizes are emphasized, pickled beets can be part of a healthy diabetic diet for many people. Monitoring individual response is important.

Precautions for Pregnant Women with Gestational Diabetes

For pregnant women with gestational diabetes, extra precautions should be taken with pickled beets:

– Consult your OBGYN before adding pickled beets.

– Closely monitor carb counts and servings sizes to maintain stable blood sugar.

– Ensure any pickled beets you consume are refrigerated and freshly fermented, not shelf-stable. This reduces risk of harmful bacteria.

– Limit sodium intake to avoid exacerbating pregnancy-related swelling.

– Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

– Be on alert for signs pickled beets are not agreeing with you, like diarrhea or vomiting.

With OBGYN approval, incorporating a small amount of low-sodium, freshly fermented pickled beets can provide nutritional benefits. But use caution and monitor carb counts closely.

Pickled Beets Recipe Ideas for Diabetics

Here are some healthy ways diabetics can enjoy pickled beets:

Pickled Beet Salad

– 2 cups mixed greens
– 1/2 cup pickled beets, rinsed and drained
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
– 2 tablespoons walnuts
– 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– Salt and pepper to taste

Toss together greens, pickled beets, feta, and walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Pickled Beet and Chickpea Tacos

– 2 corn tortillas
– 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
– 1/4 cup pickled beets, sliced
– 1 tablespoon crumbled queso fresco
– 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
– Lime wedges for serving

Warm tortillas. Fill with chickpeas, pickled beets, queso fresco, and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice on top.

Pickled Beet Egg Salad

– 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
– 1/4 cup pickled beets, diced
– 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon lemon juice
– Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix together eggs, pickled beets, Greek yogurt, mustard, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy in a lettuce wrap or stuffed in a tomato.

The Bottom Line

Pickled beets can be a smart choice for diabetics when consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Benefits like delayed carb absorption, increased insulin sensitivity, and probiotics make pickled beets stand out from many other starchy veggies. However, portions must be monitored diligently and pickled beets should always be paired with protein.

Pregnant women with gestational diabetes need OBGYN approval before adding pickled beets. Anyone on diabetes medications should consult their healthcare provider and monitor blood sugar closely when first incorporating pickled beets to ensure safety and adjust medication dosages if needed. While pickled beets do contain beneficial nutrients, they are not a free food. With proper precautions and portion control, pickled beets can provide flavor and variety to diabetic meal plans.

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