It’s no secret that diet is essential to managing type 2 diabetes symptoms. While there is no cure-all diet that is perfect for everyone, dietary choices are important in keeping your blood sugar level in the safe range.
The Basics of Blood Sugar Control
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body doesn’t make enough insulin. This can cause high blood sugar and symptoms such as:
- blurred vision
- increased appetite
- excessive thirst
- excessive urination
The normal blood sugar range for diabetics, as determined by the American Diabetes Association, is between 3.88 and 7.2mmol/L before meals and less than 10mmol/L a few hours after you began eating. You can use a blood sugar monitor to check your blood glucose levels and adjust your diet or medication accordingly.
When someone with diabetes has low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a spoonful of sugar or honey can help raise glucose levels. However, sugar is often considered the nemesis of diabetes because of how quickly it can spike blood glucose levels.
If you have diabetes, you should closely monitor your sugar consumption — especially refined sugar and other forms of the simple carbohydrates. In addition to low-sugar foods, you should also eat low-fat foods and a well-balanced diet.
Foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fat can elevate your risk for heart disease and stroke. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid all fats. Foods rich in good fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat — can help lower cholesterol levels, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Try replacing the meat on your plate with omega-3 fatty acid-rich cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Olive oil, avocado, and nuts are also good sources of this nutrient.
Foods to Avoid:
- red meat
- processed foods
- high-fat dairy products like cheese
Fruits and Vegetables
Balancing carbohydrates, fats, and sugars is integral to a diabetes-friendly diet. While processed and refined carbs are bad for you, whole grains and dietary fiber (good carbs) are beneficial in many ways. Whole grains are rich in fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Dietary fiber helps with digestive health, and helps you feel more satisfied after eating.
Foods to Eat:
- leafy green vegetables
- whole grains
- low-fat dairy products
- beans and peas
- fresh low-sugar fruits (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, pears, cantaloupes, grapefruit, and cherries)
Foods to Avoid: high-sugar fruits like watermelon, pineapple, raisins, apricots, grapes, and oranges
Starches are another type of food your body converts into blood glucose. They not only provide a source of energy but also vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole grain starches are the healthiest because they maximize nutrition and break down into the bloodstream slowly. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse recommends at least one serving of starch at every meal.
Foods to Eat: whole grain versions of bread, pasta, cereal, rice, crackers, and tortillas
Foods to Avoid:
- potato chips
- packaged snacks
- candy bars
When to Eat
If you have diabetes, you should eat smaller meals throughout the day to avoid unnecessary spikes in your blood glucose level. However, your body requires more sugars and carbohydrates during exercise, so eat before and after a workout.
Your age, weight, height, level of exercise, and other factors also affect your diet. Monitor and record your blood glucose level in response to food and create your own personal diabetes diet with the help of your doctor or dietitian.
Losing a few extra kilograms will not only help your self-esteem, but also lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure.
Regular exercise combined with a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products can help you lose.