Top Foods To Avoid For Diabetes

Fact checked by Victor Cheung
Foods to avoid for diabetes

More often than not, most people think of food as calories, energy, and nourishment. However, recent evidence suggests that food also plays a critical role in sustaining our health and directs the way our body functions right down to the cellular level. Avoiding certain types of foods is as important as having them. Here is a list of foods to avoid for diabetes.

This was confirmed by the National Institute of Health (NIH)where they said that “Researchers found that eating too much or too little of certain foods and nutrients can raise the risk of dying of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.” They also added: “These results suggest ways to change eating habits that may help improve health.”

Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy diet if you are diabetic. This includes avoiding certain types of foods and drinks which can cause blood sugar spikes, as well as eating balanced meals with the ideal ratio of macronutrients. Here is a list of some common foods that diabetics should avoid.

Following these data, we’ll be recommending many things you can do to manage your type 2 diabetes. One of the most important is to eat a healthy diet that keeps your blood sugar levels under control. But what does it mean to eat well? What should you be eating and what should you avoid?

For what you should be eating, the NIH recommends “A healthy eating plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and limits saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.”

As for what you shouldn’t be eating — the best thing to do is choose foods that contain little or no added sugars—you should also choose low-fat or non-fat items over those containing high amounts of fats such as saturated fat or trans-fat as these can have negative health effects on diabetics!

Take a close look at the below list of foods that you should avoid if you have diabetes.

1. Refined Carbohydrates Should Be Avoided By Diabetics

Refined carbohydrates are not good for diabetics, especially if eaten in excess. The reason for this is that refined carbohydrates are quickly digested and absorbed by the body. These foods tend to be high in sugar, which can cause blood glucose levels to rise too quickly after eating.

Don’t overload on carbs! Not only do they cause spikes in blood glucose levels, but they also make up a large portion of our diet so it’s important to choose wisely when it comes to carb choices like bread/pasta/rice/potatoes, etc.). Instead, try choosing more fiber-filled options such as whole wheat bread vs white bread; brown rice vs white rice, etc.). Avoid foods made with refined sugar.1–5

Examples of everyday foods to avoid if you have diabetes include the following:

  • Pizzas
  • White bread
  • Pastries
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • Sweet desserts
  • Vast number of cereals

Basically, anything that has been stripped from its bran content. Refined sugars are found in many different types of food products, so this can be tricky to avoid if you don’t have time to read labels carefully when shopping or eating out at restaurants (which we definitely suggest you do!).

People with diabetes should avoid dried fruits.
Dried fruits are high in sugar and calories https://food-med.com/

2. Dried fruits Are High In Sugar And Calories

Dried fruits are arguably one of the nutritional darlings of the food world. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (which are known to help prevent cancer). But they aren’t without their own drawbacks: they’re also high in sugar and calories.6,7

A single cup of raisins has just under 40 grams of carbohydrates—that’s more than 3 cups’ worth! And if you’re watching your blood sugar levels closely, this could be one of the foods to avoid if you have diabetes. This happens as a result of the drying process which leads to loss of water and in turn to concentrated sugar content.

Instead of dried fruits, you can snack on fresh fruits as a healthier alternative. Or you can eat dried fruits but be mindful to take smaller portions to reap the benefits and stay away from the risks.

Some examples of dried fruits to take little portions of:

  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Figs
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Raising

3. Avoid Sugary Drinks For Diabetes

Sugary drinks are a major problem for diabetics. The sugar in these beverages can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which is not good for anyone with diabetes. They’re full of empty calories that provide no nutritional value.

When we say ‘sugary drinks’ we’re not just talking about the notorious pop sodas but we’re also talking about fruit juices that are filled with fructose —while many people think they’re healthy— they actually cause insulin resistance and contribute to the dilemma of diabetes.8–10

Diabetics need to watch their caloric intake and try to choose foods that have healthy fats, protein, and fiber while limiting simple carbs like those found in soda. They may also cause weight gain or obesity, which increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (or even worsens existing cases).11

Additionally, sugary drinks also cause dental problems due to their high acidity levels (which is why some diabetics have bad breath). A better alternative to fruit juices and sodas would be water with lemon slices in it or lemon water detox. It’s the best on a hot sunny day for refreshment and it has virtually no negative impact on diabetics with a bonus of promoting good glucose regulation in the body, reducing obesity, and acting as an anti-inflammatory. 12,13

Canned, packed and bottled foods contribute to diabetes
Canned, packed and bottled foods contribute to diabetes /https://food-med.com/

4. Canned, Packed and Bottled Foods Contribute To Diabetes

You should also avoid canned, packaged, and bottled foods. Canned foods are high in sodium, which can lead to increases in blood pressure levels due to the salt content. Also, most pre-packaged products contain added sugars and preservatives that can be harmful to some people with diabetes.

