Nutrition is an essential part of the management and control of diabetes, hypertension, and many other diseases that affect the heart, brain, and blood circulation. In type 2 diabetes, people can control their blood glucose levels by using drugs like metformin, insulin, and gliclazide. However, it is also possible to control blood sugar levels by controlling what you eat.
For, people with type 1 diabetes, using the correct diets will help them improve control of their blood sugar level too. Although they may still need to take insulin to be safe, good dieting will reduce the amount of insulin they need and slow the progress of the disease. Good diets not only improve the disease but enhances the quality of life of people living with diabetes.
It can reduce the chances of organ damage caused by diabetes and may even reverse some organ damages. We are going to take a look at 11 worst food items you may want to avoid if you have type 2 diabetes.
Why Does Carb Intake Matter for People With Diabetes?
When managing diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels is one of the main goals, and certain types of food can either raise or lower it.
As a result, many people with diabetes opt for a low carb diet, such as the ketogenic diet.
If you have diabetes, your body is unable to effectively process carbohydrates, as the carbs get converted into glucose.
This causes your blood sugar levels to rise, resulting in several health complications, including hyperglycemia.
However, this does not mean that you have to forsake all carbohydrates. You may be surprised to learn that carbs are not completely off-limits for those with type 2 diabetes.
You can still enjoy carbs, but they need to be vitamin-enriched, minimally processed, and slow-releasing carbohydrates. These include quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, pasta, and cereals.
1) Sweetened beverages
Sweetened beverages like canned juice, carbonated drinks, and many energy drinks are high in added sugar.
Soda can also reduce the ability of people who already have diabetes to control blood glucose, according to this research from 2017.
Meta-Analysis results provided updated evidence that a higher intake of sweetened beverages was positively associated with a 30% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. More natural, low sugar beverages like carrot juice, which have low glycemic index are better snacks for you.
Carbs are significantly able to shoot up your blood sugar levels. This is because they are broken down by your body into simple sugars like glucose, fructose, and galactose.
Insulin is needed to control these sugars – which is either unavailable or a little bit useless in diabetes.
So, in theory, the fewer carbohydrates you take, the better for you. However, not all carbs are bad. Besides, you cannot avoid carbs altogether.
Carbs have a way of sneaking into every fruits or vegetable or some of the food items you eat. If you are to eat carbs, you have to understand a concept called glycemic index. The higher the glycemic index, the more the sugar it releases into your body.
Foods with a high glycemic index like potatoes, refined flour products like bread, refined cereals, refined white rice white flour, processed grains, French fries, and so on should be avoided.
Foods with a low glycemic index like whole grain bread, oats, apples, pears, and non-starchy vegetables are safer to eat instead. It should be noted that fiber impedes the absorption of glucose so the higher the fiber, the better the carb.
One study, published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010, investigated relationships between the diet and health of 91,249 female nurses over eight years.
They found a link between a diet with a high glycemic index (GI) and type 2 diabetes. The authors explained the following process through which high sugar intake could lead to diabetes:
- Higher blood glucose concentrations from a high load of quick-digesting carbs mean more demand for insulin.
- Higher demand for insulin in the long-term wears out the pancreas. This can result in glucose intolerance from the cells.
- High-GI diets may, therefore, directly increase insulin resistance.
3) Trans fat
A large body of experimental data generated in laboratory animals strongly supports the notion that high-fat diets are associated with impaired insulin action. It appears from animal studies that saturated fats, in particular, have the most detrimental effects.
Based on this information, along with the known risks of high saturated fat intake on cardiovascular disease risk, professional organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have made recommendations that Americans aim for a total fat intake of no more than 30% of calories and choose foods low in saturated fat.
You want to avoid trans fats and saturated fat. They increase the bad LDL cholesterol levels and can lead to blood vessel damage and heart disease.
This is a very bad combination when combined with diabetes, which can damage blood vessels. Even if you are going on a keto diet, which is a low carb diet, high-fat diet, you may want to opt for a healthier fat choice.
Some of the bad fatty foods to avoid are French fries, fried foods in general, whole fat dairy products, etc.
4) Packaged Snacks
The problem with packaged snacks is that they usually contain a lot of sugar, salt, and are high in calories. This can contribute to weight gain, which in turn can increase the risk of developing diabetes.
In addition to that, they may also contain a lot of harmful chemicals like preservatives or alternative sweeteners, which are usually more harmful than helpful to a diabetic person.
