Diabetes Diet: Your Ultimate Guide To Eating With Diabetes

Diabetes diet

Are you looking to learn more about what to eat and what not to eat with diabetes? While what we eat plays a major role in our overall health, and we all try to be mindful of it, paying attention to what we eat is even more critical for those with diabetes.

Whether newly diagnosed or living with diabetes for years, learning how to improve your diet is never a bad idea. As one of the most effective ways to reduce the severity of your symptoms, dietary adjustments are often the first lifestyle change that medical providers suggest for those with the disease.

If you want to learn more about how your dietary intake affects your blood sugar levels, this article is for you. Learn what foods to add to your diet and which to avoid so you can start making healthier nutritional choices today.

Understanding How Certain Foods Affect Your Blood Sugar Levels

To know what to eat and what not to eat with diabetes, we must first understand the macronutrients that make up our food. As the primary building blocks for providing our body with energy, all food contains at least one of the following macronutrients:

Carbohydrates: (e.g., rice, bread, pasta, fruits, vegetables, desserts) 

Carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules and are the body's main energy source. Once consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which enters the bloodstream and raises blood sugar levels. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal: 

  • Sugars are simple carbohydrates found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and milk and added to foods like candy, desserts, and sodas.
  • Starches are complex carbohydrates composed of many simple sugars linked together. They are found in foods such as bread, cereal, pasta, and some vegetables like potatoes, peas, and corn. The body breaks starches down into sugars for energy.
  • Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that the body mostly can't digest. Eating fiber-rich foods helps you feel full, reducing the chance of overeating. High-fiber diets also support digestive health, lower cholesterol, and regulate blood sugar. Fiber is present in plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.

Protein (e.g., meat, fish, tofu, legumes, dairy products)

Proteins are essential for building and repairing tissues, including muscles and organs, and are made up of amino acids. Proteins have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels when consumed alone. Including a source of protein in meals can contribute to feeling full and satisfied, which may help with weight management. However, it's important to choose lean protein sources or plant-based options to limit the intake of saturated fats, which can contribute to heart disease, particularly relevant for those with diabetes.

Fats (e.g., nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, butter)

Fats are vital for absorbing certain vitamins (A, D, E, K), providing energy, and supporting cell growth. They are composed of fatty acids and are calorie-dense.

Four Types of Primary Dietary Fats:

  • Saturated Fats are typically solid at room temperature and are found in animal products and some tropical oils. Foods high in saturated fats include butter, cheese, red meat, and coconut oil. Although they don't directly impact blood sugar levels, eating too much saturated fat can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance, indirectly affecting blood sugar control.
  • Trans Fats are created through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils, making them more solid. They are often found in fried foods, baked goods, and processed snack foods. Like saturated fats, trans fats can contribute to insulin resistance, making it harder for your body to manage blood sugar levels. They are also bad for heart health.
  • Monounsaturated Fats are liquid at room temperature and found in various foods and oils. Examples include olive oil, avocados, and nuts like almonds and peanuts. These fats help with blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity. That means your body is better at using the insulin it produces to lower blood sugar.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fats and are liquid at room temperature. They are found in foods like fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines), walnuts, flaxseeds, and sunflower oil. Polyunsaturated fats can positively affect blood sugar levels and overall health by reducing inflammation and improving heart health.

Including healthy fats in moderation can enhance satisfaction and fullness after a meal, which is beneficial for weight management and blood sugar control.

Recommended Diabetes Foods

Now that we better understand the basics of nutrition, we can look closely at how our foods impact our overall health. By following this guide for foods to eat or avoid, you can reduce the severity of your diabetes symptoms caused by the sometimes aggressive changes in your blood sugar levels caused by poor dietary habits. 

As an option that both men and women can follow, the diabetic diet offers many health benefits for anyone looking to control their blood sugar levels. According to this diet, foods that you should add include:

  1. Whole grains: As a healthy source of carbohydrates, whole grains are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help create a balanced diet. Examples of whole grains include ancient grain bread and whole wheat pasta.
  2. Fresh or frozen vegetables: Known for being a healthy addition to any meal, vegetables are great for people with diabetes because they have a low caloric density. This means that you can eat a higher volume (e.g., filling your plate) of fresh vegetables and still eat a relatively small amount of calories, which can be helpful for anyone looking to be more mindful of their nutritional intake.
  3. Plain fruits: Fruit is nature's candy, and it is worth adding it to your diet! From fresh and juicy berries on oatmeal to creamy bananas perfect for adding to your smoothie, fresh fruit can help curb sugar cravings, which can reduce your risk of experiencing a strong blood sugar spike.
  4. Lean proteins: Great for introducing some variety into your diet, lean proteins like chicken breast, lentils, white fish, and tofu can help balance your diet and reduce your snack cravings later in the day. Cooking these proteins in minimal oil can also help keep this meal light and easy to digest at any time of day.
  5. Good fats: Specifically, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats contribute to lowering cholesterol levels. These fats are found in avocados, nuts, and various oils, including olive and peanut oil. It's important to remember that these fats are still high in calories despite their health benefits. Therefore, while they can be a valuable part of a healthy diet, they should be consumed in moderation to avoid excessive calorie intake.
  6. Water: When it comes to diabetes-safe beverages, you can never go wrong with water. As an essential part of the human body, water keeps us hydrated and healthy. Whenever possible, drinking adequate amounts of water is a great way to stay fit while living with diabetes.
    Diabetes diet

Foods To Avoid

Now that we know what to eat and drink with diabetes, let's look at foods that are not ideal for people with diabetes. Examples of foods to avoid to manage your blood glucose levels better include:

  • Saturated Fats: Exclude or minimize intake of high-fat dairy and animal proteins, including butter, beef, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon. Also, limit the use of coconut and palm kernel oils.
  • Trans Fats: Steer clear of processed snacks, baked goods, shortening, and stick margarine, all common sources of trans fats.
  • Cholesterol: Sources such as high-fat dairy, certain animal proteins, egg yolks, liver, and other organ meats should be limited. A daily intake of no more than 200 milligrams of cholesterol is advised.
  • Sodium: Restrict daily sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams or less, with further reduction recommended for individuals with high blood pressure, as a healthcare provider advises.

What To Eat And What Not To Eat With Diabetes — The Bottom Line

Making the perfect choice for every meal is only sometimes possible, especially with the temptations of cravings and social events. It's okay not to stick to a strict diabetic diet all the time. Rather than aiming for perfection, try making small, gradual changes to your eating habits, like drinking less soda or adding more vegetables to your meals. These small steps can lead to lasting improvements in your health.

For managing your blood sugar levels, consider the plate method recommended by the American Diabetes Association. This easy approach helps balance your diet and significantly improves your overall health.

Interested in learning more about everything related to diabetes? Read some of our other blog posts today to access easy-to-read resources. Additionally, we've crafted an easy-to-understand diabetes food list, offering a comprehensive view of your food's nutritional content—including calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats—to help you understand better what you're consuming. You can access the resource here.

Viasox is here to help

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At Viasox, we are proud to be the world's first provider of fancy diabetic socks designed to provide plenty of health benefits, from improving lower extremity circulation to reducing your risk of developing diabetic neuropathy.

Want to learn more about our available products? Connect with our team today! Whether you need extra help with your online order or have a specific product inquiry, we are here to help you.

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