Food can impact blood sugar in the short-term, but there can also be long-term effects on your blood sugar management due to our overall diet. In type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar is a side-effect of the body’s inability to effectively store glucose in the body’s cells. Although the cause of diabetes is complicated – genetics, environment, and other factors can contribute to this disease— we can help our bodies control it better by choosing foods that support blood sugar control.
Although no food must be completely off-limits if you have diabetes, there are foods that can be harmful to your blood sugar management if overconsumed. Remember – an overall nutritious eating pattern full of whole plant foods, healthy fats and lean protein combined with a healthy overall lifestyle is most important to manage your diabetes.
Check out this list to help you make the best choices to manage your blood sugar and over all health:
1. SUGAR-SWEETENED DRINKS
Beverages are one of the biggest sources of added sugar and calories in our diet. Drinks containing added sugar include sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee drinks and commercial smoothies. Even as few as one sugar-sweetened beverage per day has been correlated with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If someone already has been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, sugar sweetened drinks can make blood sugar numbers higher. Try to replace sweetened drinks with unsweetened alternatives, such as unsweet tea, seltzer water, plain water, or coffee.
2. ADDED SUGAR
Like sugar-sweetened drinks, added sugar in our diets can lead to elevated blood sugar numbers. Added sugar includes not only white table sugar, but also brown sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, and agave. A great way to identify added sugar content is to check your nutrition label for added sugar grams and check the ingredients for sources of added sugar. Limiting added sugar-containing foods and sticking to more minimally processed foods is a great way to reduce sugar in your diet.
3. REFINED GRAINS
These grains have had parts of the grain removed that contain fiber and vitamins. White flour is a common refined grain. Due to more rapid absorption than whole grains because of the reduction in fiber, refined grains increase blood sugar more quickly and high intake of these can affect average blood sugar numbers. Aim to replace the refined grains in your diet with whole grain or intact grain options.
4. FRUIT JUICE
Fruit, and even fruit juice, can be rich in nutrients. However, a single serving of fruit juice contains a much higher amount of fruit juice than one portion of fruit. Additionally, the juicing process removes the fiber that slows down fruit’s digestion so blood sugar can rise more quickly. As a side note – this function of fruit juice makes it a great treatment option if you are having a hypoglycemic episode, or low blood sugar. Otherwise, replace your fruit juice intake with a portion of fruit.
Several medications used to treat diabetes can interact with alcohol and cause hypoglycemia, which can be dangerous. If you do choose to have a drink or two, make sure you do not drink on an empty stomach. Additionally, many mixed drinks contain a lot of added sugar, so aim for drinks that are not sugar sweetened.
6. CANDY + DESSERTS
Cake, candy, cookies – although delicious, these foods can deliver a heavy load of added sugar and saturated fat, both of which affect long and short-term blood sugar management. Saturated fat, found in ingredients like butter, full-fat dairy, and oils, can worsen insulin resistance, which is when our bodies do not allow insulin to transport glucose into the cells. In turn, this leads to high blood sugar. Limiting intake of sweets and making nutritious substitutions, such as using fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth, can assist in improving blood sugar numbers.
7. OVERPROCESSED SNACK FOODS
Many snack foods, such as chips, convenience meals, and pork rinds, contain high amounts of saturated fat which as previously discussed, can impact insulin function. Additionally, these foods can be high in sodium which can affect blood pressure – a common concern for people with diabetes. Sticking with minimally process snack foods, such as nuts, vegetable sticks, fruit and low-fat cheese can help better control blood sugar long-term.
8. FRIED FOODS
Frying foods not only adds saturated fat, but also often adds extra carbohydrates in the form of breading. Choosing grilled or baked options instead of frying foods is a great substitution to better support optimal blood sugar numbers.