Foods for people with diabetes: 10 best to eat and things to avoid

It is possible for persons with diabetes to maintain their blood sugar levels by eating specific meals while avoiding others.

People with diabetes can get significant benefits from a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and lean protein sources.

Keeping specific foods in balance can aid in the maintenance of health, the improvement of overall well-being, and the prevention of future difficulties.

In order to determine the most beneficial food choices for people who have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, a healthcare expert, such as a doctor or nutritionist, can collaborate with them.

This article examines some of the greatest foods for persons with diabetes to consume, as well as which foods should be avoided or consumed in moderation in the diet.

Diabetes foods

A lady selecting foods
People with diabetes can control their blood sugar levels by eating foods that are healthy to them.

Living with diabetes does not have to imply being denied of one’s basic needs. Even though people can learn to balance meals and make healthy eating choices, they can still include items that they enjoy in their diet.

However, people can opt to incorporate sugary and starchy carbs in the proper amounts as part of a well-balanced meal plan in order to avoid having their blood sugar levels rise too much.

It is critical for people with diabetes to keep track of the overall amount of carbohydrates in a meal they consume. Carbohydrate requirements will vary depending on a variety of factors, including a person’s level of activity and the presence of drugs such as insulin.

A dietitian can recommend particular carbohydrate guidelines that are tailored to a person’s specific nutritional requirements. Although it is not recommended to have more than a quarter of a plate of starchy carbohydrates in a single meal, consumers should aim to meet the MyPlate standards established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the following are the essential components of a healthy diet for people with diabetes:

  • Include fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat lean protein.
  • Choose foods with less added sugar.
  • Avoid trans fats.

The following is a list of fruits, vegetables, and meals that have had less sugar added to them.

Walnuts

Nuts are another another fantastic addition to your diet plan. Nuts, like fish, provide heart-protective fatty acids that aid to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.

Walnuts contain a particularly high concentration of alpha-lipoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid (ALA). ALA, like other omega-3 fatty acids, is essential for maintaining excellent cardiovascular health.

People who have diabetes may be at greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke, making it critical to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

According to a study published in 2018, consuming walnuts is associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.

Walnuts are also a good source of important nutrients such as protein, vitamin B-6, magnesium, iron, and calcium.

People might add a handful of walnuts to their breakfast cereal or to a mixed salad for a healthy snack or meal.

Beans

Beans are a delicious and nutritious meal option for persons with diabetes. They are a good source of plant-based protein, and they can help people lose weight by reducing their carbohydrate intake while also satisfying their appetite.

Beans are also low on the glycemic index (GI) scale, making them a better choice for blood sugar stabilisation than many other starchy carbohydrates.

Beans may also aid in the control of blood sugar levels in some persons. Their complex carbohydrate nature means that the body processes them more slowly than it does other types of carbs.

Eaten in moderation, beans can aid in weight loss as well as the regulation of a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

People have an extensive selection to pick from, which includes the following varieties:

  • kidney beans
  • pinto beans
  • black beans
  • navy beans
  • adzuki beans

These beans also consist of a variety of vital elements such as iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

A widely adaptable meal option, beans are a great choice for many people. People can use a variety of beans in a chilli or stew, or they can wrap them in tortillas and serve them with salad.

When using canned beans, make sure to find a kind that does not have any added salt. Otherwise, drain and rinse the beans to eliminate any additional salt that may have been applied.

Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are important for good health. They also have a negligible effect on blood glucose concentrations.

Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are a significant plant-based source of potassium, vitamin A, and calcium, among other nutrients. They also include a significant amount of protein and fibre.

Because of their high antioxidant content and presence of starch-digesting enzymes, some studies believe that eating green leafy vegetables is beneficial for persons who have diabetes.

Green leafy veggies include the following:

  • spinach
  • collard greens
  • kale
  • cabbage
  • bok choy
  • broccoli

According to one small-scale investigation, kale juice may be beneficial in regulating blood sugar levels and improving blood pressure in persons who have subclinical high blood pressure. For six weeks, participants drank 300 millilitres of kale juice every day, according to the study.

