Food for Diabetics – What to Eat and Not to Eat

food for Diabetics

Having knowledge of the right food for diabetics and what to avoid can help you prevent serious diabetic complications. Diabetics are at almost double the risk of developing heart disease. They also have an increased likelihood of getting mental illnesses such as depression.

As a diabetic, your nutritional requirements are just the same as practically anyone else. However, your key goal is to control blood sugar levels. So when trying to meet your nutritional needs, you need to watch your food sources and portions. This does not mean you need to deny yourself of an occasional sweet or else eat bland food all your life. Strike the right balance.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important. If you are overweight, a reduction in body weight of just 7 percent can give you considerable health benefits. ( Reduce any excess fat around the belly. Complement your healthy diet and ideal weight with regular exercise for maximum gain.

A Look at Some Diabetic Diets

There are a number of dietary patterns that may benefit diabetics. You can go with the one that works for your lifestyle or else make one on your own. To make your own, you could search the internet for diabetic food charts to use as guidelines.

Though dietary patterns are several, there are some common elements in all healthy diets for diabetics. These are plenty of vegetables and cutting down on red meat and processed sugars. Diet options suitable for diabetics include vegan or vegetarian, Mediterranean, Paleo, and the ADA (American Diabetes Association) diet.

Food for Diabetics

The ideal diabetic foods are low in sugar and carbohydrates. They are rich in fiber and macronutrients such as healthy protein and fats that slow digestion. Here’s a look at 20 great options that make up the right food for diabetics.

Greek Yogurt

Packed with protein and a natural source of carbohydrate, greek yogurt is a great way to kick off the morning. This nutrient combination is perfect to help keep hunger and blood sugar in control. Choosing Greek yogurt over regular yogurt means fewer carbohydrates and more protein. This in turn means improved blood sugar levels. Have it as a snack with some chia seeds and berries or else make a smoothie out of it.

Chia Seeds

These seeds are very rich in fiber. They also contain very little of digestible carbohydrates. The viscous fiber slows down the movement of food through the gut and their absorption. The result is a reduction in levels of blood sugar.

The fiber in chia seeds also reduces hunger because of its tendency to provide a sense of fullness. What’s more, when you eat other foods along with chia seeds, the fiber in the latter reduces the number of calories your body absorbs from those other foods.


This delicious spice is known to enhance insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. This can be traced to the working of the spice’s powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. The improvement in insulin sensitivity causes an improvement in the body’s ability to control hunger cues and store fat. (


Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and a great choice to make you feel full for hours. Ideally you should go with organic, pasture-raised Omega-3 eggs. The Omega-3 given to the chickens is concentrated in the yolk. However, don’t overdo your consumption. Eat no more than 4 eggs a week.

Shirataki Noodles

Being diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t have pasta. The composition of shirataki noodles is yam flour. This provides for a low-carb and very low calorie food. Each package of noodles has just between zero and twenty calories. You can use them instead of the more carbohydrate-rich noodles required for certain meals.


The right food for diabetics is incomplete without beans. They offer a pleasing blend of soluble fiber and plant protein that can enhance feelings of fullness as well as keep your blood sugar under check. Try to replace some of the meat in your diet with beans for a healthier heart. You would also be increasing your consumption of legumes. Give your casseroles some black beans or make a soup with kidney beans as an ingredient.


You don’t need salt and sugar to flavor your dishes. Even some garlic would do. Saute your broccoli in extra virgin oil with crushed flakes of red pepper and some garlic and you have a tasty yet healthy meal.
Garlic is not just delicious but it is also known to bring down blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and inflammation in Type 2 diabetes affected people.


Turmeric is a miracle spice. It isn’t just good for your skin and brain. Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric can reduce blood sugar levels and inflammation. It can also cut down your risk of heart disease and is good for your kidneys. To maximize the absorption of turmeric, have it with black pepper. The absorption may go up by 2000 percent.

Flax Seeds

As is the case with chia seeds, flaxseeds too are rich in viscous fiber. This amounts to insulin sensitivity, gut health and a sense of fullness. Part of the insoluble fiber in flaxseeds is composed of lignans that boost blood sugar control and reduce heart disease risk.

As your body is unable to absorb whole flaxseeds, it is best to grind them or purchase ground seeds. When you feel like snacking, go for some fiber-rich flax crackers.

Walnuts and other nuts

Walnut is king among nuts because of its good omega-3 content. No wonder then that it is included in food for diabetics. Just ¼ cup of walnut contains close to 3 grams of Omega-3s. However, too much of a good thing can turn bad. So, limit yourself to one serving to avoid increasing your calories.

In general, nuts are a great food because of their low content of digestible carbs and copious fiber. They are also rich in healthy fats. Regular consumption of different nuts is linked to a possible reduction in HbA1c, blood sugar and LDL levels. Nuts could also help decrease inflammation.

