The Best Foods for Those with Type 2 Diabetes
This post was updated September 2021.
If current trends continue, by 2050, one out of every three Americans will have Type 2 diabetes. This isn’t just a problem in the U.S; it affects people across the globe.
According to the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of diabetes among adults over 18 years of age has risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014.
With statistics like that, you can understand why it’s so important to find the best foods for those with Type 2 diabetes
The good news is that diet, exercise and a proactive health care plan can go a long way toward preventing diabetes or avoiding some of the serious complications that can result if you already have the disease. These complications include high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
The Role of Nutrition in Diabetes Management
To manage your diabetes successfully, it’s important to have a diet based upon solid nutritional evidence, not the latest fad that’s advertised on the internet. A healthy diet is a conscious effort to eat foods that provide the most benefit and nutrition to your body, which also prevents blood sugar spikes.
The American Diabetes Association has compiled a list of “superfoods,” which are foods packed full of vitamins, fiber and minerals that should be a welcome addition on everyone’s plate. Let’s take a look at some of these foods and how they can help you.
What Can Type 2 Diabetics Eat?
Following a healthy diet for Type 2 diabetes is a multifaceted endeavor. The key is to eat nutritious food and follow your eating plan. We’ll be happy to create one tailored for your situation.
Typically, you’ll want to avoid eating too many carbs and find flavorful alternatives to foods high in saturated fats (we’ve outlined a few of them below).
DARK GREEN, LEAFY VEGETABLES
Consider these your most valuable players in the fight against heart disease and diabetes. Dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale are packed with vitamins A,C, E, and K in addition to iron and calcium. Even better, they’re low in calories and carbohydrates, and provide good fiber.
There’s a big difference between whole grains, which are a great addition to your diet, and processed grains, which are not ideal. Whole grains (such as brown rice) have not been milled. Therefore, the nutrients found in their bran and germ remain intact. Refined grains have been milled to remove their bran and germ.
According to information from the Mayo Clinic, while refined grains have a smoother texture and a longer shelf life, it comes at a cost: nutrients have been stripped from the food. When you have a choice, always look for whole grain cereal and bread.
These are high in antioxidants no matter which ones you choose—blueberries, blackberries or strawberries. They are a great alternative to sugary desserts (as long as you don’t add sugar to the berries), and they have vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and fiber.
FOOD HIGH IN OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
What makes omega-3 fatty acids such a big deal? They can reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation, and therefore should be on everyone’s plate. Fish high in the omega-3 acids include salmon, tuna, herrings, sardines and trout.
The American Diabetes Association recommends eating these types of “fatty fish” twice a week. However, there’s one caveat: opt for grilled or broiled versions of these fish.
Breading and deep-frying not only creates additional carbohydrates, but it also adds other fats that should be limited.
If you don’t like fish, other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include: flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and certain fortified brands of eggs, yogurt and soy beverages.
As mentioned above, nuts—particularly walnuts and flax seeds—are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts also provide a lot of protein and are a wonderful snack alternative to sugary items.
How Many Carbs Should a Type 2 Diabetic Eat Daily?
There is no one answer that fits everyone. You will have to tailor your carb intake to fit you, and a lot of that depends upon how much exercise you’re getting, your weight, your age, and other factors.
But don’t worry—we’ll work with you to ensure that you’re staying within target. The key is to manage the amount of carbs you can eat, and safely stay within your target range.
However, in general, the guideline is that you should strive to get half your calories from carbs.
Remember to eat the same amount of carbs at every meal. This will help you keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Again, this figure depends upon if you’re using an insulin pump, getting daily insulin injections or if you take other insulin at mealtimes.
In addition, those with diabetes should consider the pros and cons of the following foods:
Certainly, canned vegetables are a better choice than fast food, but canned versions often contain a lot of sodium. If using canned vegetables, rinse them under running water to remove as much of the excess salt as possible.
Again, fruit is great for you, but many times these juices contain added high-fructose corn syrup or other kinds of processed sugar. Be sure to check the label. They are also missing fiber, which changes how our blood sugar reacts.
Often, this is packed in syrup, which contains high amounts of additional sugar. So, if selecting canned fruit, make sure it’s packed in water instead of syrup.
How to Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Managing Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong endeavor, and it can be challenging. That’s why we’re with you on this journey together. We’ll create a wonderful eating plan filled with nutritious, flavorful foods that will soon become your favorites.
Of course, living with diabetes is about much more than a healthy diet—it’s about working closely with your health care team to help you live the healthiest life possible.
Following are some tips to help you manage Type 2 diabetes:
- Always eat well-balanced meals that are high in vegetables. If you need help, we have some great ideas for you!
- Monitor your blood sugar. It helps to record your readings throughout the day. This will help you track your blood sugar, and it will assist us in following your progress.
- Find an activity you love. Exercise doesn’t mean running a marathon. Often, the key to establishing an exercise routine is to find something you enjoy doing. Maybe you prefer riding bikes to the treadmill or swimming to lifting weights. The important thing is that you establish a routine that you can stick with and have a great time doing so!
- Be aware of blood sugar spikes. Your blood sugar may spike when you are sick or under stress.
- Diabetes makes it more difficult for your body to fight infections, so know what to watch for. If you have any concerns, contact us. Always remember that we’re partners in your care.
- Keep a close eye on your feet. Often, those with diabetes may not realize that they have an injury to a foot. Because diabetes can cause circulation issues, these small wounds take longer to heal. That’s why it’s important to be proactive. Let us know immediately if you have a non-healing wound.
Raleigh Medical Group: Partnering With Patients to Control Diabetes
Managing diabetes is about much more than a number on a meter; that’s why we partner with our patients to help them make healthy choices and learn more about their illness.
Internal medicine physicians not only deal with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases, but we also assist patients who have more than one chronic health problem.
This places us in a unique position to help our patients manage diabetes.
We also have a registered dietitian on staff who is available for consultations and to build your nutrition plan.
Contact us for more information about how you can keep your diabetes under control while also adding fabulous foods to your menu.