Green leafy vegetables can be included in one’s diet in a variety of ways, including salads, side dishes, soups, and meals. Combine with a source of lean protein like chicken or tofu for a complete meal.

Whole grains

Whole grains have a higher content of fibre and minerals than processed white grains and are therefore healthier choices.

For patients with diabetes, eating a diet high in fibre is essential, as fibre helps to slow down the digestion process. The slower absorption of nutrients contributes to the maintenance of steady blood sugar levels.

In comparison to white breads and rice, whole wheat and whole grains have a lower glycemic index (GI). The result is that they have a less impact on blood sugar levels.

Whole grains such as the following are recommended for inclusion in the diet:

  • brown rice
  • whole-grain bread
  • whole-grain pasta
  • buckwheat
  • quinoa
  • millet
  • bulgur
  • rye

Whole-grain bread and pasta can be substituted for white bread and white pasta.

Fatty fish

Fatty fish is an excellent supplement to any diet because of its high fat content. A type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fatty fish is termed eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which is also known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (DHA).

To keep their bodies working and to maintain heart and brain health, people require a specific quantity of healthy fats in their diet.

According to the American Diabetes Association, a diet rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help patients with diabetes improve their blood sugar control and blood lipids.

Certain types of fish are a good source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, as well as other nutrients. These are the ones:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • albacore tuna
  • herring
  • trout

These fatty acids can be obtained from seaweed, such as kelp and spirulina, which are plant-based alternatives to animal-based sources.

Instead of frying fish, which is high in saturated and trans fats, people can bake, roast, or grill their fish to reduce their fat intake. Combine with a variety of veggies for a nutritious and filling supper.

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits

The consumption of citrous fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons may help to lower blood sugar levels, according to research.

The consumption of citrous fruits is an excellent way to obtain the vitamins and minerals found in fruit without having to consume the carbohydrates.

Two bioflavonoid antioxidants, known as hesperidin and naringin, are believed to be responsible for the antidiabetic properties of oranges, according to some research.

Citrus fruits are also a rich source of the following nutrients:

Berries

Berries include a high concentration of antioxidants, which can assist to prevent oxidative stress from occuring. Oxidative stress has been related to a wide range of health problems, including heart disease and certain malignancies.

People with diabetes have been discovered to have high levels of oxidative stress on a chronic basis, according to research. An imbalance between antioxidants and unstable molecules known as free radicals emerges in the body, resulting in the development of oxidative stress.

Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are all high in antioxidants and fibre, and they are all delicious. They also include a variety of vital vitamins and minerals, including the following:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • manganese
  • potassium

Fresh berries can be added to a person’s breakfast, eaten as a snack, or used in a smoothie. Frozen berries can also be used in a smoothie.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes have a lower GI than white potatoes, which is good news for diabetics. Consequently, they are a fantastic choice for those with diabetes because they release sugar more slowly and cause blood sugar levels to not rise as high.

Sweet potatoes are also a good source of the following nutrients:

  • fiber
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • potassium

Sweet potatoes can be prepared in a variety of ways, including baked, boiled, roasted, or mashed, to suit individual tastes. To make a balanced meal out of them, pair them with a source of lean protein, green leafy vegetables, or a salad for added nutrition.

Probiotic yogurt

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that dwell in the human stomach and that help to enhance digestion as well as overall health and well-being.

According to some research published in 2011, consuming probiotic yoghurt may help persons with type 2 diabetes lower their cholesterol levels by up to 10%. This has the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to one review study, ingesting probiotic foods may help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

People might opt for a natural yoghurt, such as Greek yoghurt, that contains no added sugar to their diet. A probiotic yoghurt will contain live and active cultures such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, which are beneficial to the body.

People can make a healthy breakfast or dessert out of yoghurt by mixing in berries and almonds.

Chia seeds

Because of its high antioxidant and omega-3 content, chia seeds are frequently referred to as a superfood. They are also a good source of plant-based protein and fibre, as well as other nutrients.

