How Do The Foods I Eat Affect My Blood Sugar Levels
The sugar in your blood comes from certain foods called carbohydrates, or “carbs.” Foods that are high in carbs include candy and sweets, sodas, breads, tortillas, and white rice. The more carbs you eat, the higher your blood sugar level will be.
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, making the right food choices is an important way to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. When you control your blood sugar, you lower your chance of having serious health problems from diabetes, such as vision loss and heart problems.
And if you have prediabetes or are at risk for diabetes, eating foods that keep your blood sugar levels healthy may help prevent type 2 diabetes later on.
What About The Glycemic Index
High glycemic index foods spike your blood sugar rapidly, while low GI foods have the least effect on blood sugar. While the GI has long been promoted as a tool to help manage blood sugar, there are some notable drawbacks.
- The true health benefits of using the GI remain unclear.
- Having to refer to GI tables makes eating unnecessarily complicated.
- The GI is not a measure of a foods healthfulness.
- Research suggests that by simply following the guidelines of the Mediterranean or other heart-healthy diets, youll not only lower your glycemic load but also improve the quality of your diet.
|Choosing carbs that are packed with fiber|
|Brown or wild rice, riced cauliflower|
|White potatoes||Sweet potatoes, yams, cauliflower mash|
|Peas or leafy greens|
Honey Agave Nectar And Maple Syrup
People with diabetes often try to minimize their intake of white table sugar, as well as treats like candy, cookies, and pie.
However, other forms of sugar can also cause blood sugar spikes. These include brown sugar and natural sugars such as honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup.
Although these sweeteners arent highly processed, they contain at least as many carbs as white sugar. In fact, most contain even more.
Below are the carb counts of a 1-tablespoon serving of popular sweeteners:
- white sugar: 12.6 grams (
- 40 )
In one study, people with prediabetes experienced similar increases in blood sugar, insulin, and inflammatory markers regardless of whether they consumed 1.7 ounces of white sugar or honey .
Your best strategy is to avoid all forms of sugar and use natural low carb sweeteners instead.
Honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup arent as processed as white table sugar, but they may have similar effects on blood sugar, insulin, and inflammatory markers.
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How Many Carbs Should I Eat
Theres no one size fits all answereveryone is different because everyones body is different. The amount you can eat and stay in your target blood sugar range depends on your age, weight, activity level, and other factors.
On average, people with diabetes should aim to get about half of their calories from carbs. That means if you normally eat about 1,800 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight, about 800 to 900 calories can come from carbs. At 4 calories per gram, thats 200225 carb grams a day. Try to eat about the same amount of carbs at each meal to keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day .
This sample menu has about 1,800 calories and 200 grams of carbs:
½ cup rolled oats 1 cup low-fat milk 2/3 medium banana ¼ cup chopped walnuts Total carbs: 65 grams
2 slices whole wheat bread 4 oz. low-sodium turkey meat 1 slice low-fat Swiss cheese ½ large tomato 1 TBS yellow mustard ¼ cup shredded lettuce 8 baby carrots 6 oz. plain fat-free Greek yogurt ¾ cup blueberries
What Foods Can Diabetics Eat Freely
When it comes to what to eat and what not if you are diabetic, the choices are endless. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of myths and one of them is totally avoiding sugary foods and beverages. A diabetic person can actually eat a variety of foods but in moderation. The following list of foods can be included in your diet:
- You can eat desserts provided it should be in a small proportion. You have to limit hidden sugars as it could cause your blood sugar to spike.
- Starchy carbs should be kept to a minimum. It would be great if it would be replaced by whole grain carbs because they are high in fiber and may take some time to digest. Whole grain carbs keep the blood sugar level even.
- Eat all natural, unprocessed foods.
- Include healthy fats such as fish, nuts, avocados, flax seeds, and fish oil.
- Eat colorful fruits and vegetables. Go for the entire fruit and vegetables and not only juices.
- Eat bread made from whole grains.
- It is okay to eat high-fiber cereals.
- You can eat chicken and turkey but make sure you limit the intake of the skin part.
- Fish and shellfish are okay.
- Include high-quality protein such as eggs, low-fat dairy products, and beans.
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Dining Out When Managing Type 2 Diabetes
It can seem tough to navigate a menu when youre eating out, but its not impossible. Enjoy your time with friends and eat delicious food with these guidelines from Palinski-Wade.
Have an appetizer before you leave. Its tempting to save up calories throughout the day to help plan for a night out, but that approach can backfire. Youll be famished by the time you get there and less likely to make a healthy choice when you order. Eat a small, healthy snack before you go, like some nuts or a low-fat plain yogurt. This can help decrease hunger and prevent overeating, she says.
