Getting a diagnosis of diabetes can be a little overwhelming and understanding dietary restrictions can be confusing. Diet is a crucial tool in controlling your diabetes, though, so it’s important to take the time to learn what foods to avoid with diabetes. A nutrient-dense diet, full of fresh produce and lean proteins, is a good start, and so is making the effort to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re wondering what the five worst foods for diabetics are, we will go the extra mile, giving you six foods you should avoid, six you should add to your diet, and tips on how diabetic meal prep can help you control your glucose and stay in good health.
Foods To Avoid
- Let’s start with the most obvious: sugar. By this, we mean, if you’re trying to lower your blood sugar, it should be obvious that reducing your sugar intake is the first order of business. What is not as obvious, though, is all the places sugar can hide. You expect sugar in baked goods, candy, and ice cream, but how much sugar is in your breakfast cereal? How about your yogurt? Be careful with things like dried fruit, too, keeping your servings very small. Beware of alcohol, too, because even a small sip can cause a blood sugar spike.
- Refined grains are also detrimental. White rice, white pasta, and white bread are high in simple carbs, which can raise the blood pressure, and because they contain very little fiber, they facilitate the absorption of sugar into your blood stream. Whole grains like whole wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, farro, and brown rice are much better options.
- Steer clear of fried foods. Typically fried in unhealthy oils like canola, peanut, and corn, deep fried foods produce aldehydes, which lead to inflammation. These high-glycemic foods also contain a high number of empty calories, and they promote weight gain, which interferes with controlling blood sugar.
- Trans fats are another hazard. Created by adding hydrogen to fatty acids, trans fats are used to make foods like peanut butter, frozen food, coffee creamer, margarine, and baked goods shelf-stable. They don’t increase blood sugar levels directly, but they do reduce good cholesterol and increase inflammation, which can lead to weight gain, particularly belly fat.
- Sweet drinks can sneak up on you. You would expect a milkshake, energy drink, fancy coffee drink, or soda to spike your blood sugar, but what about fruit juice? Sadly, the sugar in fruit juice affects your blood just like the sugar in a cola. Other “healthy” drinks that diabetics should avoid include green juices and kombucha, which tend to be packed with sugar.
- Highly processed foods are to be avoided. The glycemic index of highly processed packaged foods tends to be high, and sometimes foods considered “healthy,” like gluten-free or dairy-free products are highly inflammatory because of their preservatives and flavor enhancers. Fresh, whole foods are the best option for a nutritious diet, whether or not you have diabetes.
Foods To Add to Your Diet
So, what are the best foods for a diabetic to eat? Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best diet to help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your sugars under control, with foods to lower blood sugar rather than raise it. Here are six great additions to a diabetic-friendly meal plan:
- Berries: organic blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries contain important phytonutrients and provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Extra virgin olive oil: rich in vitamins K and E, extra virgin olive oil also has high levels of polyphenols, free-radical fighters that prevent glucose from being absorbed into your intestines. Olive oil also has antioxidants that prevent inflammation protect against oxidative damage, reduce carbohydrate absorption, and increase insulin sensitivity.
- Leafy greens: full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals, leafy greens are a great low-calorie source of carbohydrates.
- Spices: cinnamon, turmeric, and basil are all great substitutions for salt, which should be minimized in a diabetic diet. They are also beneficial, as cinnamon and turmeric improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels, and basil can help control blood pressure.
- Wild caught fatty fish: salmons, sardines, and mackerel all contain inflammation-reducing Omega-3 fatty acids, which also boost good cholesterol.
- Sugar free protein powders: a protein boost provides slow energy release to help keep you feeling full without spiking your blood glucose.
Putting some thought into your meal prep can make a big difference in your health, so take some time each week to plan. Look for delicious, nutrient dense recipes, avoiding problem foods and incorporating the foods we’ve recommended. Pay attention to serving sizes, and incorporate probiotics to support your body’s inflammatory and immune response.
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