Diabetes foods to avoid

12 Foods to Limit If You Have Diabetes

Although you can eat a wide variety of foods with Diabetes, there are certain foods that won’t do you any favors. Limiting these 12 or substituting with a more nutrient-rich, fiber-packed alternate may help keep blood glucose better controlled.

1. Sugary cereal

A big bowl of Frosted Flakes may sound like a yummy way to start the day — we think so too — but it’s also a recipe for blood glucose spikes. Many breakfast cereals are primarily made with refined grains and added sugar.

Instead, go for a homemade bowl of oatmeal topped with nuts or nut butter. A dash of cinnamon, too! Or, choose a higher-fiber cereal with less added sugar. As a protein-packed alternative, try a lower-sugar Greek vanilla yogurt topped with a few berries and nuts.

2. Dried fruit

Although most dried fruit is just, well, fruit, the dehydration process means there’s more sugar and carbs per square inch than in fresh fruit.

Some dried fruit has 20 to 30 grams of carbs or more per 1/4 cup serving, and some candied varieties come with lots of added sugar (more reason to get comfy reading labels).

If you’ve got a hankering for fruit, your best bet is to reach for something fresh, frozen, or canned without any added sugar.

3. Sugar-sweetened soda

Shocked to see soda on this list? Didn’t think so. It really should be renamed sugar-water, considering all the sweeteners that give fizzy drinks their flavor.

A 12-ounce can of soda can have upwards of 39 grams of carbs — aka close to the amount you should have in one meal.

If you want some bubbly with a hint of sweetness, stop fighting it and hop on the seltzer train. Substitute with a sugar-free version of your favorite soda, free of calories and carbs, or try a sugar-free flavored water for variety.

4. Fruit juices vs. fruit drinks

When it comes to fruit juice, there are two things to keep in mind — portion size and ingredients. Most products labeled “juice” are 100 percent fruit, while those labeled “fruit drink” or “juice drink” may have only some real fruit juice with added sugar.

If you love your morning glass of OJ, that’s okay. Just keep it to 4 ounces (that’s half a cup) and remember to count the 15 grams of carbs in your breakfast total. Some lower-sugar versions of favorite juices are also available.

5. Bagels and muffins

Some large New York-style bagels can have upwards of 50 grams of carbs, and that’s not including any sugar-sweetened toppings, like a fruit flavored cream cheese or jelly.

Look for smaller bagels or use half a bagel as a serving. Large “breakfast” muffins may contain over 200 calories and more than 30 grams of carbs despite the healthy-ish names like “fresh blueberry” or “banana nut.” Read nutrition labels for total carb content and take care with added toppings.

6. Pretzels

Although pretzels are a rather low calorie snack, they’re made from refined white flour and are, consequently, rich in carbs. A serving of about 5 pretzels (and who eats just 5 pretzels?) has about 20 grams of carbs and no other real nutrients.

For something crunchy and salty, try a 1/4 cup of roasted crunchy chickpeas or nuts for some protein, fiber, and heart healthy fats.

7. Fried foods

Anything deep-fried may make your mouth water, but if the food has been “breaded” with added carbs such as bread crumbs, cornmeal, or flour, those carbs need counting.

Depending on the method of frying, these foods also pack a calorie punch when you consider the amount of extra fat involved. Fried foods can be eaten in moderation and it’s best to choose those fried in a heart-healthy oil.

Consider purchasing an air fryer which allows you to indulge in crispy fried veggies and meats without added breading or oil.

8. Syrups and jellies

Considering that a 1/4 cup serving of maple syrup or molasses has 45 to 70 grams of carbs, and we really like to use it on a stack of pancakes or waffles, this combo can really drive your blood glucose skyward. If you’re craving a short stack, try a sugar-free, low calorie syrup alternative.

Jellies and jams are usually made with fruit juice and added sugars. Even those products that claim to be 100 percent fruit are 100 percent carbs. Most jams and jellies contain between 9 to 15 grams of carbs per tablespoon.

Of course the biscuit or toast where the jelly goes must also be counted in the carb total. Look for sugar-free versions of your favorites for a 3 to 5 gram carb alternative.

9. Candy

We hate to lump together all forms of candy, but it’s true that most of them just don’t fit into a diabetes-friendly diet. Whether it’s a sugary pack of Skittles or a Reese’s, most regular-sized candy bars have at least 25 grams of carbs.