Visualize your plate. Ideally, your plate should look very similar to the way it does at home with a couple of small tweaks: ½ nonstarchy vegetables , ¼ lean protein, and ¼ whole grains. You want to be careful not to eat too many carbs at one sitting, and avoid meals packed with saturated fat, says Palinski-Wade.
Sip smart. Alcohol stokes your appetite, so if you do have alcohol , do so near the end of the meal. Limit it to one glass.
What To Eat To Keep Blood Sugar Normal
If youve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor may have mentioned helping to manage your diabetes with your diet. Eating a healthy diet of foods that keep your blood sugar at a normal level can help you lead a healthier life, reduce your risk of developing diabetes-related health issues and even help you stay off of medication.
For a person with type 2 diabetes, making good choices at meal time is essential to staying healthy, explained Dr. Wynn Htun, Geisinger endocrinologist. If you make the wrong food choices, your blood sugar may skyrocket, which can make you feel very thirsty and tired, make you go to the bathroom a lot and even blur your vision.”
Over time, high blood sugar can damage the vessels that carry blood to your heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.
Foods you should eatHere are foods that will help you keep blood sugar in the normal range.
Non-starchy vegetables such as tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cucumber, greens, mushrooms, onions, peppers and squash. These foods will not only help you maintain healthy blood sugar, theyll also give you plenty of vitamins and nutrients.
Chicken, turkey and fish are excellent sources of lean protein. Bonus: Fish such as salmon contains omega-3 fats, which promote heart health.
Whole grains such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, popcorn , quinoa and wild rice are smart choices when it comes to starches.
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Add Extra Activity To Your Daily Routine
If you have been inactive or you are trying a new activity, start slowly, with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Then add a little more time each week. Increase daily activity by spending less time in front of a TV or other screen. Try these simple ways to add physical activities in your life each day:
- Walk around while you talk on the phone or during TV commercials.
- Do chores, such as work in the garden, rake leaves, clean the house, or wash the car.
- Park at the far end of the shopping center parking lot and walk to the store.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Make your family outings active, such as a family bike ride or a walk in a park.
If you are sitting for a long time, such as working at a desk or watching TV, do some light activity for 3 minutes or more every half hour.5 Light activities include
- leg lifts or extensions
Carbs Can Be Part Of A Healthy Diet
Because the body turns carbohydrates into glucose, eating carbohydrates makes blood sugar levels rise. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid carbohydrates if you have diabetes. Carbohydrates are a healthy and important part of a nutritious diet.
Some carbohydrates have more health benefits than others, though. For example, whole-grain foods and fruits are healthier choices than candy and soda because they provide fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Fiber is important because it helps you feel full and keeps your digestive system working properly. In fact, eating lots of fiber can even help to slow the body’s absorption of sugar when eaten together with sugar in the same food. Everyone needs fiber, and most people don’t get enough. Some experts think that people with diabetes should eat more fiber than people without diabetes to help control blood sugar.
Sugary foods, like soda and candy, don’t usually have fiber and typically contain “empty calories.” That means they have calories but little nutritional value, and eating too many of them might leave little room for healthy foods. Eating too many empty-calorie foods can also make a person more likely to be overweight or obese. These foods can also cause tooth decay.
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What Not To Eat
Rethinking your diet to reduce the risk of diabetes doesnt mean giving up the foods you love. It means eating less of them. The first rule is to cut down on simple carbohydrates like sugar, a quick-release carb.
Eliminate sweetened beverages. They have no fat or protein to prevent the carbs from rocketing your blood sugar, Zumpano explains.
Similarly, cut back on:
- Part-skim cheese and cottage cheese.
- Nuts and seeds.
If you have cardiovascular disease, limit red meat and stick with skinless poultry and fish. Load up on vegetables, particularly non-starchy veggies. The fiber in vegetables and legumes will help you feel full and satisfied, Zumpano says.
Because fiber slows down digestion and absorption, you are less likely to get hungry between meals and reach for a sugary snack.
You Cant Control Everything
The first thing I had to realize for my own sanity is that life with T2D is incredibly complex, and not everything is within my control. Theres no predicting with certainty what my blood glucose , energy level, or mood is going to be on any given day. Even when I follow the same routine of self-care, medication, and work schedule, my results could be different from one day to the next.
