Diabetes, a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, requires a mindful approach to food. Whether you're dealing with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, what you eat plays a crucial role in managing your health.
The food you consume directly affects blood sugar levels. Thus your dietary choices are a powerful tool for managing diabetes. You can include a variety of foods in your diet even if you have diabetes. However, being mindful of what you eat and choosing some types of foods more often while cutting back on others can help keep your blood sugar levels healthy. It also lowers the risk of other long-term health problems.
This article discusses the foods to avoid if you have diabetes. But before that, let's understand how your food choices affect diabetes control.
Impact of Food on Blood Sugar
When you consume food, they are broken down into glucose during digestion. Glucose then enters the bloodstream, causing a rise in blood sugar levels. To regulate this increase, the pancreas releases insulin, which helps cells absorb glucose, returning blood sugar levels to normal.
For healthy individuals, this process works smoothly. However, issues arise in diabetics. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't use insulin properly.
As a result, when a person with diabetes eats, their blood sugar can spike and stay high because the glucose isn't being absorbed by cells effectively. Thus it is important to be careful about the types and amounts of food that you eat when you have diabetes.
Foods high in carbohydrates, particularly those with a high glycemic index (GI), can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. GI is the measure of how fast a food increases blood sugar. High GI foods lead to quick absorption and an abrupt rise in blood sugar, requiring large amounts of insulin. Low GI foods, on the other hand, cause a steady and mild rise in blood sugar levels.
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7 Foods to Avoid for Better Blood Sugar Control
Here are certain foods to avoid if you have diabetes, along with some healthier alternatives.
1. Sugary Foods and Beverages
Many of us crave sweet treats like chocolates or cakes from time to time. However, these sugary foods offer no nutrients, protein, or fibre; they are just high in added sugar and provide empty calories. If you crave something sweet, opt for yoghurt or fruits like jamun, guava, apple, etc., in moderation.
Even sweetened drinks like soda, energy drinks, flavoured coffee, and fruit punch are loaded with sugar content and contain huge amounts of carbohydrates. The regular consumption of these drinks can cause your blood sugar levels to increase and lead to weight gain. Replace such drinks with herbal tea, coconut water, infused water, vegetable juice, etc.
2. Highly Processed Foods
Processed foods undergo substantial alterations from their original state, often involving the addition of preservatives, artificial flavours, and refined ingredients. These foods are unhealthy for anyone, but for diabetics, they are a big no-no! They are problematic as they often contain high levels of unhealthy fats, salt, and refined carbohydrates, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.
Instead of processed snacks like chips and cookies, opt for whole, unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These healthier options provide essential nutrients while maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
3. Full-fat Dairy Products
You might have heard that the saturated fats found in dairy products can increase the levels of LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol, potentially elevating the risk of heart disease. But, for people with diabetes, there's an additional concern, research suggests that a diet high in saturated fat can make insulin resistance worse.
To lower this risk, it's recommended to avoid full-fat dairy items made with whole milk, such as cream, full-fat yoghurt, ice cream, and cream cheese. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), everyone, especially those with type 2 diabetes, should aim for no more than 5 to 6 percent of their total daily calories from saturated fat. For instance, if your daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories, that would mean around 120 calories or about 13 grams of saturated fat.
Opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy alternatives, such as skim milk, low-fat yoghurt, or reduced-fat cheeses.
4. Carb-heavy Foods
Carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet, but for those with diabetes, it's crucial to manage the intake of carb-heavy foods. Foods like white bread, pasta, and sugary cereals can quickly convert into glucose in the body, leading to spikes in blood sugar levels. Opting for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread instead of their refined counterparts can be a smarter choice.
Also, include plenty of non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, which are lower in carbs and high in essential nutrients. Balancing carb intake with proteins and healthy fats can help control blood sugar levels more effectively. Monitoring portion sizes and spreading carb consumption throughout the day can contribute to better blood sugar management, allowing individuals with diabetes to enjoy a well-rounded and satisfying diet.
5. Fried Foods
Fried foods, such as french fries, fried chicken, and crispy snacks, may taste delicious, but these items should be at the top of your list of foods to avoid if you have diabetes. Fried foods are often cooked in oils rich in unhealthy fats, leading to increased calorie and trans fat intake.
The process of deep-frying can also cause these foods to absorb more oil, resulting in excess calories and potential weight gain. For diabetics, excess weight can impact insulin resistance. Instead of fried options, choose healthier cooking methods like baking, grilling, or steaming.
6. Dried Fruits
While fruits are generally a healthy choice, dried fruits warrant caution if you have diabetes. Drying fruits removes water content, concentrating natural sugars and calories. As a result, the glycemic index of dried fruits can be higher than that of fresh fruits, leading to faster spikes in blood sugar levels.
Instead of dried fruits, opt for fresh fruits like berries, apples, or citrus fruits, which offer natural sweetness along with fibre and essential nutrients. If craving a dried fruit flavour, choose small portions and look for varieties without added sugars or opt for dried fruits with no added sugar.
7. Packaged Foods
Packaged foods often contain sugars, preservatives, unhealthy fats, and excessive sodium, contributing to potential spikes in blood sugar levels and other health concerns. Read food labels to identify added sugars and choose products with lower salt and saturated fat content.
Instead of heavily processed packaged foods, prioritize whole, fresh ingredients. Cook at home whenever possible. Choose minimally processed alternatives, such as whole grains, lean proteins, and fresh produce, to support a diabetes-friendly diet.
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Having diabetes or prediabetes does not mean you need to eliminate the foods you enjoy from your diet. Just be mindful of what you eat. Ensure you have a balanced meal with a good amount of protein and fiber. This not only keeps you feeling satisfied but also wards off unhealthy cravings, helping you achieve stable and sustainable blood sugar levels.
If you need support related to your condition, consult with an Ayurvedic doctor for a personalized Ayurvedic treatment approach.
Practical Tips for Healthy Eating with Diabetes:
Managing portion sizes. This helps regulate calorie intake and maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Stick to consistent meal timing. It supports blood sugar control by preventing extreme fluctuations.
Incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains.