The Best Foods to Eat and Avoid When You Have Diabetes

A diet rich in vegetables, fruits and lean proteins can be beneficial for a person with diabetes. At the same time, a person with diabetes may need to limit their intake of white bread, sweets and other highly refined foods.

Sweet and starchy carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels. But these foods, in adequate quantities, can play a role in a balanced eating plan. The appropriate amount and type of carbohydrates can depend on many factors, including a person’s activity level and medications such as insulin.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a beneficial diet for people with diabetes includes the following:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • lean protein
  • foods with less added sugar
  • less processed foods

This article looks at some of the best foods for people with diabetes, foods to limit, and how to ensure a balanced diet.

Whole grains contain high levels of fiber and more nutrients than refined white grains.

A diet rich in fiber is important for people with diabetes because fiber slows down the digestion process. Slower absorption of nutrients helps keep blood sugar levels stable.

Whole wheat and whole grains have a lower glycemic index (GI) than white bread and rice. This means they have less effect on blood sugar levels.

Good examples of whole grains to include in the diet are:

Oily fish is a beneficial addition to any diet. It contains important omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. These are sometimes called EPA and DHA.

People need certain amounts of healthy fats to keep their bodies functioning and promote heart and brain health.

The ADA reports that a diet rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may improve blood sugar and blood lipid management in people with diabetes.

Some fish are a rich source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are:

People can eat seaweed, such as kelp and spirulina, as alternative plant-based sources of these fatty acids.

Beans are a great option for people with diabetes. They are a source of plant-based protein and can help satisfy the appetite while promoting digestive health thanks to their high content soluble fiber.

Beans also have a low GI and are more effective at regulating blood sugar than many other starchy foods.

Among the many types of beans are:

  • kidney
  • pinto
  • black
  • Marine
  • adzuki

Beans also contain important nutrients including iron, potassium and magnesium.

Learn more about beans and diabetes.

Nuts can be another great addition to the diet. Like fish, nuts contain fatty acids that help keep the heart healthy.

Walnuts are particularly rich in a type of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Like other omega-3s, ALA is important for heart health. People with diabetes may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. It is therefore important to consume these fatty acids.

A 2018 study suggested that nut consumption was linked to a lower incidence of diabetes.

Nuts also provide essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamin B6, magnesium and iron.

Discover other beneficial nuts for diabetes.

Sweet potatoes rank lower on the GI scale than white potatoes. This makes them a great alternative for people with diabetes because they release sugar more slowly and don’t raise blood sugar levels as much.

Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of:

  • fiber
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • potassium

Probiotics are helpful bacteria that live in the human gut and improve digestion and overall health.

A Study 2022 found that people with type 2 diabetes who took probiotic supplements for 90 days had better blood sugar levels, higher levels of “good” cholesterol (also called HDL cholesterol), and fewer gut bacteria. healthy.

Another Meta-analysis 2020 of 15 clinical trials found that probiotics can reduce insulin resistance, fasting blood sugar, and HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar management over a 3 to 4 month period) in people with diabetes .

A person should choose a plain variety with no added sugar. Probiotic yogurt contains live, active cultures such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which it may advertise on the label..

People often consider chia seeds a superfood because of their high antioxidant and omega-3 content. They are also a good source of protein and plant fiber.

In a small-scale trial in 2017, people who were overweight and had type 2 diabetes lost more weight after 6 months when they included chia seeds in their diet than those who ate a chia bran alternative. oats. Researchers have suggested that chia seeds may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their weight more effectively.

Obesity is a significant risk factor for diabetes, and weight loss can contribute to better blood sugar management.

As the ADA reports, no diet offers more benefits to a person with diabetes than another.

However, research suggests that a low-carb diet might be helpful. This can help reduce cravings, lower blood sugar, and increase energy. It can also help people with diabetes maintain a moderate weight.

Low-carb diets also have variations, including:

The following is an example of a low-carb menu for a person with diabetes.

One way to manage diabetes by changing your diet is to balance high and low GI foods. High GI foods raise blood sugar more than low GI foods.

When choosing high GI foods, limit portions and pair them with sources of protein or healthy fats to reduce their effect on blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller longer.

High GI foods include:

People with diabetes may also want to limit or balance certain portions of their following foods:

Foods high in carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (carbohydrates) are an important part of all meals. However, people with diabetes may benefit from limiting their carbohydrate intake or pairing carbohydrates with a healthy source of protein or fat.

Saturated and trans fats

Certain fats, such as saturated and trans fats, may increase insulin resistance and contribute to reduced blood sugar management in people with diabetes. Many fried and processed foods, including French fries, chips, and baked goods, contain these types of fats.

Refined sugar

People with diabetes should limit or avoid sources of refined sugar, such as store-bought or homemade sweets, cakes, and cookies.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 25g or 6 teaspoons (teaspoons) of added sugar per day for women and 36 g or 9 teaspoons for men. This does not include natural sugars from foods such as fruit or plain milk.

Learn more about diabetes and sugar consumption.

Sugary drinks

Beverages that contain a lot of sugar, such as energy drinks, certain coffees, and shakes, can disrupt a person’s insulin level, leading to an imbalance.

Salty foods

Foods high in salt can increase blood pressure. Salt may appear as “sodium” on a food label.

The ADA recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day, regardless of a person’s diabetes status.


Drinking alcohol in moderation should not pose serious risks for people with diabetes and should not affect long-term blood sugar management.

However, people with diabetes should avoid mixed drinks or cocktails because they often contain added sugars that can cause blood sugar spikes.

People who are prescribed insulin or insulin secretagogues may be at higher risk of alcohol-related hypoglycemia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women who drink alcohol limit their consumption to a glass a day and that men limit their consumption to two drinks per day, regardless of their diabetic status.

Find out how alcohol affects diabetes.

Below are some frequently asked questions about diet and diabetes.

What is a good diet for people with diabetes?

No single diet offers more benefits than another to a person with diabetes.

However, a low-carb diet may be beneficial. This can help reduce cravings, lower blood sugar, and increase energy. It can also help people with diabetes maintain a moderate weight.

What foods should a person with diabetes avoid?

People with diabetes may wish avoid or limit processed foods, fried foods, foods high in saturated or trans fats, very salty foods, and foods or drinks with added sugar.

What are the three rules of a diabetic diet?

Three areas can help a diabetic person maintains their blood sugar within the desired range. These areas include what, when and how much they should eat.

People should strive to eat a balanced diet with foods from all different food groups.

When a person should eat can vary from person to person. Creating a meal schedule can help some people with diabetes maintain their blood sugar levels.

Eating the right amount of food can help a person with diabetes maintain their blood sugar levels.

How can someone lower their HbA1c level?

Dietary changes that can help a person with diabetes lower their HbA1c include eating regularly, sticking to portion sizes, eating a variety of foods, and spreading carbohydrate-rich foods throughout the day .

People with diabetes can work with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized nutrition plan.

Eating a nutritious, balanced diet containing the foods listed above can help people with diabetes manage their disease and prevent complications by:

  • manage blood sugar
  • reduce inflammation
  • reduce the risk of heart disease
  • increased antioxidant activity
  • reduce the risk of kidney disease

Pregnant people with gestational diabetes can work with a healthcare professional to create a meal plan that helps them and the fetus stay safe and healthy.

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