If you have diabetes, a healthy eating plan for you is not that different from a healthy eating plan for people without diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) echoes the dietary guidelines recommended for the general public — that is, a diet centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (peas and beans), and low-fat dairy products.
However, you'll want to pay special attention to your carbohydrate intake.
Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains provide more nutrition per calorie than refined carbohydrates and tend to be rich in fiber. Your body digests high-fiber foods more slowly — which means a more moderate rise in blood sugar.
For most people with diabetes, carbohydrates should account for about 45% to 55% of the total calories you eat each day. Choose your carbohydrates wisely — ideally, from vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and rice, as well as candy, sugary soft drinks, and sweets. Refined carbohydrates tend to cause sharp spikes in blood sugar, and can boost blood triglyceride levels.
Fiber comes in two forms: insoluble fiber, the kind found in whole grains, and soluble fiber, found in beans, dried peas, oats, and fruits. Soluble fiber in particular appears to lower blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity, which may mean you need less diabetes medicine. And a number of studies suggest that eating plenty of fiber reduces the chances of developing heart disease — and people with diabetes need to do all they can to lower their risk.
For more on healthy diet essentials, plus information on managing (and avoiding) type 2 diabetes, buy Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes from Harvard Medical School.
Image: nitrub/Getty Images
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.