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The Prediabetes Nutritionist

5 Blood Sugar-Wholegrains to Eat with Prediabetes

5 Blood Sugar-Friendly Wholegrains For Your Pantry (Cook Quickly)

All whole grains are not created equal! Here are five blood sugar-friendly wholegrains you can eat and still reduce your HbA1c!

There’s a common misconception that you can’t control your blood sugar without eliminating grains from your diet. 

You CAN absolutely eat grains and LOWER your blood sugar. But you must control your portions, pair them with high-quality proteins, fats and vegetables and ideally choose high-quality wholegrains.

In this post, I’ll share five blood sugar-friendly wholegrains to eat if you have prediabetes.  

What are wholegrains?

Grains are the seeds from which new plants grow. The seeds are considered whole grains if all three parts – the bran, germ and endosperm – are present in their natural proportions. If one or more of these three parts are missing, the seed is considered a refined grain.

Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains because they contain the bran and germ layers where most of the grain’s vitamins, minerals, fats, antioxidants and fibre are found (Slavin, 2000). They are also associated with a lower risk of pre- and type 2 diabetes, partly because of their lower glycaemic index (GI) compared to refined grains (Slavin, 2000).

Of note, GI describes the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels relative to pure sugar or white bread (Atkinson et al., 2008). Usually, foods with GI values in the range <55, 55-69 and >70 are considered low, medium and high GI foods, respectively.

The Blood Sugar-Friendly Wholegrains

Wholegrains generally have a low to medium GI, making them fantastic additions to any diet. However, most people eat only brown rice, quinoa and oats without realising that other nutrient-dense options with (sometimes) lower GIs exists.

Here are six other wholegrains to add to your diet.

1 | Millet (includes sorghum, fonio and teff)

Millet, an ancient gluten-free grain, was cultivated as early as 6000 BC (Martin et al., 2021). Thirteen types of millets are available worldwide, including pearl, finger, sorghum, little, proso, kodo, barnyard, brown top, foxtail, Guinea, Job’s tears, fonio and teff (Anitha et al., 2021).

The GI of millet varies depending on the type, with some exhibiting low GIs (Barnyard millet, fonio and teff) and others medium GIs (Kodo, little and pearl). The average GI of millet is 52.7 (Anitha et al., 2021).

Millet has a distinctive corn-like flavour and can be prepared in many ways. You can cook it al dente or fluffy to use in salads or to replace rice and couscous. Nigerians ferment it to form a pudding popularly known as ‘pap’ or ‘ogi’. Indians make bread, biscuits, and porridge with it or use it as a rice alternative.

Nutritional facts (per 100g raw)

Calories: 378

Carbs: 72.8 g

Sugars: 0.8 g

Fibre: 8.5 g

Protein: 11 g

Fat: 4.22 g

Sodium: 5 mg

Potassium: 195 mg

Magnesium: 114 mg

How to Cook Millet

  1. Optional: Toast the raw seeds before cooking to soften the grain and enhance flavour. Put in a dry frying pan or saucepan and heat gently for about three minutes until it starts to darken and some of the grains begin popping
  2. Cook in a lidded suacepan, using one part millet to two parts boiling water or broth, topping up with water if needed. Cook for 15 minutes until the grains are tender and losing shape. You can cook for longer if you want it fluffier.
  3. Season with herbs if serving as a side dish.

2 | Barley

Barley is another ancient grain that has been in existence for at least 17,000 years (Badr et al., 2000). It is a rich source of fibre and many health-promoting plant chemicals such as flavonoids and phytosterols (Idehen, Tang & Sang, 2017).

Wholegrain barley has a GI of 21-26. However, pearled barley which is typically available in grocery stores and has all of the bran and most of the germ layers removed has a GI of 30-41 (Atkinson et al., 2021).

You can add barley to soup and stews; its starch lightly thickens meat or vegetable juices. You can also use it as a replacement for couscous and rice in summer salads or as an alternative to rice in puddings.

Nutritional facts (per 100g raw)

Calories: 354

Carbs: 73.5 g

Sugars: 0.8 g

Fibre: 17.3 g

Protein: 12.5 g

Fat: 2.3 g

Sodium: 17 mg

Potassium: 452 mg

Magnesium: 133 mg

How to Cook Barley

  1. Soak in cold water for several hours or overnight to reduce the cooking time. Rinse in a sieve under cold running water.
  2. Cook in a lidded saucepan, using one part pearl barley to two parts boiling water or broth, topping up with water if necessary. Cook for 25 minutes or until grains are tender. Drain any excess water after cooking.