Canned food is often high in calories as well because of its high water and high carbohydrate content; this means you’re consuming more calories than you think you are! These can include the following products:14–16

  • Potato chips
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Saltines

Check these products to determine some other popular foods that can contribute to diabetes development and stay clear of them next time you do your supermarket shopping.17–19

5. Avoid Processed Baked Goods (Wheat Flour)

Avoid processed wheat flour. Avoiding processed wheat flour is important because it has been stripped of many nutrients, including fiber. If you find yourself craving bread, try making your own using whole wheat flour instead.

These baked goods have also been linked to raising insulin resistance and cholesterol levels which doesn’t bode well for people with diabetes mellitus at all. In fact, these associations have been studied extensively by researchers which makes it the most important type of food to cut out of your meals.20–23

Avoid foods made with white flour. White bread and pasta are the most common culprits here. Try switching to whole-grain versions instead of white versions whenever possible—you’ll be doing your body a favor! 24

Some baked goods examples to stay away from:

  • Bagels
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Doughnuts
  • Danish
  • Cakes
  • Buns

Here are some baking recipes provided by Diabetes UK that won’t make you feel like you’re missing out on anything!

6. Other Foods To Avoid If You Have Diabetes

These are types of foods that we consume daily without noticing their impact. They can affect us directly —especially diabetics— by raising their glucose levels or indirectly by causing other comorbidities like obesity, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol which in turn can cause insulin resistance and lead to diabetes or worsening of the condition if it already exists.

These foods include the following:

  • French fries
  • Sweeteners
  • Processed meat
  • Fat dairy
  • Oily food
  • Sugary foods (pretty obvious, right!)
  • Flavored coffee drinks
  • Alcohol (this one interacts with your insulin medication)

7. Reishi Mushroom- Can It Help With Diabetes?

Since we’ve previously covered what a diabetes-friendly diet should be and the list of common foods that should be avoided. We’re presenting another promising candidate for managing diabetes which can be added to your meals as well. This candidate is known as the Reishi mushroom, Lingzhi mushroom, or Ganoderma lucidum.

Can reishi mushrooms help with diabetes?
Can reishi mushrooms help with diabetes? https://food-med.com/

 This mushroom has been especially popular for its wide range of health benefits including anticancer, antioxidant, and antimicrobial benefits. To that end, Reishi mushroom also showed some benefits for diabetes through several scientific investigations.

 Preliminary research studies done on laboratory animals have revealed that the efficacy of Reishi mushroom for diabetes and in managing insulin production.25,26

 Similarly, primary research in humans has also shown favorable results when it comes to Reishi mushrooms reducing blood glucose levels.27 In addition, there’s ongoing research to further investigate and support the long-term safety and effectiveness of Reishi mushrooms in that area.

The Bottom Line

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is important to focus on healthy, natural foods and implement good nutrition strategies. It can be hard at first to not eat your favorite foods and drinks, but many other healthy alternatives taste just as good! Remember that eating well and exercising regularly will help keep your blood sugar levels under control so you can stay healthy for all of your tomorrows! The American Diabetes Association can be of great help when it comes to helping you get the facts about your nutrition choices, different diets, ideas for creating new meal plans and browse new food recipes.

References

1. Bonsembiante L, Targher G, Maffeis C. Type 2 Diabetes and Dietary Carbohydrate Intake of Adolescents and Young Adults: What Is the Impact of Different Choices? Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 Oct 1 [cited 2022 Jun 13];13(10). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC8537173/

2.        Bradley P. Refined carbohydrates, phenotypic plasticity and the obesity epidemic. Med Hypotheses [Internet]. 2019 Oct 1 [cited 2022 Jun 13];131. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31443772/

3.        Mohan V, Unnikrishnan R, Shobana S, Malavika M, Anjana RM, Sudha V. Are excess carbohydrates the main link to diabetes & its complications in Asians? Indian J Med Res [Internet]. 2018 Nov 1 [cited 2022 Jun 13];148(5):531–8. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30666980/

4.        Bhardwaj B, O’Keefe EL, O’Keefe JH. Death by Carbs: Added Sugars and Refined Carbohydrates Cause Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in Asian Indians. Missouri Medicine [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2022 Jun 13];113(5):395. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6139832/

5.        Gross LS, Li L, Ford ES, Liu S. Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment. Am J Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2004 [cited 2022 Jun 13];79(5):774–9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15113714/

6.        Hernández-Alonso P, Camacho-Barcia L, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Nuts and Dried Fruits: An Update of Their Beneficial Effects on Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 Jul 1 [cited 2022 Jun 13];9(7). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5537788/

7.        Fruit | ADA [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 13]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/fruit

8.        O’Connor TM, Yang SJ, Nicklas TA. Beverage intake among preschool children and its effect on weight status. Pediatrics. 2006 Oct;118(4).