If you’re absolutely dying for something sweet, try three dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses, which tallies about 9 grams of carbs. Beware that most candy labeled “sugar-free” usually isn’t free of sugar. It may contain sugar alcohols but these can still raise blood glucose and do not significantly reduce the calorie content.

Some brands have incorporated the sweetener Stevia into their chocolate, but keep in mind that sugar-free does not equal calorie-free or mean that you can partake in unlimited amounts.

10. Granola or breakfast bars

Granola bars or breakfast bars have a reputation for being “healthy” alternatives but reading the nutrition label reveals that many of these bars contain 25 to 30 grams of carbs and little protein or fiber.

Also, check the label for the serving size because the package may contain two bars but the serving size is one bar. Chances are we’re going to eat both bars at a sitting which means double the carbs listed on the label.

11. Sugary coffee drinks

A caramel macchiato is just coffee, right? Lawd, we wish that were true. Flavored coffee drinks do more than give you a caffeine boost, they also contribute a significant amount of sugar and carbs to your diet.

A 16-ounce caramel macchiato has a whopping 35 grams of carbs, and that’s only one option on a lengthy menu of dessert coffees you can choose from. Ask for the sugar-free syrup options and request lower-fat milk to keep carbs and calories in check.

12. Breakfast pastries

Donuts, cinnamon rolls, and danishes, oh my! Whether they’re sold in plastic wrapping or come fresh from a bakery, pastries disguise themselves as breakfast, but they’re really dessert.

As tempting as it might be, when someone brings in a box of treats to the office (really, Karen?) avoid the break room and head straight for your stash of healthier options.

Keep a low-carb protein shake, small fruit cups, or packages of nuts in your desk. These don’t need refrigeration and they can hit the spot when that mid-morning stomach growling starts.

Healthy eating for blood sugar control

If you have diabetes, a healthy eating plan for you is not that different from a healthy eating plan for people without diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) echoes the dietary guidelines recommended for the general public — that is, a diet centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (peas and beans), and low-fat dairy products.

However, you’ll want to pay special attention to your carbohydrate intake.

Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains provide more nutrition per calorie than refined carbohydrates and tend to be rich in fiber. Your body digests high-fiber foods more slowly — which means a more moderate rise in blood sugar.

For most people with diabetes, carbohydrates should account for about 45% to 55% of the total calories you eat each day. Choose your carbohydrates wisely — ideally, from vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and rice, as well as candy, sugary soft drinks, and sweets. Refined carbohydrates tend to cause sharp spikes in blood sugar, and can boost blood triglyceride levels.

Fiber comes in two forms: insoluble fiber, the kind found in whole grains, and soluble fiber, found in beans, dried peas, oats, and fruits. Soluble fiber in particular appears to lower blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity, which may mean you need less diabetes medicine. And a number of studies suggest that eating plenty of fiber reduces the chances of developing heart disease — and people with diabetes need to do all they can to lower their risk.

For more on healthy diet essentials, plus information on managing (and avoiding) type 2 diabetes, buy Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes from Harvard Medical School.

Image: nitrub/Getty Images

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

What’s in season: sweetcorn

Sweetcorn

As a quick and simple snack served on its own, or as a tasty addition to a variety of meals, sweetcorn’s uniquely delicate, sweet flavour is always a welcome treat.

A form of maize, sweetcorn is delicious fresh, frozen or tinned, making it versatile and an excellent vegetable to have on standby. It’s grown extensively across southern England.

Sweetcorn is at its best when bought on the cob, and October is the best month to get it.

Nutrition of sweetcorn

Providing useful amounts of vitamin A, B3 and C, this delightful veg also contains folic acid and fibre. Vitamin B3 is beneficial for the metabolism and the nervous and digestive systems.

Selecting sweetcorn

The best corn has shiny, plump kernels which are closely packed together. When they’re very fresh, squeezing the kernels will cause them to secrete a milky liquid.

Careful corn storage

Corn should be kept refrigerated from the day of purchase until you’re ready to use it. It should keep for 2–3 days. To ensure the corn keeps as long as possible, wrap it in damp kitchen roll and don’t remove the husk.

Precise prep

If the husk is still attached to the corn, start by removing it. You can either eat the corn directly from the cob, or ‘shuck’ the corn to remove it from the cob before serving. This is best done after cooking, as the corn will be easier to remove.

