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Diabetic Diet

What is diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from foods you eat. The cells of your body need glucose for energy. A hormone called insulin helps the glucose get into your cells.

With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn't make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in your blood and causes high blood sugar levels.

Prediabetes means that your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

How do the foods I eat affect my blood sugar levels?

The sugar in your blood comes from certain foods called carbohydrates, or "carbs." Foods that are high in carbs include candy and sweets, sodas, breads, tortillas, and white rice. The more carbs you eat, the higher your blood sugar level will be.

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, making the right food choices is an important way to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. When you control your blood sugar, you lower your chance of having serious health problems from diabetes, such as vision loss and heart problems.

And if you have prediabetes or are at risk for diabetes, eating foods that keep your blood sugar levels healthy may help prevent type 2 diabetes later on.

What's the best diet for diabetes?

There isn't a specific diet or meal plan that works for everybody. Your health care provider may have you see a registered dietician (RD) or a diabetes educator who can help design the best eating plan for you. The plan will consider:

  • Any medicines that you take
  • Your weight
  • Any other health conditions you have
  • Your lifestyle and tastes
  • Your goals

All eating plans for diabetes have a few things in common, including eating the right foods in the right amounts at the right times.

What foods should I eat if I have diabetes?

Eating the right foods for diabetes means eating a variety of healthy foods from all the food groups:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains, such as whole wheat, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and oats
  • Proteins, such as lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, and tofu
  • Nonfat or low-fat dairy, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
What foods should I limit to control my blood sugar?

To keep your blood sugar under control, you may need to cut back on foods and drinks that are high in carbs. This doesn't mean that you can never enjoy them. But you will need to have them less often or in smaller amounts.

The high-carb foods and drinks you should limit include:

  • Sugary foods, such as candy, cookies, cake, ice cream, sweetened cereals, and canned fruits with added sugar
  • Drinks with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks
  • White rice, tortillas, breads and pasta - especially those made with white flour
  • Starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, corn, and peas

You may also need to limit how much alcohol you drink, as well as how much fat and salt you eat.

What else do I need to know about diabetic diets?

If you have diabetes, it's important to eat the right amount of food every day. Your eating plan will include how much to eat, so that you get the right amount of carbs in each meal or snack. You'll learn how to count carbs and measure your food.

Eating at the right times is also important. You will want to plan for regular, balanced meals to avoid high or low blood sugar levels. Eating about the same amount of carbs at each meal can be helpful.

Your eating plan will also teach you how to stick with your plan at home and when you eat out.

Eating healthy to control your blood sugar does take some effort. But the reward is a chance to live your healthiest life with diabetes.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases