What should i eat for diabetes type 2? – It is so important to learn how to use food as medicine for diabetes type 2 treatment. Diabetes is a lifestyle disease and can be reversed or prevented by the way you eat. The good news is that the condition can be controlled with proper nutrition through diet and supplements. When you have type 2 diabetes, there are some foods you should avoid eating. Likewise, there are other foods that you should eat more of when you have type 2 diabetes. We’re going to look at both and explain why.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes occurs over time, and involves problems getting enough sugar (glucose) into the cells of the body. (The cells use the sugar for fuel/energy.)
- Sugar (glucose) is the preferred fuel for muscle and brain cells, but it requires insulin to transport it into cells for use.
- When insulin levels are low, and the sugar can’t get into the cells where it is supposed to be, it leads to elevated blood sugar levels.
- Over time, the cells develop resistance to insulin (insulin resistance), which then requires the pancreas to make more and more insulin to move sugar into the cells; however, more sugar is still left in the blood.
- The pancreas eventually “wears out,” and can no longer secrete enough insulin to move the sugar into the cells for energy.
How a Healthy Diet Can Help You Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by a condition called insulin resistance, in which the body can’t effectively use the hormone insulin to ferry blood sugar, or glucose, to cells and muscles for energy. This causes glucose to accumulate in your blood at higher than normal levels, which can put your health in danger.
Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone, regardless of diabetes status. But for people with this disease, nourishing foods eaten in the right portions provide two key benefits:
Reduced blood sugar Lowering blood sugar that is high can help reduce diabetes symptoms and lower the risk for health complications.
A healthier weight Weight loss is associated with a better A1C result, a two- to three-month average of blood sugar levels.
What Is a Good Diet for Type 2 Diabetes?
A smart diabetes diet looks a lot like the healthy eating plan doctors recommend for everyone: It includes whole, minimally processed foods, with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates in moderation, lean protein, and healthy fats, and limits added sugars and refined grains.
“There is no ‘diabetic diet,’” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, the author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet and Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, and based in Vernon, New Jersey. “The guidelines are basically the same for healthy eating for everyone, with or without diabetes,” she says.
According to the American Diabetes Association’s Nutrition Consensus Report in 2019, there are several healthful eating patterns you can follow to manage diabetes, including Mediterranean, low-carb, DASH, paleo, and vegetarian.
Work with your healthcare team to determine the right ratio of macronutrients and the best eating plan to accommodate your health risks and goals.
Macronutrient Ratios for Type 2 Diabetes
You don’t need to worry about counting macros if you’re following a balanced diet rich in whole foods. But here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind.
You can find carbohydrates in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and beans, and dairy. These foods supply necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber that everyone needs to be healthy.
That said, for people with type 2 diabetes, limiting carbs will help regulate blood sugar. “Although individual carbohydrate goals will vary based on age, activity level, medication, and individual insulin resistance levels,” says Palinski-Wade, “it’s imperative to avoid having too many carbohydrates in one sitting.”
If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and don’t take medication, cap carbs to no more than 60 grams (g) per meal (four carbohydrate servings).
You can also use a diabetes exchange list, which tells you how foods compare in terms of their carbohydrate content. For instance, 1 apple and ½ cup applesauce both contain about 15 g of carbs.
Good sources of carbs include:
- Whole grains, like whole-wheat pasta and bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa
- Nonstarchy veggies, like peppers, eggplant, onion, and asparagus
- Starchy veggies, such as sweet potatoes and corn, are okay to eat in moderation, just mind the carbohydrate content
- Fresh, fiber-rich, whole fruit like raspberries, apricots, and pears
- Nonfat or low-fat dairy, like unsweetened yogurt and cottage cheese
- Beans and legumes, like black beans, chickpeas, and lentils
Limit unhealthy carb sources, which include sugar and refined grains like white bread and pasta.
One-quarter of your plate should contain a source of lean protein, which includes meat, skinless poultry, fish, reduced-fat cheese, eggs, and vegetarian sources like beans and tofu.
Enjoy these diabetes-friendly options:
- Beans, including black or kidney beans
- Whole nuts and nut butter
- Fish, such as tuna, sardines, or salmon
- Skinless poultry
- Low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese
- Reduced-fat cheese or regular cheese in small amounts
- Lean beef, like sirloin or tenderloin
Fat is not the enemy, even if you have diabetes! Learn to tell unhealthy fats from healthy fats and enjoy them in moderation, as all fats are high in calories.
Type matters more than amount: Aim to limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of total calories, Palinski-Wade advises.
Consider opting for these sources of healthy fat, per the American Diabetes Association (ADA):
- Oils, including canola, and safflower
- Nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts
- Olive oil
- Seeds, including sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower
Facts you should know about the type 2 diabetes diet
Salmon is a diabetes superfood.
- Type 2 diabetes involves problems getting enough glucose into the cells. When the sugar can’t get where it is supposed to be, it leads to elevated blood sugar levels in the bloodstream, which can lead to complications such as kidney, nerve, and eye damage, and cardiovascular disease.
- Foods to eat for a type 2 diabetic diet meal plan include complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils. Foods to avoid include simple carbohydrates, which are processed, such as sugar, pasta, white bread, flour, and cookies, pastries.
- Foods with a low glycemic load (index) only cause a modest rise in blood sugar and are better choices for people with diabetes. Good glycemic control can help in preventing long-term complications of type 2 diabetes.
- Fats don’t have much of a direct effect on blood sugar but they can be useful in slowing the absorption of carbohydrates.
- Protein provides steady energy with little effect on blood sugar. It keeps blood sugar stable and can help with sugar cravings and feeling full after eating. Protein-packed foods to eat include beans, legumes, eggs, seafood, dairy, peas, tofu, lean meats, and poultry.
- Five diabetes “superfoods” to eat include chia seeds, wild salmon, white balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, and lentils.
- Healthy diabetes meal plans include plenty of vegetables, limited processed sugars, and red meat.
- Diet recommendations for people with type 2 diabetes include a vegetarian or vegan diet, the American Diabetes Association diet (which also emphasizes exercise), the Paleo Diet, and the Mediterranean diet.
- Guidelines on what to eat for people with type 2 diabetes include eating low glycemic load carbohydrates, primarily from vegetables, and consuming fats and proteins mostly from plant sources.
- What not to eat if you have type 2 diabetes: sodas (regular and diet), refined sugars, processed carbohydrates, trans fats, high-fat animal products, high-fat dairy products, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and any highly processed foods.
Foods to eat with type 2 diabetes
You can follow many different eating patterns and diets to meet your health needs.
With type 2 diabetes, be sure to pick a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, which can help provide the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs.
You should also be sure to enjoy a variety of heart-healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These can help reduce your cholesterol levels to support heart health, according to a 2017 research review.
Similarly, eating plenty of foods high in fiber can enhance blood sugar management and help keep you feeling fuller for longer to help prevent eating when you’re not hungry.
Your diet should also be sustainable and easy to follow. Diet plans that are overly restrictive or don’t fit your lifestyle can be much harder to stick with in the long run.
Here are some examples of nutritious foods that your diet should include:
- fruits (apples, oranges, berries, melons, pears, peaches)
- vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini)
- whole grains (quinoa, oats, brown rice, farro)
- legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, cashews)
- seeds (chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds)
- protein-rich foods (skinless poultry, seafood, lean cuts of red meat, tofu, tempeh)
- heart-healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, canola oil, sesame oil)
- beverages (water, black coffee, unsweetened tea, vegetable juice)
Foods to avoid with type 2 diabetes
There aren’t many foods that you need to avoid entirely when you have type 2 diabetes.
However, some foods are more nutrient-dense choices than others. This means they’re richer sources of vitamins and minerals. Plus, they contain less fat, sugar, and cholesterol.
Limiting your consumption of foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugar can help support better blood sugar management and prevent health complications related to diabetes, according to 2019 research.
Here are some of the foods you should limit with type 2 diabetes:
- high fat meat (fatty cuts of pork, beef, and lamb, poultry skin, dark meat chicken)
- full-fat dairy (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream)
- sweets (candy, cookies, baked goods, ice cream, desserts)
- sugar-sweetened beverages (juice, soda, sweet tea, sports drinks)
- sweeteners (table sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses)
- processed foods (chips, microwave popcorn, processed meat, convenience meals)
- trans fats (vegetable shortening, fried foods, dairy-free coffee creamers, partially hydrogenated oil)
What is the glycemic index? Which type of carbohydrates should be included?
Glycemic index and load
Carbohydrates (carbs) are the primary food that raises blood sugar. Glycemic index and glycemic load are scientific terms used to measure the impact of a carbohydrate on blood sugar.
- Foods with low glycemic load (index) raise blood sugar modestly and thus are better choices for people with diabetes.
- The main factors that determine a food’s (or meal’s) glycemic load are the amount of fiber, fat, and protein it contains.
- The difference between glycemic index and glycemic load is that glycemic index is a standardized measurement and glycemic load accounts for a real-life portion size. For example, the glycemic index of a bowl of peas is 68 (per 100 grams) but its glycemic load is just 16 (lower the better). If you just referred to the glycemic index, you’d think peas were a bad choice, but in reality, you wouldn’t eat 100 grams of peas. With a normal portion size, peas have a healthy glycemic load as well as being an excellent source of protein.
Carbohydrates can be classified as either
- complex carbohydrates, or
- simple sugars.
1. Complex carbohydrates (low glycemic load foods, or foods that are a part of a type 2 diabetes low-carb diet plan) are in their whole food form and include additional nutrients such as:
- Smaller amounts of proteins and fats
These additional nutrients slow down the absorption of the glucose and keep blood sugar levels more stable.
Examples of complex carbohydrates, or low glycemic load (index) foods include:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
- Steel-cut oatmeal
Grains and starchy vegetables
Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal are good sources of fiber and nutrients; and have a low glycemic load making them good food choices. Processed food labels make it very confusing to understand whole grains. For example, “whole wheat bread” is made in many different ways, and some are not that different from white bread in its blood sugar impact (glycemic load). The same is true for whole grain pasta, it’s still pasta. Whole grains have less of an impact on blood sugar because of the lower glycemic load. Choose whole grains that are still in their grain form like brown rice and quinoa, or look at the fiber content on the nutrition label. For example, a “good” whole grain high-fiber bread will have 3+ grams of fiber per slice.
Starchy vegetables that are good sources of nutrients like vitamin C, and that are higher in carbohydrates than green vegetables, but lower in carbs than refined grains. They can be eaten in moderation. Starchy vegetables include:
- Other root vegetables
The above starchy vegetables are best eaten in smaller portions (1 cup) as part of a combination meal that includes protein and plant-based fat.
Non-starchy vegetables, such as green vegetables, can be eaten in abundance. These foods have limited impact on blood sugar, and also have many health benefits, so eat up! Almost everyone can eat more vegetables – we need at least five servings a day.
Fresh vegetables are a great option, and usually the tastiest option. Studies show that frozen veggies have just as many vitamins and nutrients because they are often frozen within hours of harvesting. Just check to make sure there aren’t added fats or sweeteners in the sauces that are on some frozen veggies. If you don’t like vegetables on their own, try preparing them with fresh or dried herbs, olive oil, or a vinaigrette dressing. Aiming to consume a rainbow of colors through your vegetables is a good way to get all of your nutrients.
2. Simple carbohydrates (high glycemic load foods, or foods that are not part of a type 2 diabetes diet plan because they raise blood sugar levels) are processed foods, and don’t contain other nutrients to slow down sugar absorption and thus these foods can raise blood sugar dangerously fast. Many simple carbohydrates that are off-limits are easily recognized as “white foods.”
Simple carbohydrates or high glycemic index foods that should not be included in your diet, for example::
- White pasta
- White bread
- White potatoes
- Breakfast cereals
- Pastries and sweets
- Fruit juice
- Soft drinks