To shuck the corn, cut one end off so that the base is flat (if this hasn’t already been done) and place the flat end on a chopping board. With a sharp knife, slice the corn away from the cob.

Cooking the corn

One of the best things about sweetcorn is how many ways there are to cook it. This makes it easy to incorporate into a huge range of meals.

  • Boil: Boil in unsalted water for 3–6 minutes on the cob, or 2–3 for loose kernels.

  • Roast/barbecue: With the husk attached, this will take 8–15 minutes, or 5–7 with the husk removed.
  • Microwave: Set your microwave to high, then cook up to ear of corn at time. This will take 4–6 minutes.

  • Grill: Set your grill to medium and place the corn onto a suitable grill pan. Cook the corn for around 15 minutes, taking care to turn them occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Answers

1. c. The glycemic index ranks carbohydrate-based foods based on how much they raise blood sugar levels. Foods that are high on this index can cause blood sugar to spike, making diabetes harder to control.

2. d. Breads that are 100% whole grain are made with the entire grain — unlike refined grains, which are processed to remove some of the nutrient-dense layers. Whole-grain foods are high in nutrition and are slow-burning, so they help keep your blood sugar steady.

3. b. Though carrots can be sweet, they’re lower on the glycemic index than the other vegetables on this list. Green, leafy vegetables are an even better addition to your plate. Ideally buy vegetables fresh, or look for frozen or canned options with no added sauces or salt.

4. d. A review of 12 studies showed all kinds of tree nuts — from Brazil nuts to walnuts — improved A1c and fasting blood sugar levels. Peanuts weren’t included in the research — they’re legumes, not nuts. Add tree nuts to your daily diet, but don’t go overboard because they are high in fat and calories. People in the studies ate about 2 ounces of nuts a day (that’s about 40 almonds or 14 walnuts).

Can purple corn reduce inflammation, diabetes?

New research suggests that chemicals in purple corn can reduce inflammation and insulin resistance in a mouse cell model.

Share on PinterestCan researchers harness the chemicals in purple corn to improve diabetes?

Eating a healthful diet is a cornerstone of the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. Fruit, nonstarchy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all on the list of foods that the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommend.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and the latest ADA recommendations advise that individuals work with a healthcare professional to determine which foods help them control their blood sugar levels.

Corn may not be the most obvious choice when looking at managing diabetes. However, this grain comes in a variety of shades and colors, and it is these pigment chemicals that might hold the key to unlocking its potential benefits for people living with diabetes.

A 2017 study showed that rats that ate extracts from a strain of blue corn alongside a Western-style diet had less abdominal fat, better blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lower blood pressure than rats that ate only the Western-style diet.

A research team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who worked with collaborators at Northeast Agricultural University and Zhejiang University, both in China, now presents data showing that the complex phytochemicals in a variety of new purple corn strains may reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity in a mouse cell model.

Managing inflammation and obesity

Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, corresponding author and a professor of food science, led the research, and the team published the findings in the journal Food Chemistry.

For the study, the researchers spent 4 years growing 20 new varieties of corn, which they derived from Apache red maize. They then used water to extract the chemical compounds present in the outer layer of the corn kernels, called the pericarp.

Each pericarp extract had a unique profile of anthocyanins, the pigments that create a corn strain’s particular shade of red-purple, as well as other phytochemicals or phenolic compounds, including caffeic acid, vanillic acid, luteolin, and quercetin among others.

To test the potency of each strain’s pericarp extract, the researchers took to the laboratory and used mouse cell models of inflammation and obesity — two critical drivers of diabetes — as well as insulin resistance.

When they exposed macrophages to the extracts, they saw a reduction in pro-inflammatory molecules. Macrophages are immune cells that play a role in inflammation.

They also found that some of the extracts were mildly toxic to fat cells but were able to dampen the conversion of precursor cells into mature fat cells called adipocytes, which accumulate fat and drive obesity.

Reducing insulin resistance

The researchers also tested their pericarp extracts on adipocytes that they had artificially induced to develop insulin resistance, a hallmark of diabetes.

The extracts reduced the levels of oxidative stress in the cells, which is a measure of insulin resistance.

Glucose uptake increased to varying degrees in the presence of the extracts, according to the study paper, and this demonstrates a reduction in insulin resistance.

The purple corn extracts may provide some additional benefits.

