What you eat can have a major impact on your overall health, especially if you have diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to severe health issues and complications, including kidney problems and heart disease. Certain food items increase insulin and blood sugar levels, cause inflammation that may enhance the risk of health issues.
Foods Diabetic Patients Should Avoid
Following are the foods that cause blood sugar spikes and must be avoided by diabetic patients:
1. Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks are loaded with calories and calories, with little to no nutritional value. These drinks, including sodas, sweetened lemonade, and iced teas, are high in carbs. They also have a high amount of fructose that has been linked to diabetes and insulin resistance. Studies have found that consumption off such sugary drinks enhances the risk of diabetes-linked health issues, such as the fatty liver.
In order to maintain your insulin and blood sugar levels, and to avoid the risk of potential diseases, replace sweetened beverages, drink plain water, or infuse water with freshly sliced fruits to add natural sweetness.
2. Trans Fats
Trans fats are considered among the worst foods for diabetes as they are made by mixing unsaturated fatty acids with hydrogen. The foods that contain trans fats include frozen dinners, creamers, spreads, peanut butter, and margarine. Additionally, many manufacturers add trans fats to crackers, baked goods, etc. to increase their shelf life.
While trans fats directly don’t increase the levels of blood sugar, they have been found to increase belly fat, insulin resistance, inflammation, and to lower the levels of good cholesterol. These issues are particularly a cause of concern for diabetic individuals as they already have increased heart disease risk.
The good news is that many of the countries outlawed trans fats, and FDA announced the removal of trans fatsfrom food items in the US in 2015. However, to be more careful, restrict the food products that include ‘partially hydrogenated’ on their label.
3. Packaged Meals and Snacks
Crackers, pretzels, and other packaged snacks are not good food choices for diabetic patients. These meals are created with refined flour with few nutrients. They are also made up of fast-digesting carbs which can increase your blood sugar rapidly.
The carb count for a 28-grams serving of some of the most popular snacks are as follows:
- Graham Crackers – 22 grams
- Pretzels – 22 grams
- Saltine Crackers – 21 grams
Moreover, these only contain 1 gram of fiber each. Some packaged meals might even contain a higher amount of carbs than the amount mentioned on the labels. According to a study, packaged snacks offer 7.7% more amount of carbs then what their label actually states.
Whenever you get hungry, opt for healthier snacks like vegetable slices or a handful of nuts instead of consuming packaged snacks.
4. Sweetened Cereals
One of the quickest breakfasts one can have is a cereal, but it is also among the worst foods for diabetic patients. Even though many cereal manufacturers make health claims, the majority of them have a high amount of carbs and are highly processed.
Additionally, these cereals have little to no protein value. Protein is an integral nutrient that keeps you feeling full and maintains your blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Healthy breakfast cereals are also not a good option for diabetes. Even half a cup of granola cereal has 30 grams of carbs, and grape nuts have 41 grams of carbs. Each of them offers a mere 7 grams of protein.
It is better to avoid or limit your intake of sugary cereals and go for protein-based breakfast options.
5. Natural Sugar Syrups
It is common for diabetic patients to reduce their consumption of white sugar and other sugary sweets. Often they opt for sugar syrups instead believing they are a healthier choice for them. Unfortunately, natural sugar syrups, including, maple syrup, agave nectar, and honey, can also increase your blood sugar levels.
While these syrups are not processed, they still include a high amount of carbs, just like white sugar. Some even contain more. Here is the carb count of one serving (a tablespoon) of common sweeteners:
- White sugar – 12.6 grams
- Maple syrup – 13 grams
- Honey – 17 grams
- Agave nectar – 16 grams
A study found that individuals with prediabetes showed similar blood sugar spikes, inflammation, and insulin markers, whether they consumed 50 grams of honey or white sugar.
It is recommended you opt for low-calorie natural sweeteners and use them sparingly. Be sure to check the label for carbs count and take a small serving.
6. Fried Food
Fried foods are not a healthy choice for anyone, but they are particularly bad for diabetic individuals. The fat from the fried items can result in weight gain and high levels of cholesterol. These foods are soaked with oil, which means additional calories. Moreover, if they are coated with bread crumbs first before frying, that further increases the carbs count.
You will not only load up extra pounds but will also increase your blood sugar levels. The worst are the foods that are fried in hydrogenated oils loaded with trans fats.
Whenever you feel the craving for potato chips, fried chicken, or French fries, try satisfying it with a healthier food option. Occasional treats are fine if you manage the rest of your meals accordingly, but regularly eating fried foods can lead to severe complications.
7. Full Fat Dairy
Full-fat dairy products include saturated fats that can increase your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Moreover, it can also worsen insulin resistance in individuals with diabetes.
According to the American Heart Association, you should get not more than 5% to 6% calories from saturated fat. For example, if your daily calorie consumption is 2,000, then 120 calories (1333 grams) should come from saturated fats.
Avoid products that include whole milk, including cream cheese, ice cream, full-fat yogurt, and cream. Opt for fat-free or reduced-fat dairy products.
A healthy diet for diabetic patients should include whole grains, veggies, fruits, low-fat dairy products, good fats, like olive oil, avocados, and nuts, and heart-healthy fishes like sardines, tuna, mackerel, and salmon.
However, diabetes management is not just about selecting the right foods but also includes avoiding or limiting foods that can increase the chances of complications and your blood sugar levels. Therefore, avoid or limit these worst foods for diabetic patients for improved overall health.
Strategies to Consider for a Healthier Diet
Diabetes management is all about controlling your blood sugar levels throughout the day, which you can do by consuming the right foods in proper moderation. Aside from avoiding the mentioned foods, you must focus on weight management. Losing only 10 to 15 pounds can give you better control over your blood sugar levels.
Losing weight also helps in enhancing your insulin sensitivity, which means you will be less resistant to insulin and can respond better. Here are two effective strategies that can help you in creating the right diet plan that not only helps you manage your weight but also stabilizes your blood sugar levels:
This strategy is one of the most effective ways of consuming the right amount of nutrition. It includes dividing a 9-inch plate and categorizing it in a way that can help you maintain a nutritional balance in every meal.
As per the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 9-inch plate should be filled as follows:
- Half of the plate must be filled with non starchy vegetables, including artichokes, green beans, spinach, asparagus, and baby corn.
- A quarter of the plate must include lean protein, like skinless chicken, turkey, fish, or lentils.
- The remaining quarter of the plate must have high-fiber carbs, like whole-grains or legumes.
You may akso include a glass of milk and fruit. However, it is integral to consult your doctor to determine the right amount of nutrition you need every day and adjust the plate accordingly.
Another effective means of managing your blood sugar level is controlling the carbs intake. It is essential to determine the carbs requirement of your body and how to spread the amount throughout the meals. The recommended carbs intake shouldn’t be followed by diabetic patients, as everyone may have a different carbs requirement.
Additionally, the kind of carbs also affects the levels of blood sugar. Therefore, consult a physician or a dietician to find out your daily carbs requirement and how to divide it between your meals every day.
Understanding how different foods can affect your blood sugar can be tough but is crucial for diabetes management. Once you grasp the basics, it can get easier to create your own healthy meal plan to manage your diabetes. Your main focus should be to avoid the foods that cause blood sugar spikes.
While you may have occasional treats, it is highly important that you restrict the intake of these foods to avoid an increase in your blood sugar and insulin resistance. As a result, you will enjoy a healthier life with reduced risk of potential complications and diabetes-related diseases.