9.        Ludwig DS. Examining the health effects of fructose. JAMA – Journal of the American Medical Association. 2013 Jul 3;310(1):33–4.

10.      Gill JMR, Sattar N. Fruit juice: just another sugary drink? Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2022 Jun 13];2(6):444–6. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24731678/

11.      Muraki I, Imamura F, Manson JE, Hu FB, Willett WC, van Dam RM, et al. Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies. The BMJ [Internet]. 2013 Sep 7 [cited 2022 Jun 13];347(7923). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3978819/

12.      Kim MJ, Hwang JH, Ko HJ, Na HB, Kim JH. Lemon detox diet reduced body fat, insulin resistance, and serum hs-CRP level without hematological changes in overweight Korean women. Nutr Res [Internet]. 2015 May 1 [cited 2022 Jun 13];35(5):409–20. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25912765/

13.      Asif M. The prevention and control the type-2 diabetes by changing lifestyle and dietary pattern. Journal of Education and Health Promotion [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2022 Jun 13];3(1):1. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3977406/

14.      Kim SY, Nayga RM, Capps O. Food label use, self-selectivity, and diet quality. Journal of Consumer Affairs. 2001;35(2):346–63.

15.      de Cock N, van Camp J, Kolsteren P, Lachat C, Huybregts L, Maes L, et al. Development and validation of a quantitative snack and beverage food frequency questionnaire for adolescents. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2017 Apr 1;30(2):141–50.

16.      Jumpertz R, Venti CA, Le DS, Michaels J, Parrington S, Krakoff J, et al. Food label accuracy of common snack foods. Obesity [Internet]. 2013 Jan 1 [cited 2022 Jun 13];21(1):164–9. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.20185

17.      Heavily processed foods tied to diabetes – Harvard Health [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 13]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/heavily-processed-foods-tied-to-diabetes

18.      The Link Between Type 2 Diabetes and Ultra-Processed Foods [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 13]. Available from: https://www.byramhealthcare.com/blogs/the-link-between-type-2-diabetes-and-ultra-processed-foods

19.      Ultra-processed foods linked to diabetes risk | Reuters [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 13]. Available from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-diabetes-ultraprocessed-food-idUSKBN1YK24B

20.      Okada Y, Tsuzuki Y, Ueda T, Hozumi H, Sato S, Hokari R, et al. Trans fatty acids in diets act as a precipitating factor for gut inflammation? Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2022 Jun 13];28(S4):29–32. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jgh.12270

21.      Ghosh A, Gao L, Thakur A, Siu PM, Lai CWK. Role of free fatty acids in endothelial dysfunction. Journal of Biomedical Science 2017 24:1 [Internet]. 2017 Jul 27 [cited 2022 Jun 13];24(1):1–15. Available from: https://jbiomedsci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12929-017-0357-5

22.      Thompson AK, Minihane AM, Williams CM. Trans fatty acids, insulin resistance and diabetes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011 65:5 [Internet]. 2010 Oct 27 [cited 2022 Jun 13];65(5):553–64. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2010240

23.      Angelieri CT, Barros CR, Siqueira-Catania A, Ferreira SRG. Trans fatty acid intake is associated with insulin sensitivity but independently of inflammation. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2022 Jun 13];45(7):625. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3854275/

24.      Sahin AW, Zannini E, Coffey A, Arendt EK. Sugar reduction in bakery products: Current strategies and sourdough technology as a potential novel approach. Food Res Int [Internet]. 2019 Dec 1 [cited 2022 Jun 13];126. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31732069/

25.      Pan D, Zhang D, Wu J, Chen C, Xu Z, Yang H, et al. Antidiabetic, antihyperlipidemic and antioxidant activities of a novel proteoglycan from ganoderma lucidum fruiting bodies on db/db mice and the possible mechanism. PLoS One [Internet]. 2013 Jul 11 [cited 2022 Jun 13];8(7). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23874589/

26.      Xiao C, Wu QP, Cai W, Tan J bin, Yang XB, Zhang JM. Hypoglycemic effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides in type 2 diabetic mice. Arch Pharm Res [Internet]. 2012 Oct [cited 2022 Jun 13];35(10):1793–801. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23139131/

27.      Gao Y, Lan J, Dai X, Ye J, Zhou S. A Phase I/II Study of Ling Zhi Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.)Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extract in Patients with Type II Diabetes Mellitus. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms [Internet]. 2004 [cited 2022 Jun 13];6(1):8. Available from: https://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,0738f8d34e863c74,1629a45749954343.html 28.       Klupp NL, Chang D, Hawke F, Kiat H, Cao H, Grant SJ, et al. Ganoderma lucidum mushroom for the treatment of cardiovascular risk factors. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2015 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Jun 13];2015(2). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25686270/

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