Alpha-amylase is an enzyme that plays a role in the process of breaking down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Inhibition of the protein in people with diabetes can lead to lower blood sugar levels. The pericarp extracts had a potent inhibitory effect on alpha-amylase.

The extracts also inhibited another enzyme called dipeptidyl-peptidase 4 (DPP-4), which activates hormones that regulate insulin secretion in turn. Pharmaceutical DPP-4 inhibitors are a relatively new class of drug that doctors use to treat type 2 diabetes.

“We observed very important changes in molecules that reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in the insulin-resistant adipocytes. We also found important changes in pro-inflammatory molecules in the immune cells.”

Diego Luna-Vital, postdoctoral researcher and study co-author

MNT asked de Mejia whether she foresees people with diabetes making use of purple corn by including it in their diet or by taking pericarp extracts.
“Both approaches are important,” she explained, “the consumption of the whole colored corn as part of the diet, and also, the utilization as ingredient of the current pericarp coproduct from the dry milling corn processing.”

The researchers are continuing their work with the aim of breeding corn hybrids that combine the phytochemicals that showed the most potential in the study.

Go bananas for…bananas

This article is written by Joanne Hutson, a Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

This time of year, we in the Midwest depend on fresh fruits shipped in from warmer climates. Many of us look forward to when we can enjoy locally grown produce as spring and summer arrive. Our grocers do a great job providing a wide array of fresh fruits; however, the cost may be high and the flavor sometimes a gamble.

Bananas are one staple fruit we can count on to provide consistent flavor and quality all year round at a stable, affordable price, even though they travel quite some distance to reach our markets. At an average price of 39 cents a pound, an average banana costs about 12 cents. I cannot think of any comparable food available for this price — can you?

Banana facts

More than 100 billion bananas are eaten each year worldwide, and Americans eat an average of 27 pounds per person every year. That’s equivalent to about 90 bananas a year. The majority of bananas Americans eat come from Latin and South America. However, they are grown in more than 100 countries with tropical climates.

Bananas do not need to ripen on the plant, so they are picked and exported when green. The firm green peel helps prevent bruising during shipping. Once picked, the ripening process slowly begins. Ethylene gas is produced inside the banana, which starts to change the starch to sugar. This softens and sweetens the flesh, while the peel changes from green to yellow. As ripening continues, brown spots appear, and eventually, the entire peel turns brown.

Americans eat more bananas than oranges and apples combined. They are easy to chew and digest, and their natural sweetness makes them a favorite food for all ages. They are very convenient and portable — in their own sealed package. Simply grab and go for a quick mini breakfast or snack.

Nutrition

From a nutritional standpoint, not many foods measure up to the quality and quantity of nutrients packed inside a banana. A medium-sized banana provides about 105 calories with virtually no fat, cholesterol or sodium. They are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral important for regulating blood pressure, fluid balance, heart health plus good nerve and muscle function. A banana can help prevent muscle cramps after exercise. They also provide a good source of vitamins C and B6, as well as magnesium.

Bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrate, our main source of energy. An average seven-inch banana contains about 27 grams of total carbohydrate. For persons with diabetes, bananas can be worked into one’s overall carbohydrate-controlled meal plan as part of a meal or as a healthy snack to aid with stable blood sugars.

The overall carbohydrate content of a banana does not increase as a banana ripens, but there may be a slightly quicker rise in blood sugars from a very ripe banana compared to a less ripe one. This is typically not significant enough to make a difference or warrant eating green bananas. The size of the banana has a larger effect on the blood sugar rise than the ripeness, due to the fact that it would contain more total carbohydrate grams.

An average banana also contains about 3 grams of fiber, which can help provide a feeling of fullness plus aid the digestion process by providing prebiotics and probiotics. These insoluble fiber components help maintain healthy gut bacteria and enzymes needed to digest foods and benefit the immune system.

Preparation and consumption

When bananas have become overly ripe, they can be peeled, mashed and frozen for use later in baked goods such as muffins, pancakes and smoothies. You can also place them whole — peel and all — in a zip lock bag and toss them in the freezer. When ready to use in baking, thaw under warm water, in the microwave or at room temperature, slip the flesh out of the peel and mash. Due to their natural sweet and moist qualities, bananas make a great addition to muffin and quick bread recipes, where sugar and fat ingredients can often be reduced to enhance nutritional quality.