In a small-scale randomised controlled experiment conducted in 2017, participants who were overweight and had type 2 diabetes lost more weight after 6 months when they incorporated chia seeds in their diet compared to those who ate an oat bran substitute, according to the findings.

As a result, the researchers believe that chia seeds may be beneficial in the management of type 2 diabetes.

Chia seeds can be sprinkled on top of breakfast or salads, used in baking, or blended with water to form a pudding or dessert.

Foods to avoid

White bread
White bread has a high glycemic index (GI), therefore patients with diabetes may benefit from decreasing their intake.

One strategy to manage diabetes with diet is to consume a variety of high- and low-GI foods in moderation. High-GI foods have a greater impact on blood sugar levels than low-GI foods.

Choose high-GI foods in small portions and couple them with protein or healthy fat to lessen the impact on blood sugar and help you feel fuller for longer periods of time while eating them.

The following foods have a high glycemic index:

  • white bread
  • puffed rice
  • white rice
  • white pasta
  • white potatoes
  • pumpkin
  • popcorn
  • melons
  • pineapple

The following foods should be avoided or consumed in moderation by people with diabetes:

Foods that are high in carbohydrates

A significant portion of every meal is composed of carbohydrates. People with diabetes, on the other hand, will benefit by restricting their carbohydrate intake in a balanced diet, as well as from combining carbs with a nutritious protein or fat source.

Fruits with a high glycemic index

The majority of fruits have low glycemic indexes, however melons and pineapple have high glycemic indexes. This indicates that they have a greater ability to raise blood glucose levels.

Saturated and trans fats

The consumption of unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, can worsen the symptoms of diabetes in certain people. These types of fats can be found in a wide variety of fried and processed meals, such as fries, chips, and baked goods.

Refined sugar

When it comes to sweets, cakes, and biscuits, people with diabetes should try to limit or eliminate refined sugar, which is likely to be present in both store-bought and handmade confections.

The American Heart Association recommends that women have no more than 24 grammes, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar per day, and that men consume no more than 36 grammes, or 9 teaspoons, per day. The naturally occuring sugars found in foods such as fruit and plain milk are excluded from this calculation.

Drinks with added sugar

A person’s insulin levels can be thrown off by drinks that contain a lot of sugar, such as energy drinks, some coffees, and some protein shakes.

Salty foods

Foods that contain a lot of sodium might cause high blood pressure. If you look at a food label, salt may also be listed under the term sodium.

As a general rule, the American Diabetes Association recommends that people maintain their daily sodium intake under 2,300 milligrammes per day, which is in line with other health organisations’ recommendations.

Alcohol

When used in moderation, alcohol should not pose any major dangers to people with diabetes, and it should not have any negative effects on their long-term glucose control.

People who use insulin or insulin secretagogue therapy may be at increased risk of hypoglycemia as a result of excessive alcohol use, according to research.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those with diabetes and those who do not should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women and up to two alcoholic beverages per day for men.

What about gestational diabetes?

People who have gestational diabetes can collaborate with their healthcare provider to develop a meal plan.

A meal plan may include keeping track of how many carbohydrates a person consumes in order to ensure that they are getting enough energy and that their blood sugar is staying under control.

In accordance with the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development recommendations, people with gestational diabetes should have three medium-sized meals per day, as well as two to four snacks in between meals.

Diets rich in fibre, vegetables and fruit, protein, healthy fats and legumes, as well as the items listed above will be beneficial to women who are pregnant or who are nursing a baby with gestational diabetes.

Conclusion

Those suffering from diabetes can collaborate with their healthcare plan.

A healthy, balanced diet that includes the foods listed above can assist people with diabetes in managing their disease and preventing complications by doing the following:

  • controlling their blood sugar levels
  • lowering inflammation
  • lowering risk of heart disease
  • increasing antioxidant activity
  • reducing the risk of kidney disease

Pregnant women who have gestational diabetes should consult with their healthcare provider to develop a food plan that will keep them and their unborn child safe and healthy during the pregnancy period.

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