Here are the Foods to Avoid with Diabetes

Diabetes is a “silent epidemic” because once you have diabetes, it will stay with you forever. In the absence of proper care and management, it slowly and gradually affects all the other organs of your body. However, managing diabetes is not that challenging. There are various ways to regulate its symptoms. For example, specific dietary and lifestyle changes can help you control your blood sugar levels. Since your blood sugar levels are directly proportional to the foods, you can regulate and manage diabetes by making some dietary changes.

Some foods elevate your blood sugar levels and are not suitable for people with diabetes. So naturally, you should avoid consuming them to manage diabetes. This article focuses on various foods you should avoid when you have diabetes.

Diabetes and its Mechanism

Diabetes is a long-term condition that occurs when your pancreas stops generating insulin or the generated insulin is insufficient. Insulin is a pancreatic hormone that facilitates the breakdown of glucose for energy production. For example, all carbohydrate foods break down into glucose with the help of insulin. However, when the body cannot make or utilise insulin properly, blood glucose levels rise (known as hyperglycaemia). High blood glucose levels lead to long-term physical harm and organ and tissue failure.

Types of Diabetes 

Type 1 Diabetes

Although type-1 diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes) is most frequent in children, teenagers, and young adults, it can affect you at any age. However, it is less common than type-2 diabetes, accounting for about 5-10% of the total cases. 

The primary cause of type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune reaction (when the immune system attacks the body) that destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. In addition, some people are prone to type-1 diabetes due to genetic factors and environmental triggers like viruses etc. However, diet and lifestyle are not significant contributors to causing type-1 diabetes.

Although there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, you can manage it by following your doctor’s recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, blood sugar control, regular health checks, and diabetes self-management education and support.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type-2 diabetes is a long-term medical condition in which blood sugar (glucose) levels rise. It arises when the body fails to use, doesn’t generate or generate inadequate insulin. Uncontrolled type-2 diabetes can lead to high blood sugar levels, causing various health complications. For example, it injures pancreatic cells, preventing the pancreas from generating any insulin. In addition, it leads to cardiovascular issues as well.

Glycemic Index 

Glycemic Index is an effective tool to monitor a food’s effect on your blood sugar levels. It measures the spike in blood sugar after consuming a particular food group. The GI of any edible item can range from 0 to 100, 0 being no sugar spike and 100 representing sugar spike due to pure glucose. Based on these numbers, there are three kinds of food groups:

  • Low GI Foods: Their Glycemic Index is 55 or less.
  • Medium GI Foods: Their Glycemic Index ranges from 56 to 69.
  • High GI Foods: Their Glycemic Index measures more than 70.

Foods to Avoid with Diabetes

Carbohydrates directly affect blood sugar levels, but proteins and fat have a minor effect. Taking around the same quantity of insulin at the same time every day will help regulate blood sugar levels if you eat a constant amount of carbohydrates at each meal (fixed regimen). Please note that you should take insulin only after consulting a physician. 

Carbohydrate counting and exchange planning are two methods for calculating a meal’s carbohydrate intake.

Here are a few food types that you should avoid to regulate diabetes.

Trans and Saturated Fats 

Fats are very high in calories, with each gram of fat providing more than double the calories than protein and carbohydrates. Hence, overeating fats lead to more calories than your body needs. As a result, it leads to weight gain, affecting your diabetes control and overall health. Although fats are essential for your body, the fats you consume are more critical. For example, having many saturated fats in your diet can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Since people with diabetes have a high risk of cardiovascular diseases, you should make healthier food choices. For example, you should avoid saturated and trans-fat foods. These foods include baked foods, candies, ice cream and sugar-sweetened beverages like processed juice, soda, and sports or energy drinks. In addition, you should avoid foods like meat, butter, full-fat milk, cheese and fried foods.

If you use insulin or diabetes therapies that increase the amount of insulin your body generates, alcohol can cause your blood glucose level to drop too low. Hence, you should avoid consuming alcohol. 

Highly Processed Carbohydrates

Heavily processed carbohydrates like those prepared with white flour, white sugar, or white rice are whole foods devoid of critical bran, fibre, and vitamins and minerals. Hence, you should avoid such foods.

Limit your intake of processed carbs such as bread, muffins, cakes, crackers, spaghetti, etc. Instead, you can consume foods with whole-grain options to lower your risk.

Here is a list of foods that you should avoid:

Sugar-Sweetened or Carbonated Drinks

According to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2010, drinking one to two sugary drinks per day elevated the risk of type 2 diabetes by 26% compared to having less than one serving per month. Therefore, limiting your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly fruit drinks, is one of the best methods to reduce the adverse effects of sugar on your health.