My personal favorite way to eat a banana is to spread a thin layer of peanut butter on it. The protein and carbohydrate combo satisfies my hunger between meals. Other easy ways to incorporate bananas into your diet is to add slices to oatmeal; unsweetened, ready-to-eat dry cereal; low-fat yogurt; low-fat cottage cheese; smoothies and low-fat vanilla pudding.

I hope you take advantage of this highly nutritious, economical, accessible, convenient fruit on a routine basis.

BANANA OATMEAL PANCAKES RECIPE

Servings: Six (12 pancakes)

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup hot or boiling water

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup skim milk

1/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt

1 mashed banana

1 egg

In a large bowl, combine the oats and hot water. Let sit for one to two minutes until the oats are creamy and tender. Stir in oil and sugar; set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon; whisk to blend.

Add the milk, yogurt and banana to the oats and stir until well-blended. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture to the oat mixture and stir until just moistened. Place a nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Once hot, spoon 1/4 cup pancake batter into the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the top surface of the pancake is covered with bubbles and the edges are lightly browned. Flip the pancake and cook for another two to three minutes. Repeat with remaining pancake batter.

Nutrition information per two-pancake serving: 192 calories, 6 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 4 grams monounsaturated fat, 302 milligrams sodium, 30 grams total carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams protein

Source: Mayo Clinic

5 Reasons to Love Bananas

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If you’re a fan of bananas, then your day is about to get better. August 27 is National Banana Lovers Day, meaning it’s time to celebrate all the health benefits of your favorite yellow fruit.

You may already know that bananas are stocked with potassium–a medium one has 422 milligrams of the mineral or 12% of the recommended daily value, according to the USDA. It also has a solid 3 grams of filling fiber and nearly 20% of your daily value for both vitamins C and B6. Plus, they’re great to add to healthy smoothies. If that’s not enough, here are five other ways bananas can make your life better:

They can sub in for sports drinks

Bananas could give sports drinks a run for their money. A study published in PLoS ONE analyzed the blood samples of 14 trained cyclists, who were given either a cup of carbohydrate drink or half a banana to consume every 15 minutes during a simulated 2.5- to 3-hour road race. Researchers found that performance was the same for both, but bananas come with added benefits. “They pack more nutrients than sports drinks and have a healthier blend of natural sugars with bonus antioxidants,” says Health’s contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. And if you’re low on key electrolytes like potassium that help regulate nerve and muscle function, you might suffer from muscle cramps. So grabbing a banana to replace what you sweat out during an intense workout isn’t a bad idea.

RELATED: 20 Ways to Stick to Your Workouts

They may boost your metabolism

Bananas are a good source of Resistant Starch, a starch found in carbohydrate-rich foods that may help you slim down. Your body digests Resistant Starch slowly (it literally “resists” the process), making it a natural appetite suppressant because you feel fuller longer. RS also encourages your liver to switch to fat-burning mode. The Health’s CarbLovers Diet recommends eating 10 to 15 grams daily. A medium, slightly green banana has 12.5 grams of RS, but even ripe bananas have almost 5 grams.

RELATED: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

They can help keep blood pressure in check

Another upside to the high potassium content in bananas: it may help regulate blood pressure. The more potassium you consume, the more sodium that can exit your body, according to the American Heart Association. That’s because the mineral acts like a natural diuretic. “It triggers the kidneys to release excess sodium and fluid the body is holding onto,” Sass says. Lower blood pressure is great news for your heart: It means the muscle won’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body. It doesn’t hurt either that a diet with potassium-rich foods was found to cut your risk of stroke by 21% and may also lower your risk for heart disease.

RELATED: 18 Superfoods for Your Heart

They’re good for your gut bacteria

You’ve probably heard of probiotics, the “good” bacteria that aid digestion and are found in certain foods like yogurt. Well, there’s also such a thing as prebiotics, and bananas happen to be a great source of them. Prebiotics are actually carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the human body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Still, they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy gut. “Prebiotics supply food for probiotics,” Sass says. “So they help the ‘good’ probiotic bacteria grow.” Bananas aren’t the only food that will help you get your fill of prebiotics: You’ll also find them in raisins, asparagus, onions, and garlic.

