New research, published online last week in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), has found that a diet rich in fresh veggies, fruit, and fiber is beneficial for people with diabetes, according to Medicine Net.

Experts have been recommending this kind of “low-glycemic” diet regimen to patients with diabetes, as it helps in keeping the blood sugar levels under control.

Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted the study by review the findings from 29 different trials.

Co-author of the study Dr. John Sievenpiper said, “Although it was small, the effects were important. I think it provides an opportunity for patients to help them achieve their diabetes treatment goals using diet.”

Dr. Sievenpiper is an associate professor of nutritional sciences and medicine at the University of Toronto.

The researchers looked at the effects of a low-glycemic index diet for three or more weeks in more than 1,600 patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Most of the participants were middle-aged and overweight or obese and their diabetes was moderately controlled with medication or insulin.

Previous studies have shown how effective a low-glycemic index diet is when it comes to keeping blood sugar levels under control and reducing the risk of heart disease in diabetics.

In the current study, a low-glycemic diet was associated with lower blood sugar levels and the reduction in fasting blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, weight, and a specific protein that is associated with inflammation.

Dr. Sievenpiper said diet plays a key role in diabetes therapy. The study patients were already on medications or insulin, but the evidence showed that a low-glycemic diet later could also help.

Lead researcher Dr. Laura Chiavaroli said when it comes to choosing carbohydrates, diabetics ideally would choose whole and plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains.

She said, “With the rise in popularity of plant-based diets right now, [this study] is coming out at a good time where people are a bit more aware of those kinds of foods.”

Dr. Sievenpiper said, “All carbohydrates aren’t bad. And there’s advantages to selecting lower-glycemic carbohydrates,” which includes avoiding refined grains in favor of whole grains with “sticky” fiber, such as oats and barley. He said a Mediterranean diet has a low-glycemic index.

Dr. Karl Nadolsky of Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, who was not part of the study, said the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology is updating its guidelines, too, and the American Diabetes Association has included updates in its standards of care.

He said replacing food that is refined, processed, and high-energy with whole foods would automatically result in a diet that is lower in glycemic index and energy intake, according to Medicine Net.

“Energy balance matters. We know that reducing our energy intake will help obesity and … diseases like type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Nadolsky added. “We know that Mediterranean-pattern diet, getting fat from nuts and seeds and all that stuff is better for cardiovascular risk and diabetes.”