3 | Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a greenish-brown, almost triangular-shaped, gluten-free grain cultivated in China since 1000 BC. Two main types of buckwheat exist – common buckwheat and Tartary (bitter) buckwheat (Li et al., 2018).

Buckwheat is a good source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, health-promoting antioxidants, and sterols (Li et al.., 2018). It has a distinctive earthy and nutty flavour. Its (wholegrain) flour is used more often than the grain, typically for noodles and crepes.

According to a Polish study, the GI of buckwheat is 34.7 (Rozanksa et al., 2020).

Nutritional facts (per 100g raw)

Calories: 343

Carbs: 71.5 g

Sugars: –

Fibre: 10 g

Protein: 12.3 g

Fat: 3.4 g

Sodium: 1 mg

Potassium: 460 mg

Magnesium: 231 mg

How to Cook Buckwheat

  1. Rinse in a sieve under cold running water.
  2. Cook in a lidded saucepan, using one part buckwheat to two parts boiling water or broth. Top up with more water if necessary. Cook for 8-10 minutes, but monitor closely as buckwheat can overcook very quickly.

4 | Bulgur wheat

Bulgur wheat is pre-cooked wheat berries milled into smaller pieces. Since it contains all three parts of the wholegrain wheatberry bulgur wheat, it is considered a whole grain. It is rich in manganese and fibre and a good source of protein, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium, phosphorus and vitamin B3 (Dorra et al.,2022).

It is widely used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes to make tabbouleh, pilafs and kibbe. Bulgur wheat makes a great alternative to rice and couscous.

The GI of bulgur wheat is 48 (GI News, 2012).

Nutritional facts (per 100g raw)

Calories: 342

Carbs: 75.9 g

Sugars: 0.41 g

Fibre: 12.5 g

Protein: 12.3 g

Fat: 1.33 g

Sodium: 17 mg

Potassium: 410 mg

Magnesium: 164gmg

How to Cook Bulgur Wheat

  1. Rinse under cold running water.
  2. Cook in a lidded saucepan using one part bulgur to two parts boiling water or broth. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the bulgur is just tender

5 | Rye berries

Rye is common in colder climates such as Russia, and Northern and Eastern Europe, where it’s widely used in bread, cake and biscuit making. It is closely related to wheat and barley but very low in gluten with a strong flavour.

Among cereals, rye has the highest fibre content and is unique because it contains fibre in the bran and endosperm layers (Jonsson et al., 2018). It is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, copper and selenium.

Wholegrain rye has a GI of 35; on average, rye bread has a GI of 60 (Atkinson et al., 2021).

Nutritional facts (per 100g)

Calories: 338

Carbs: 75.9 g

Sugars: 0.98 g

Fibre: 15.1 g

Protein: 10.3 g

Fat: 1.63 g

Sodium: 2 mg

Potassium: 510 mg

Magnesium: 110gmg

How to Cook Rye

  1. Soak in cold water for several hours or overnight to reduce cooking time. Rinse under cold running water.
  2. Cook in a lidded saucepan, using one part rye berries to three parts boiling water or broth. Top up with more water if necessary. Cook for 50 minutes or until grains are tender.


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  2. Atkinson F.S., Foster-Powell, K., Brand-Miller, J.C. (2008) International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care, 31: 2281-2283.
  3. Martin, L., Messager, E., Bedianashvili, G., Ruishvili, N., Lebedeva, E., Longford, C., Hosvsepyan, R., Bitadze, L., Chkadua, M., Vanishvili, N., Le Mort, F., Kakhiani, K., Abramishvili, M., Gogochuri, G., Murvanidze, B., Giunashvili, G., Licheli, V., Salavert, A., Andre, G., & Herrscher, E. (2021). The place of millet in food globalisation during late prehistory as evidenced by new bioarchaeological data from the Caucasus. Scientific Reports, 11: 13124.
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DISCLAIMER: Not a substitute for medical advice – All content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical or nutrition advice or to take the place of medical/nutrition advice or treatment from your doctor or health professional. Since each person’s health conditions are very specific, viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information in this post/video, is for general information only and does not replace a consultation with your doctor/health professional.

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