RELATED: 13 Foods That Help With Acid Reflux

They can ease stomach troubles

Bananas can help with several tummy issues. The 3.1 grams of fiber you’ll find in a medium banana is split into two different types: soluble and insoluble, which can help ease digestion and relieve constipation, respectively. Bananas could even aid recovery after a bout of diarrhea, when fluid loss depletes levels of key electrolytes like potassium, Sass says. That’s not all. “Bananas neutralize the acidity in the stomach and coat the lining to reduce irritation,” Sass says. So they are thought to help fight heartburn and stomach ulcers, too.

RELATED: 4 Healthy Banana Bread and Muffin Recipes

These 7 Eating Habits Are Bad for Diabetes

Your daily diet is a critical part of your type 2 diabetes treatment plan. Loading up on healthy foods for diabetes (whole grains, fiber-filled veggies, lean protein, and limited processed foods and sweets) can help improve your insulin resistance and blood sugar control. It can also help with weight loss or weight maintenance, which is also key for keeping your blood sugar levels in check.

And the opposite is true. A diet filled with not-so-healthy foods can sabotage your diabetes treatment plan and worsen disease progression. That said, you don’t need to avoid these foods at all costs; it’s fine to eat them on occasion, particularly on special occasions. But best to keep these out of your shopping cart on a regular basis.

1. Skip over sweets. While eating too much sugar alone doesn’t cause diabetes, per se, a diet filled with pastries for breakfast, an afternoon cookie snack, and a couple of ice cream scoops for dessert isn’t doing your diabetes any favors. “You can have dessert with diabetes,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City. “But you have to plan for them.” That might mean looking at a restaurant menu ahead of time to decide what sweet treat you want, and then ordering an entree that’s lower in carbs to compensate. (Here are moremenu tricks to help you lose weight.)

2. Cut out sugar drinks. Sugar-laden beverages are one of the worst things you can consume if you have diabetes or heart disease. A study published in the medical journal Diabetes Care found that people who drink sugary beverages often (1-2 cans a day or more) have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely consume them. (Bone up on the benefits of drinking enough water here.)

3. Swap out refined carbs. We all love a heaping pile of pasta or a crusty loaf of white bread. But the more you can change out processed carbs for whole-grain versions, the better it is for your diabetes. Whole grains contain more fiber, which helps prevent blood sugar spikes after meals, as well as other good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Bored of brown rice? Here are other healthy whole grains to consider adding to your diet.

4. Avoid fast food. While you can certainly seek out healthier options on some fast food menus, on the whole, these options tend to skimp on whole grains and fiber and heavy up on saturated fat and sodium. If fast food is part of your daily or weekly routine, look for little ways to start edging it out. Maybe you could start making smoothies at home in the morning, instead of grabbing a drive-thru breakfast, for example.

5. Cut down on bad fats. Cutting out fast food and processed baked goods will automatically help in this department, but you should also seek out other ways to limit saturated fat and trans fat and replace it with heart-healthier options like omega-3s and monounsaturated fatty acids. Keep in mind that diabetes significantly raises your risk of cardiovascular disease, and these unhealthy fats are also bad for your arteries and blood pressure.

6. Forgo fried foods. Does diabetes mean you can never have French fries or mozzarella sticks again? No, especially if your diabetes is well-controlled. But trying to keep these foods, which are often high in unhealthy fat and sodium, out of your daily diet is a wise move. “As a matter of fact, I call fries foods ‘the F-word,’” says certified diabetes educator Sandra Arevalo, RDN. “Fried foods just give you extra fat and calories that you don’t need.” At restaurants, seek out choices that are prepared by grilling, baking, steaming, and sautéing, all of which are healthier cooking options.

7. Watch your sodium intake. “People with diabetes are an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, so it’s really important to keep to the 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium that’s recommended,” says Largeman-Roth. If you have high blood pressure or known heart disease, your doctor may recommend you consume even less sodium each day. Most of the sodium we eat is found in processed foods that don’t even necessarily taste salty (think cereal, condiments like salad dressing, canned foods, etc.). Start reading ingredient labels and try to pick foods with less than 500 mg of sodium per serving.

No one’s saying cutting out these foods is easy, but the more you try, the better you will manage your diabetes, weight control, and other complications like heart disease risk. “It’s very difficult for people to make dietary changes, and you could make the argument that one of the reasons why people end up with diabetes is because they’ve had certain habits. They’ve grown up a certain way. And they’re used to eating foods,” says internist Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, an instructor in medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “It’s hard for people to change. But I think that, if you explain what’s at stake here, which is really their life and their health and their well-being, people can be motivated to make changes.”

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