Changing your diet can help delay the transition from prediabetes (a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal) to type 2 diabetes. Prioritizing nutrient-rich, high-quality foods along with healthy lifestyle habits can help support Optimal control of blood sugar (glucose).
This article discusses the relationship between food and blood sugar levels, which foods are best to include in your diet if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, and tips to help prevent an official diagnosis of diabetes.
What are prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a health condition in which blood sugar levels are slightly higher than normal, indicating that you may be on the way to developing type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is very common. It affects an estimated 96 million adults in the United States.
When left untreated, prediabetes can turn into type 2 diabetes. But by focusing on improving the quality of your diet, along with making other lifestyle changes, you can help prevent prediabetes from turning into diabetes. of type 2.
Keys to a pre-diabetes diet
The prediabetes diet is not a fad; It’s a pattern of eating that emphasizes nutrient-rich, high-quality foods and minimizes ultra-processed foods that don’t provide much nutrition. A good first step to making sustainable changes to the way you eat is to think about your current diet and identify some areas for improvement.
A good diet for managing prediabetes and preventing type 2 diabetes focuses mostly on whole foods. Whole foods are those that have not been processed or packaged and do not contain added sugar, sodium, or other ingredients.
Fiber helps regulate appetite, control blood sugar and prevent chronic disease, so it helps to choose high-fiber carbohydrate sources, such as beans, lentils, peas, and whole grains.
Protein is an essential nutrient and helps you feel full (feeling satisfied and full). Choose protein sources low in saturated and trans fats, such as fish, poultry, plain Greek yogurt, and beans. Avoid foods that contain saturated or trans fats, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Plus, choose healthy fats for the greatest benefits. This means focusing primarily on unsaturated fats versus saturated and trans fats, as high intakes are associated with increased risks of heart disease, obesity and insulin resistance. It is when your body’s cells don’t respond well to the hormone insulin, which controls the amount of glucose in your blood. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, fried foods, and baked goods.
Recommended foods that are high in fiber, protein and healthy fats include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Legumes (such as beans, peas, and lentils)
- Nuts and seeds
- all grains
- Lean proteins (such as chicken and fish)
Reducing sugar intake
Reducing added sugar is essential to keep blood sugar levels within the normal range. Added sugar is refined sugar that is added to many packaged and processed foods. It differs from the natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables.
Eating a lot of foods with added sugar can cause blood sugar levels to rise and fall dramatically, especially since they are generally low in fiber and other beneficial nutrients that help keep blood sugar stable.
This doesn’t mean you should eliminate all sources of added sugar from your diet if you don’t want to. However, your blood sugar will be better regulated when you choose naturally sweetened foods, such as fruit, over foods with added sugar.
Daily Added Sugar Guidelines
According to the American Heart Association’s daily guidelines, added sugar per day should not exceed:
- 6 teaspoons (25 grams) equals 100 calories Women
- 9 teaspoons (36 grams) equals 150 calories men
Glycemic index and carbohydrates
Carbohydrates (carbohydrates) are often mistakenly thought of as a nutrient to be avoided; Carbohydrates are a source of energy for the brain and body, so it is important to include some of them.
However, there are varying degrees of quality when it comes to carbohydrates. Choose carbohydrate sources that support blood sugar, are high in fiber, and are lower on the glycemic index (GI) scale (a tool designed to determine how certain foods are likely to raise blood sugar levels).
Foods with a high glycemic index generally raise blood sugar faster, more dramatically, and contain fewer nutrients. Foods with a low glycemic index are better for managing blood sugar and are usually rich in fibre.
Understanding the glycemic index scale
- Low GI: 55 or less
- Average GI: 56-69
- High glycemic index: 70-100
Foods with a low GI of 100% include whole wheat bread, pasta, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, sweet potatoes, and steel-cut oats. In a pre-diabetes diet, foods with a medium glycemic index, such as corn, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, can be eaten in moderation.
Foods with a high glycemic index greatly affect blood sugar levels due to their lack of fiber and should be eaten as little as possible in a pre-diabetes diet. These include sugary drinks, white rice, bread, fruit juice, and white potatoes.
While enjoying foods from each category is okay, focusing on low-GI foods will be more beneficial for blood sugar management and overall health.
Reducing alcohol use
Alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, however, in a pre-diabetes diet. This is because alcohol causes dehydration and some types contain large amounts of added sugar, which can work against optimal blood sugar management.
If you occasionally consume alcohol, choose drinks without added sugar, juices, or alcoholic beverages.
Also, while taking alcohol, remember to keep yourself hydrated with plain water.
Foods to avoid
It’s a good idea to reduce foods with added sugar or a high glycemic index to support healthy blood sugar management. These foods are low in fiber, raise your blood sugar, and won’t keep you satiated for long.
Some examples of foods to avoid in a pre-diabetes diet include:
- White rice and bread products
- baked goods
- Ice cream, cake and biscuit
- Packaged, refined, and refined snack foods
- fruit juice
- Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and sports drinks
If you’re currently eating too many items on this list, start making a change by identifying some areas where you can make healthy choices.
exercise with diet
A sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise are associated with insulin resistance. However, regular exercise and a healthy diet may help prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes.
When you move your body, your muscles use glucose for energy, which helps reduce insulin resistance, while improving insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake.
If you are new to exercise, start slowly and find activities that you enjoy. This may include strength training, running, walking, swimming, tennis, and yoga. Aim for medium and high intensity workouts while you build strength and endurance. It is recommended to exercise at least 150 minutes per week, regardless of intensity level or type of exercise.
Many people have prediabetes, a condition characterized by higher than normal blood sugar levels. While prediabetes can turn into type 2 diabetes if left untreated, a healthy diet and regular exercise habits can help manage it. Reducing your intake of highly processed and refined foods and eating more whole, plant foods rich in fiber can help.
Word from Verywell
Prediabetes is a very common condition that, if left untreated, can turn into type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, you can improve your blood sugar management by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. It can be difficult to consider making lifestyle changes, but talking to your healthcare provider and determining a diet and exercise regimen that works for you can help prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can prediabetes be reversed with diet and exercise?
Yes, it is possible to reverse prediabetes with a healthy diet and exercise habits. This starts with reducing your intake of highly processed and refined foods and eating more whole foods. In addition to diet, regular physical activity is key to better blood sugar management.
Is the keto diet good for prediabetes?
Some research suggests that a low-carb diet may actually increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in its early stages by preventing the body from using insulin properly. However, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for pre-diabetes, and incorporating high-quality carbohydrates provides benefits. Whatever your diet pattern, eat whole foods and reduce high-sugar foods and drinks.
What foods lower blood sugar?
Foods rich in fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats are good for keeping your blood sugar stable. For example, foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins are recommended for a diabetic diet. Conversely, foods that increase blood sugar significantly include those with a lot of added sugars, refined and ultra-processed snack foods, white bread and pasta.
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