Diabetes is a common chronic disease that affects more than 100 million Americans (~30% of the total population). The disease involves problems with the hormone insulin. Normally, your pancreas produces insulin to help store fat and sugar in the foods you eat, and a diabetic person’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough of the hormone.
Prevention and ongoing treatment of diabetes involves maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco products. In some cases, especially for people with type 1 diabetes, treatment plans involve regular insulin injections. Needless to say, having diabetes can be a significant health issue that negatively impacts the lives of those affected on a daily basis.
Your diet plays an important (if not THE most important role) in the development and management of diabetes. Eating the wrong foods can raise your blood sugar and promote inflammation. Whether you’re managing your diabetes or want to avoid developing the disease, here are 10 foods you’ll want to avoid.
1. Sugar-sweetened drinks
Sugary beverages are probably the worst thing diabetics could buy at the store. They are extremely high in simple carbs (sugar), with your average 12 oz soda containing 38 grams of sugar. Plus, these beverages are usually loaded with fructose, which can lead to insulin resistance.
Instead of sugary drinks like soda, try unsweetened tea or sparkling water.
2. Trans fats
Trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to fatty acids, making the product more shelf-stable. Although they don’t increase blood sugar levels directly like sugar, they’ve been shown to reduce “good” cholesterol and increase inflammation. This can lead to belly fat and weight gain.
Common foods that sometimes contain trans fats include peanut butter, frozen dinners, coffee creamer, margarine, and grocery store baked goods.
3. Simple carbs (pasta, white bread, white rice)
Pasta, white bread, and white rice are processed foods that are high in simple carbs, which can raise your blood pressure. These foods usually contain very little fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream.
Instead of simple carbs, opt for whole grains like whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, quinoa, farro, and brown rice.
4. Yogurt with added sugar
Plain yogurt is full of calcium, protein, and probiotics, all of which are essential nutrients for diabetics. The problem is, when you buy flavored yogurt with added fruit it’s typically loaded with sugar.
You’ll also want to avoid non-fat yogurt, which is usually higher in sugar. Contrary to popular belief, high-fat whole-milk yogurt is actually better for you. Remember, not all fats are bad…
5. Store-bought breakfast cereals
While cereal isn’t as bad for you as it was 50 years ago, most are still packed with sugar. They are also low in protein, a key macronutrient that will stabilize your blood pressure throughout the day.
Instead, choose a high-protein, low-carb breakfast like eggs and whole-wheat toast or plain yogurt with homemade granola.
6. Honey and maple syrup
While cane sugar is arguably the worst perpetrator of blood sugar spikes, alternative sweeteners like honey and maple syrup aren’t much better for diabetics.
Honey and maple syrup aren’t as processed as regular sugar, but they contain just as many simple carbs – sometimes even more.
For diabetics it’s best to avoid any added sweeteners, these two included.
7. Dried fruit
Fruit is certainly good for you, but when it’s dried the loss in water content results in high sugar concentration. For example, one cup of raisins contains 115 grams of carbs – compared to 27 grams for one cup of grapes.
Diabetics, like everyone, still need fruit in their diet. Try to stick with lower-sugar fresh fruits like apples and berries.
8. Fruit juice
Although fruit juice is certainly healthier than soda, unfortunately the effects on your blood sugar aren’t much different. This is true even for juices without any added sugar.
9. Deep fried foods
Deep fried foods have been shown to produce high amounts of aldehydes, a toxic compound that can lead to inflammation. Plus, the unhealthy oils (canola, peanut, corn) these foods are fried in can lead to weight gain.
10. Pie, cookies, & cake
No explanation needed here…not surprisingly, any of these popular desserts can throw your blood pressure out of whack. You’ll want to be especially sure to avoid store-bought desserts, which often have added trans fats.
If you have a sweet tooth, opt for fresh fruit or dark chocolate instead.