Lean Chicken

To modulate blood sugar levels while not compromising on satisfaction, it is worthwhile to combine proteins. Chicken is lean protein and almost pure protein. It is also a healthier alternative to red meat. A good protein portion per meal would be 22 grams or a piece the size of your palm.


This trendy and nutty whole grain is a great food for diabetics, with its good protein and fiber content. This combination encourages fullness and good control of blood sugar. In addition, the protein in quinoa makes it easier for the body to process carbohydrates. Have your quinoa in a casserole or salad.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has a good amount of monounsaturated fats. Research indicates that these fats are beneficial in reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol. EVOO also has plenty of oleic acid. Going by what a study in the Journal of Lipid Research says, oleic acid decreases fat formation (lipogenesis).

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes may be starchy but they also contain a lot of beta-carotene. This red orange pigment changes into Vitamin A. Compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index. Consider making these humble potatoes your main source of starch, restricting the serving size to approximately half a cup. You can roast or bake the potatoes.

Dark Leafy Greens

All vegetables contain a good dose of nutrients. However, the dark green leafy ones such as spinach, mustard, bok choy, broccoli, and kale provide vitamins such as A, folate, C, E and K. They also contain iron, fiber and various minerals including calcium.

Like the majority of non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens have a low glycemic index. They are low in carbohydrates and calories. One minor study indicated that kale could possibly improve blood pressure and modulate blood sugar levels in people having subclinical hypertension. Consider incorporating your greens in salads, soups, side dishes, and dinners.

Fatty Fish

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is good food for diabetics. It can improve blood lipids and blood sugar control in these people.

There are some fish that are especially rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These include salmon, sardines, herring, albacore tuna, trout, and mackerel.

For those following a vegetarian diet, consuming seaweed such as spirulina or kelp is a good way to get these fatty acids. Prepare your fish dishes by grilling, baking or roasting. Avoid frying.


Berries whether raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or strawberries, are loaded with antioxidants. The antioxidants may be helpful in averting oxidative stress which is associated with multiple health conditions such as heart disease and certain cancers. There is indication that people with diabetes have chronic amounts of oxidative stress. These berries also have within them a number of other vital nutrients. This includes Vitamins C and K, and the minerals potassium and manganese.

You can have a handful of berries as a snack.  Add some fresh ones to your breakfast or put some frozen ones in a smoothie.


As far as fruits go, this fatty fruit is a diabetic’s best friend. Avocados have a considerable percentage of dietary fiber and healthful fats. The combination slows the pace of digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. It also prevents blood sugar levels from soaring.

What foods to avoid with diabetes

Diabetics should avoid or limit high GI foods and carbohydrate-heavy foods. Alternatively, you can consider balancing low and high GI foods. If consuming high GI foods, pair them with healthy fat or protein. You should avoid trans fats altogether.

Though fruits are generally healthy food, it is best to avoid those with a high glycemic index. So fruits to avoid in diabetes include pineapples, mangoes, bananas, and melons.

Continuing with the discussion on fruits, avoid dried fruits. These food items are produced by dehydration. This means there is more carbohydrate and sugar in them per square inch when compared to fresh fruit. Canned fruit is okay as long as it does not contain any added sugar.

Other foods worth avoiding in food for diabetics list are given below.

Sugary drinks

Energy drinks shake and other drinks with a lot of sugar can negatively impact insulin levels. Try to go for actual fruit instead of juicing it and avoid adding sugar in your coffee or tea.

Salty Foods

Salt-rich foods can elevate blood pressure levels. The ADA recommendation for daily sodium consumption is below 2300 milligrams. This is the same for diabetics and the general population.

Fried Foods

Deep-fried foods may be tempting to the palate. However, if flour, cornmeal or breadcrumbs have been used to bread those foods, it means extra carbohydrates. The oil used to fry counts as extra fat and of the unhealthy kind. If you want to satisfy an occasional craving for something deep-fried, consider using a heart-healthy oil.

A healthy way to enjoy fried food is to use an air fryer to get crispy meats and veggies. There is no worry about added oil or breading.

Processed and Red Meat

Any meat of a dark red color prior to cooking counts as red meat. This includes lamb, beef and pork. Processed meat is meat processed in some way such as curing, smoking or salting.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), processed meat is a sure cause of cancer. Red meat could possibly cause cancer. So as a diabetic, it is better not to add complications by consuming red meat. Swap red meat with tuna or chicken or else limit your portions (such as a single rasher of bacon and a single sausage).

Breakfast pastries

They may appear to be breakfast but donuts, danishes, and cinnamon rolls are actually dessert. It is better to avoid such a treat when offered, however tempting it may be.

To refrain from indulging in office treats, keep small fruit cups, nut packets or low carbohydrate protein shakes on your desk. Each of these items is great to have when those hunger pangs strike.

To know more about the right food for diabetics, it would be wise to get a consultation with a registered dietitian.

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