Healthy Fats for Diabetics

The much touted Mediterranean diet has practically elevated olive oil to the status of super food. But there are other oils out there that have health benefits, too. Safflower oil, for instance, appears to reduce blood sugar levels by 11 to 19 points, says Kelly A. O'Connor, registered dietitian and diabetes educator.

"According to the studies, safflower oil not only lowered blood sugar but also reduced fat in the 'trunk' area of the body," O'Connor says. "It's long been one that we, as diabetes educators, have recommended for use on a regular basis due to its polyunsaturated qualities."

The study, which was conducted on obese post menopausal women with Type 2 diabetes, was carried out at Ohio State University for 16 weeks. None of the women in the study was taking insulin for their diabetes. The oils were given as a specific supplement, O'Connor explains, rather than cooked into foods.

Still, safflower oil makes a good addition to the diet. "We've been telling the public for along time about the positive effects of polyunsaturated fats like safflower oil," O'Connor says.

Both olive oil and omega 3 fish oil are also recommended, says Joy Pape, author of The Real-Life Guide to Diabetes. "You could have one to three grams a day," she says.

Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, is heart-healthy, too. "It is very high in monounsaturated fats," says Elisa Zied, registered dietitian and the author of "Nutrition at Your Fingertips." "And when you replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, this can help lower your LDL, or bad, cholesterol." This is very important for those with diabetes, she adds.

Of course, no matter what type of oil you choose, don't pour it generously over all over your foods. It's got just as many calories as butter, so use sparingly.

Use These Oils

  • Eating fish twice a week is recommended, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, says Joy Pape.
  • Limit the amount of oil you add to your food. For a woman who consumes 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day, a five teaspoon limit on oil is about right, Zied says.
  • Like olive oil, canola and peanut oils are a good source of monounsaturated fat, Zied says.
  • Avoid consuming coconut oil and palm kernel oil, which are not healthful for the body, says Zied.