You’ve probably heard the old expression: “You are what you eat.” A well-balanced diet and regular exercise can help everyone achieve a longer, healthier life.
But eating well is especially important for people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This condition can be brought on by unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise, but it can also be controlled with good food choices.
Diabetes has been a recognized disorder since Ancient Egypt, where it was described in hieroglyphics as a condition involving thirst, weight loss, and excessive urination. Egyptian physicians even prescribed a simple treatment for the condition – eating whole grain foods.
But diet tips for diabetes don’t end there. There are many other tasty and nutritious foods that can help regulate your blood-glucose levels. Below we’ll list the best foods for type 2 diabetes, as well as a few to avoid, so you can make the best possible start on your healthier, happier life.
Note: You may notice that some foods are on more than one of the lists – these are especially good to add to your meal plans.
Complex, unprocessed carbohydrates that are high in fiber create less of a spike in your blood sugar levels. Fiber can decrease the number of calories absorbed from other foods. It will also make you feel fuller for longer, reducing hunger. Here are some of the best options:
- Whole grains
- Whole wheat
- Whole oats
- Brown rice
- Unsalted popcorn
- Squashes like pumpkin or zucchini
- Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, arugula, and chard
You can choose frozen vegetables, raw or lightly steamed. Grilling is also fine but you should avoid deep frying. If you opt for canned veggies, choose products that are low in sodium.
- Whole fruit
In particular, strawberries have been shown to reduce insulin and cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease, thanks to their high antioxidant content.
Drinking fruit juice isn’t as healthy, even if it’s freshly squeezed. Because of the juicing process, the fibers in whole fruit break down.
- Ground flax seeds
They are high in lignans, which can decrease the risk of heart disease and improve blood sugar control, and it may even lower the risk of strokes. These seeds are also very high in viscous fiber, which helps your gut health, improves insulin sensitivity, and makes you feel fuller for longer.
- Ground chia seeds
Chia seeds also contain a great deal of viscous fiber, and they can reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Foods that are high in protein can provide you with energy for longer than processed carbs, and they can help you manage your glucose levels. They also leave you feeling satisfied for longer, so you don’t have to worry about hunger pangs. With a high-protein diet, you’ll be less tempted to reach for empty, processed carbs like pretzels or crackers.
Some of the best sources for protein include:
- Wild salmon
- Low-fat dairy
- Greek yogurt
- Low-calorie cottage cheese
- Low-fat/non-fat sour cream
- 1% or skim milk
Make sure to avoid fruity ‘low-fat’ yogurts as they often have too much added sugar. The same is true for many dairy-based desserts.
- Lean meats and poultry
Remember to trim the skin from poultry, and keep salt levels to a minimum.
Fats can slow the absorption of carbohydrates, which can help you manage your blood sugar levels. They don’t have much of an effect on glucose themselves. On the other hand, they can lead to weight gain, so it’s important to consume them in moderation.
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Foods rich in vegetable oils
- Non-hydrogenated margarine
Because this fruit is rich in calories, make sure to practice portion control.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
In the US, sugar-sweetened beverages like soda are among the leading causes of both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Choosing your drinks wisely can make a world of difference to your health and blood sugar levels.
Good alternatives are:
- Non-flavored water or flavored sparkling water
A slice of lemon can add a bit of extra flavor at the price of just 1 calorie.
- Sugar free tea, with or without a slice of lemon
- Use a sugar substitute and low-calorie milk
If drinking alcohol, try to limit it to 14 units per week, and go for low-calorie options such as:
- Light beer
- A small glass of wine
- Non-fruity cocktails
- Low-calorie liquors
- White rum
Why Eating Well Can Change Your Life
There are many potential health complications associated with having diabetes. One of the most critical ones is the heightened risk of dying from heart disease. Others include skin conditions, sleep apnea, loss of sight, loss of hearing, kidney failure, neuropathy, and ulcerated feet.
The good news is that studies have shown that the risks of these complications can be lowered by following a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day, quitting smoking, and getting a full night’s sleep can improve the quality and length of your life. It may even help prevent cancer and osteoporosis.
Change Your Routine Today
Eating well can make you healthier, happier, and longer-lived. Just remember that there’s not much point starting a strict diet if you’re just going to go back to bad habits a week from now.
Unfortunately, statistics show that people often don’t stick to diets. Even when you know all the benefits, it can be difficult to make these changes. The most important thing is to establish new, healthier patterns that you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life.
So, now that you know what the best foods for type 2 diabetes are, you can start planning some delicious, healthful meals that will keep you full throughout the day.