Sweetened and carbonated beverages have refined sugar. It is usually sucrose which is table sugar or glucose syrup. Both are devoid of any fibre and nutrients. Instead, they have carbohydrates, and calories often called “empty calories”. These empty calories raise blood sugar levels. That is why you should altogether avoid them. Instead, you can drink water to stay hydrated. You should also avoid adding sugar and cream to your coffee and tea.

Red and Processed Meat

Both red meat and processed red meat hamper type 2 diabetes. Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats are particularly harmful due to their high salt and nitrites levels.

Researchers observed that eating one 3-ounce meal of red meat each day, roughly the size of a deck of cards, increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 19%. In addition, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released research in 2011 that found the rise was 51% for an even lower amount of processed red meat.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates include foods made from refined wheat flour. These foods are devoid of fibre and vitamins. In addition, they contain carbohydrates and calories. These elevate the blood sugar levels. Hence, you should avoid them. Foods with refined carbohydrates are:

  • Pasta made with refined flour
  • Noodles made with refined flour
  • White rice
  • Bread made with refined flour
  • Wafers
  • Biscuits
  • Cakes, patisserie, pastries etc. made with refined flour
  • Chocolates and sweet treats

Fruits with High Sugar Content

As per studies, fruits and dried fruits with a high glycemic index increase the blood sugar level after consumption and can be harmful. Fruits and dried fruits that you should avoid are:

  • Watermelons 
  • Bananas 
  • Dates fresh and dried both 
  • Pineapple 
  • Cranberries 
  • Figs 
  • Blueberry 
  • Grapes 
  • Apple 
  • Grapefruit 

Fruit Juices and Flavoured Beverages 

Juice processing removes all the essential nutrients from fruit. For example, the fibre, vitamins and minerals reduce while processing the juice, leaving just carbs and calories behind. Moreover, as per studies, the left liquid elevates blood sugar levels. Hence, you should avoid consuming such products.

Ice Creams and Fruit Yoghurt

These dishes use milk, sugar, fruits and sweeteners in their preparation. As per studies, there is a direct relationship between ice creams and the risk of diabetes. Since these foods contain much sugar (also sweeteners in preservatives), you should refrain from consuming them.

Highly Processed Foods

Highly processed foods have added sugar. Sometimes, it is not raw or processed sugar; it is a preservative that helps to give it longer shelf life. Hence you should avoid processed foods. Some examples are:

  • Sweet cereals 
  • Jams
  • Jellies 
  • Marmalades
  • Squashes 

The Importance of a Healthy Eating Strategy

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, your doctor will almost certainly send you to a nutritionist to help formulate a healthy eating plan. Blood sugar (glucose) control, weight management, and the treatment of heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and high blood lipids are all aided by the strategy.

The strategy is essential because consuming too many calories and fat makes your body produce an unfavourable rise in blood glucose. Suppose you do not control your blood glucose levels; in that case, you are at risk of developing serious problems like high blood glucose (hyperglycemia), leading to long-term issues like nerve, kidney, and heart damage if not treated.

What Should a Diabetes-Friendly Diet Contain?

An ideal diabetes diet should focus on making better use of the insulin that your body generates. Hence, it allows you to have adequate meals at regular intervals. However, since every individual has different needs depending on their medical condition, an expert nutritionist will help you with a customised plan. In addition, they will also guide you in making necessary dietary and lifestyle modifications. For example, they can advise you on portion size, meal frequency, foods to eat and avoid, the physical activity to indulge in.

Diabetes-Friendly Foods

Green Leafy Vegetables

Vitamins, minerals, and nutrients abound in green leafy vegetables. As a result, they have a minor impact on blood sugar levels. Plant-based potassium, vitamin A, and calcium are abundant in leafy greens like spinach and kale. There’s also protein and fibre. Some studies prove that eating green leafy vegetables can help people with diabetes because of their high antioxidant content and starch-digesting enzymes.

Millets and Grains (Whole)

It is no surprise that the Glycemic index (GI) is higher than whole wheat and whole grains. It means they have a less significant effect on blood sugar levels. Hence, you can include them in your diet. Some of the healthy ways to do so are:

  • Whole grain pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain bread
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Millets
  • Bulgur

Fatty Fish

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says that a diet rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is beneficial. That is because it assists people with diabetes manage their blood sugar and cholesterol. Certain fish varieties have a lot of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are:

  • Sardines
  • Albacore tuna
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Mackerel

Seaweed, such as kelp and spirulina, can provide these fatty acids in a plant-based form. People can bake, broil, or grill fish instead of frying them. You can also mix it with a variety of vegetables.