Some of the snacks to avoid are salty crackers, packaged cakes, and other sweet and salty snacks, which can cause a blood sugar spike.
While some energy drinks have an insane amount of caffeine which you want to avoid, it may not be harmful to take some coffee. Coffee is rich in antioxidant activities, which is very good for people with diabetes. However, it contains caffeine, which limits how much coffee you can take.
Caffeine in large quantities can stimulate your sympathetic system (which causes the “fight or flight” response). This can hide symptoms of dangerously low blood sugar levels.
This is very dangerous if your blood sugar levels drop low. You may not notice until you enter a coma. Studies recommend no more than four drinks.
6) Salt Intake
While salt does not add to or remove from your blood sugar levels, it can determine your risk of having organ damage from diabetes.
Diabetes is known to damage many organs like the nerves, kidney, eyes, and even the male reproductive organ (it can damage blood vessels in the penis causing erectile dysfunction). The risk of organ damage is worse if diabetes joins forces with hypertension.
Salt contains sodium. Sodium intake has been linked with hypertension. If you have diabetes, you want to make sure your blood pressure is always normal to prevent damage to your blood vessels. That is why too much salt is not advised in people with diabetes.
In people with diabetes, the recommendation for alcohol is similar to that of the normal population.
The message is, drink responsibly. Moderate consumption of alcohol is advised. More so, many people with type 2 diabetes are taking drugs which increase insulin, like gliclazide.
If you are using this class of medication, you may want to reduce your alcohol levels to prevent hypoglycemia – where your blood sugar drops dangerously low.
8) Artificial Sweeteners
Even alternating to artificially sweetened or ‘diet’ soda containing sugar alternatives may not reduce the risk of diabetes.
While research on these has reached more varied conclusions, this 2018 investigation suggests that artificially sweetened beverage consumption cannot be ruled out as a risk factor for diabetes.
There are worries that some sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin and many others may do serious damage to the brain and other organs of the body. Honey, Agave Nectar and Maple Syrup are also forms of sugar to be weary of.
It does not matter whether you have diabetes or not. You may want to avoid these sweeteners.
However, some plants like stevia have been showing some reports to be useful as sweeteners for people with diabetes; hence, is worth a try. The FDA has even approved one of the components of stevia as a sweetener useful for people with diabetes. However, a component, however, does not mean the whole plant. However, in the context of managing sugar in diabetes, any sweetener that is not sugar (artificial sweeteners) may be good for you as some studies state.
9) Fruit flavored yoghurt
While yoghurt is often market as a healthy snack, fruit flavored yoghurt can be laden with sugar, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
In fact, a one-cup (245-gram) serving of fruit-flavored yogurt may contain 47 grams of sugar, meaning nearly 81% of its calories come from sugar.
Look out in particular for yogurts labeled fat free. While they may be low in fat, they are often high in sugar to substitute for the lack of flavor. In fact, many types of low-fat and nonfat yogurt are as high in sugar as desserts.
10) Sweetened breakfast cereals
For many, a bowl of cereal is a popular way to start the day. However, if you have diabetes, you may want to enjoy alternative options. Cereals, while convenient, tend to be deceptively high in sugar and carbs.
Even granola type cereals, while marketed as healthy, are typically sweetened with maple syrup, honey and other alternative sweeteners, that will raise your blood sugar levels.
Alternative breakfast ideas include porridge with fresh fruit, a veggie omelette, or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. These suggestions are high in fiber and protein, which will keep you feeling satisfied, without spiking blood sugar.
11) Dried fruit/Fruit Juice
Although fruit itself is great for you, offering a spectrum of essential vitamins and minerals, when it is processed into a different form, you should be weary.
For example, while dried fruit can be a great breakfast topping, when fruit is processed in this way, it results in a loss of water that leads to even higher concentrations of these nutrients. Sugar content becomes more concentrated as well.
The same goes for fruit juice. Like sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice is loaded with fructose, the type of sugar that drives insulin resistance, obesity and heart disease. In fact, some juice can have higher sugar contents than a can of soda.
Fruit is an important part of our diet, and there is no need to abstain from it. However for people with diabetes, it is best to opt for low sugar fruits such as blueberries and raspberries, and avoid processed forms of fruit.
The point is that in managing diabetes, you will have to watch what you eat. What you eat can either improve your blood sugar control significantly or mar your efforts.
Following a healthy diet plan that avoids the foods mentioned and following a low carbohydrate diet, combined with regular physical activity, can help to manage blood sugar levels.