BG levels are the daily measure of how well diabetes is being managed. But so many factors affect BG levels that they are anything but predictable the site diaTribe published a list of 42 factors that affect BG. Everything from the amount of carbohydrates you eat to not getting enough sleep or having an allergy attack to even being sunburned can drive your BG up or down.
With all this uncertainty, there have been plenty of times when I got discouraged and frustrated or felt burned out.
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Best Diets For People With Diabetes
As the ADA reports, no single diet offers more benefits to a person with diabetes than another.
However, research suggests that low carb diets may be useful. Some people may try this with or in place of medical treatment, according to their doctors guidance.
A low carb diet can help reduce cravings, lower blood sugar levels, and boost energy. It may also help people with diabetes maintain a moderate weight.
Low carb diets also have variations, including:
How To Build A Diabetes
There are four categories you want to try to include when planning a diabetes-friendly meal, whether for breakfast or other times of day. They consist of:
Focusing on these four types of food will ensure that your plate checks all the boxes of a satisfying, nutrient-dense meal. Plus, you’ll set yourself up to make better meal choices throughout the rest of the day.
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Why Should I Be Physically Active If I Have Diabetes
Physical activity is an important part of managing your blood glucose level and staying healthy. Being active has many health benefits.
- burns extra calories so you can keep your weight down if needed
- improves your mood
- can prevent falls and improve memory in older adults
- may help you sleep better
If you are overweight, combining physical activity with a reduced-calorie eating plan can lead to even more benefits. In the Look AHEAD: Action for Health in Diabetes study,1 overweight adults with type 2 diabetes who ate less and moved more had greater long-term health benefits compared to those who didnt make these changes. These benefits included improved cholesterol levels, less sleep apnea, and being able to move around more easily.
Even small amounts of physical activity can help. Experts suggest that you aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity 5 days of the week.3 Moderate activity feels somewhat hard, and vigorous activity is intense and feels hard. If you want to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you may need to do 60 minutes or more of physical activity 5 days of the week.3
Be patient. It may take a few weeks of physical activity before you see changes in your health.
Choose Carbohydrates That Keep Blood Sugar Steady
Our wide variety of food products contain different levels and types of carbohydrates, making it harder to eat wisely with diabetes.
In general, you will want to choose carbs that have the least impact on your blood sugar. That means selecting foods that are high fiber, low sugar foods since these are absorbed more slowly and so have little impact on blood sugar changes.
Best carb choices to promote a healthy lifestyle for people with diabetes:
- High fiber foods include: Whole grain breads and cereals, and foods made with 100% whole wheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, corn and cornmeal
- Dried beans, lentils, and peas
- Fresh fruits like berries, apples, pears, and oranges
- Dairy products including yogurt, milk, and cheese. The best yogurt is Greek-style or strained yogurt since these contain triple the level of protein.
- Vegetables. Both starchy and non-starchy vegetables are all healthy carbs that have less effect on your blood sugar
As you might guess, sugar-sweetened cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and other baked goods made with white flour as well as candy and soft drinks that contain sugar and high fructose corn syrup have little nutritional value and are likely to send your blood sugar soaring, so should eat them only occasionally, if at all, and only in very small amounts.
Skip foods made with all-purpose white flour and avoid sugary foods and sugar-sweetened drinks.
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How To Participate In Celebrations With Diabetes
Lets face it, being surrounded by cupcakes and chips while other people get their fill at birthday parties and holiday celebrations can be very frustrating. There are several things you can do to get through these events without feeling completely deprived.
First, you can make sure you have been eating balanced meals earlier in the day, so you arrive at the event with a stabilized blood sugar, and not starving.
You dont have to stop eating sweets in order to control your blood sugar and, in fact, if you add these “extras” strategically, youll improve your chances of long-term success, Ms. Zanini says. Giving yourself permission to enjoy an occasional sweet may empower you to self-manage diabetes in a way that suits your individual needs.
Apple Cider Vinegar And Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar and plain vinegar have many health benefits.
Although its made from apples, the sugar in the fruit is fermented into acetic acid. The resulting product contains less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon.
According to a meta-analysis of six studies, including 317 people with type 2 diabetes, vinegar has beneficial effects on fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c .
Apple cider vinegar may have many other healthful properties, including antimicrobial and antioxidant effects. But more studies are needed to confirm its health benefits.
To incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, begin with 4 teaspoons mixed in a glass of water each day before each meal. Note that you may want to put 1 teaspoon per glass of water so that the taste is not as strong. Increase to a maximum of 4 tablespoons per day.
Apple cider vinegar may help improve fasting blood sugar levels, but more research is needed to confirm its health benefits.
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