Other Important Tips to Consider

  • Counting your carbohydrate intake is critical if you have type 1 diabetes and want to maintain your blood glucose levels stable. That helps calculate the number of carbs in your meal and compare it to the amount of insulin you need to take.
  • If you are overweight and have type-2 diabetes, look for a way to shed weight. It is critical since it improves diabetic control by reducing blood glucose levels and the danger of additional problems. You can take several approaches to do so. For example, following a low-carb, Mediterranean, and very low-calorie diet would help. Losing weight will help lower your blood glucose levels, and a significant weight loss can even put type 2 diabetes into remission. However, if you have diabetes and want to lose weight, you should always make informed and appropriate dietary changes. 
  • Considering your meal portion size is also essential. That makes it easier to calculate nutritional information when counting carbs or are on a weight loss plan. Remember that everyone’s portion sizes are different, so what works for one person might not work for another.

The Bottom Line 

A diabetes-friendly diet is not as challenging to follow as it seems. It is a myth that if you follow a diabetes diet, you are left with very few food options to eat. However, it is essential to be aware of what you should eat and avoid. Since foods play an important role in diabetes management, eating right is vital. You should also note that besides dietary management, staying physically active also plays a crucial role in managing diabetes. Hence, you should focus on exercise and physical activities also.

Information and awareness are the most significant factors when planning a diabetes-friendly diet or meal plan. Hence, it is essential to know about the food categories you should refrain from consuming. Furthermore, it is best to consult an expert to help you plan your meals. An expert’s assistance will help you eat right without risking any adverse effects. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What fruits can diabetics eat freely?

Although most fruits contain some amount of sugar, you can eat some fruits when you have diabetes. For example, pomegranates help keep blood sugar levels under control; apples are high in fibre and contain a lot of vitamin C; guava has a low glycemic index. In addition, pears are a great addition to your diabetes diet since they are high in fibre and vitamin k. So, you can eat fruits with a low glycemic index value. Besides apples, guava and pomegranate, you can also have Jamun as it has a low GI value. However, you should consume all these fruits in moderation.

What bread can diabetics eat?

Whole-grain foods are one the best food options for people with diabetes. Hence, you should choose bread made of whole grains. In addition, choose a high fibre bread, with at least 3 grams of fibre per slice. A good portion of fibre improves glycemic response. 

What can a diabetic drink?

Staying hydrated is essential as it helps regulate blood sugar levels. Water dilutes your blood, which helps to reduce blood sugar levels. In addition, you can consume cow’s milk, which is high in protein and calcium. Furthermore, you can replace the sugary fruit juices with tomato juice. You can also have unsweetened coffee and tea in moderation.

What time should diabetics stop eating?

For most people with diabetes, your meal plans should spread throughout the day as it is best to eat regularly for proper insulin management. Generally, it is safe to eat a few hours before bedtime for a healthy individual. However, if you have diabetes, you can eat the right and light snacks at night to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low during the night.

Can diabetics eat potatoes?

Although not all potatoes are suitable for diabetes, you can consume potatoes with skin in moderation as they are nutritious. Furthermore, sweet potatoes are the best choice for a diabetes-friendly meal as they have a low GI value and contain more fibre. In addition, they also have high calcium and vitamin A. 

Can diabetics eat fried foods?

No, people with diabetes should refrain from eating fried foods. Fried foods can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, especially LDL. In addition, fried foods are high in saturated and trans-fats, making them unhealthy for diabetes. Several studies suggest that boiling, steaming, and poaching are the safest preparation methods to regulate blood sugar levels.

Are Chinese foods diabetic friendly?

Although Chinese foods are nutritious due to ingredients like vegetables and fish. However, the inclusion of white or fried rice, egg rolls, bread and fried chicken, sugar-laden sauces etc., make them unhealthy. So, if you want to have Chinese foods, skip the rice or, at the very least, request brown rice with a tiny portion. Also, ensure that the preparation includes more vegetables and less sauce.

What foods can diabetics eat?

A person with diabetes can choose from various food options that are healthy for them to consume. For example, foods from the whole-grain food category are healthy for diabetes. So, you can eat brown rice, oats, quinoa, millets etc. In addition, you can consume green leafy vegetables as they are beneficial. Furthermore, you can also consume foods rich in healthy fats like fish, seafood etc. You can also include low-fat dairy in your diabetes-friendly diet. However, the portion size and preparation methods are essential. So, ensure that you healthily eat your meals.

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