One of the most common questions people ask after being diagnosed with prediabetes is what is the best diet for prediabetes.
With lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and increased physical activity, it is often possible to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about what foods you should eat and what foods you should avoid if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes.
What is pre-diabetes?
Nearly 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes, and many people don’t even realize they have the condition.
Prediabetes is defined as elevated blood sugar levels (both fasting and after meals) but not high enough to make a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Blood sugar levels for prediabetes are as follows:
- Fasting blood sugar between 100-125 mg/dl
- Blood sugar 2 hours after a meal between 140-199 mg/dl
- HbA1c test between 5.7-6.4%
Receiving a diagnosis of prediabetes can be scary and overwhelming. However, with the right management tools, you can stay healthy and even reverse your diagnosis!
How is prediabetes treated?
Prediabetes is mainly managed through changes in diet and exercise. Many doctors encourage their patients to lose weight to help lower insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.
In fact, taking 150 minutes of exercise a week can delay or reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.
Some people may be prescribed medications such as metformin, but diet and exercise can be just as effective.
Take small steps to increase your daily physical activity – literally. Increasing the number of steps you take per day is a great way to increase your exercise routine.
What types of food should I eat?
Diet will vary from patient to patient and everyone is different, but there are some general guidelines that most people should follow if they have recently been diagnosed with prediabetes.
Always consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Focus your diet around the following food groups:
Vegetables with a low glycemic index
Low-carb and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green beans, and green lettuce generally don’t spike blood sugar and can help improve insulin sensitivity.
They are packed with healthy vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants and should be eaten in abundance.
Higher glycemic index vegetables such as sweet potatoes and white potatoes, bananas, carrots, corn, snap peas, sweet corn, and parsnips are also great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
However, they contain more grams of carbohydrates, which can raise blood sugar levels. This can be dangerous for people with prediabetes.
Whole fruits with a low glycemic index such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, coconut, avocados, cherries, apples, oranges, lemons and limes are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Although they slightly raise blood sugar levels, they are an excellent choice if you are craving something sweet.
Always eat whole fruit and avoid fruit juices, which cause blood sugar spikes.
Lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, fish, beans, legumes, tempeh, and tofu are excellent sources of nutrients and typically don’t spike your blood sugar.
Including lean protein in your diet is a great foundation for a healthy meal. Just make sure any animal proteins are grilled, steamed or baked.
Healthy fats are an important part of any diet, especially if you have prediabetes.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Healthy fats are also essential for the absorption and transport of certain vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. They are fat-soluble and require a certain level of dietary fat to be properly absorbed by the body’s tissues.
Eggs, fish and nuts are excellent sources of both protein and healthy fats. Avocados, olives, extra virgin olive oil and peanut butter are excellent sources of healthy vegetable fats.
Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, and low-fat or plant-based milk are excellent sources of protein and calcium, which are essential to a healthy diet.
Dairy products do not spike your blood sugar dramatically, even though they contain lactose, a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy milk.
Drink milk without added flavorings or sugar, and stick to lower-fat dairy products that contain less fat, saturated fat, and calories.
Moderation is key.
While whole grains contain carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels, foods such as brown rice, bulgar, farro, barley, quinoa, black rice, and millet contain more fiber.
Fiber causes slow absorption of carbohydrates, preventing sharp spikes in blood sugar.
These complex carbohydrates also keep you feeling fuller for longer and provide you with energy for longer.
Always remember to hydrate with water! You can also drink tea and coffee if you are not sensitive to caffeine.
Make your drink even more health-friendly by omitting the cream and sugar.
What types of food should I avoid?
Now that you have a grocery list for success, it’s worth knowing what foods don’t align with your health goals.
Watch out for the following food groups:
Refined carbs are full of fast-acting carbs and lack healthy fiber. These include white bread, white rice, white flour, cakes, muffins and cookies.
Studies show that consuming refined carbohydrates increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Processed foods such as chips, pretzels, donuts, tarts, pies, and ice cream have a high glycemic index. This means that they quickly raise blood sugar levels.
Regular consumption of these types of foods increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It is best to completely abandon these types of products.
Sugary drinks such as sodas, fruit juices, sweet tea, and energy drinks usually don’t support your health goals, especially if you have prediabetes.
They contain added sugars, offering no fiber or essential vitamins.
In fact, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Try to consume less than 25 grams of sugar per day (for women) and 36 grams of sugar per day (for men).
To put these numbers into perspective, a single 12-ounce can of soda contains nearly 37 grams of sugar, exceeding the daily limit for both men and women.
Fried, fatty foods
Fried, greasy, greasy foods are full of unhealthy saturated fats and excess carbohydrates and calories.
Consuming this type of food increases the risk of weight gain, heart disease and high blood pressure. These foods also increase insulin resistance, making you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Avoid these types of foods if you have pre-diabetes, as heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes.
Sugar can be a tricky ingredient! You will find it in your favorite spices, sauces, syrups and dressings.
Sometimes those sweet spices it seems healthy but hidden sugar will raise your blood sugar.
Stick to all-natural, sugar-free dressings like homemade olive oil and lemon juice dressing with a pinch of pepper.
Order entrees with all sauces and dressings on the side to use them sparingly. Moderation is key.
Frequently asked questions
What types of foods lower blood sugar?
There is no food that will lower blood sugar by itself, as only medication and exercise can adequately lower high blood sugar.
If you are prescribed insulin or another diabetes medication, never try to replace your medications with food.
If your blood sugar is consistently high and you are managing your diabetes with diet and exercise alone, talk to your doctor about alternative therapies to help lower your sugar levels.
However, there are many foods that have less impact on blood sugar levels. These include lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, and healthy fats.
Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Does prediabetes always turn into type 2 diabetes?
Good news! Getting a diagnosis of prediabetes does not mean you will develop diabetes.
Many people delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes by losing only 5-7% of their total body weight.
Talk to your doctor about building an exercise and diet plan to help you prevent type 2 diabetes. The National Diabetes Prevention Program is another great educational resource.
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