Diabetes Prevention Medically Reviewed by, Dr. Shilpa Joshi

Best Foods to Eat and Avoid When Trying to Prevent Diabetes

August 2022

If you are prone to diabetes, going on a diabetes diet can be a great way to reduce your chances of getting diabetes. But is there something like a perfect diabetes diet?

Definitely not, although it is a widely used term. Let’s understand what people mean when they use this term. 

A diabetes diet is basically a diet that tells you which foods to reduce or avoid in your diet to minimize your chances of getting diabetes or raise your blood sugar, and which foods to add to your diet to help you normalize your blood sugar levels. 

Diabetes-friendly diet

A diet that is considered good for the prevention or better management of diabetes is essentially low in calories and fat and high in fiber and protein.

How it helps

If you are prone to developing diabetes or have prediabetes, a diabetes-friendly diet can:

  • Help control and manage your blood glucose levels to prevent hyperglycemia 
  • Manage your weight better and help you reduce the extra kilos
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases 
  • Reduce the risk of damage to liver and kidney

Best foods to eat to prevent diabetes

Try and include as many of these food types in your diet regularly to avoid the risk of diabetes:

1. Dark green leafy vegetables

  • Dark green leafy vegetables are high in their fiber content. 
  • This can help you clean your gut as well as increase your body’s natural response to insulin. 
  • Having a fibre-rich diet will also help your body to better absorb the carbohydrates and nutrients that you eat and also reduce the post-prandial glycemic response.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables are also low in calories, which means that while you will feel full because of the fiber, these will not add any unhealthy calories to your system. 
  • These are also rich in their content of vitamins, phytochemicals, and vitamins that are known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

How to have: Add them to your sandwiches, smoothies, shakes, salads, dals, dosas, and even idlis!

2. Tomatoes 

  • Tomatoes are non-starchy and contain very low levels of naturally occurring sugars. They are also rich in their antioxidant properties. 
  • These are not high in their carbohydrate content, and in addition, are a good source of different B vitamins such as folate.
  • Tomatoes are also high in their content of various vitamins such as vitamins A, C, K, and E. 
  • Certain studies and research have shown that tomatoes decrease diabetes-induced oxidative stress, and reduce inflammation as well as tissue damage. 

How to have: Have warm tomato soup, add them to your salads, munch on raw tomatoes, add them to your smoothies or just juice them! 

3. Different types of beans

  • Beans are a rich source of various vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium.
  • Beans are also very rich in fiber content, nutrients as well as protein. This means that having beans will keep you feeling full for longer as it takes a longer time to digest. 
  • This is also a good way to reduce your carbohydrate intake and prevent the urge to binge eat. 
  • Beans rate low on the glycemic index (GI) scale. Kidney beans have a GI of 28, soybeans have a GI of 15, while chickpeas or chholey have a GI of 33. This is considered extremely good for those who are prone to diabetes, have prediabetes, or want to reverse their type 2 diabetes.  

4. Berries

  • Berries come with one of the highest antioxidant content that is considered a superstar for those who want to prevent diabetes. 
  • These are also rich in their content of polyphenols.
  • Berries rate low on the GI scale and may be a good way to reduce or manage your weight, as well as keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. 
  • As berries are also rich in their fiber content, these will keep you feeling full for longer.

How to have: Berries will blend in perfectly in your smoothies and shakes. Have them as a mid-meal snack to feel full and enjoy some weight loss benefits too!

5. Whole grains

  • Certain studies indicate that including at least one or two servings of whole grain in your everyday diet may reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • Whole grains are considered a super-rich food and are considered especially good for those who are trying to prevent or reverse diabetes.
  • Whole grains are a rich source of fiber, antioxidants, iron, magnesium, zinc, phytochemicals, and B vitamins.
  • These help in maintaining a steady level of blood glucose and avoid any spikes, reduce the absorption of carbohydrates and help in the overall management of weight.

How to have: Mix a bunch of whole grains in your atta for your rotis or chapatis. Add these to your idli/dosa batter. Go for bread made out of whole grains instead of refined ones. Brown and red rice, corn, oats, ragi, and Dalia are all good sources of whole grains.

6. Nuts and seeds

  • Various types of nuts and seeds contain a rich amount of polyphenols that work as antioxidants and reduce oxidative stress. 
  • Nuts and seeds are also a good source of healthy fats, which can be of special importance when you want to prevent diabetes as well as any cardiovascular health issues associated with the same. 
  • Chia seeds and flax seeds are very rich in their soluble fiber content and can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates.
  • These also contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that will help reduce inflammation.

How to have: Add in your salads, smoothies, and shakes. Roast and have as a mid-meal snack.

7. Garlic

  • Garlic contains vitamin B6 which helps to reduce carbohydrate metabolism.
  • It also contains vitamin C which will help in maintaining blood sugar levels.
  • Having garlic regularly can reduce fasting as well as post-prandial blood sugar levels.

How to have it: Add it to your vegetables, dals, and curries. You can also consume raw garlic to make the most of its benefits. 

Foods to avoid to prevent diabetes

If you want to prevent the risk of diabetes, here are some food categories that you should cut down or give up on:

1. Saturated fats

Limit or give up the use of butter, processed foods such as ready-to-eat sausages, bacon strips, animal proteins, and packaged food items.

2. Sodium or salt intake

Reduce your salt intake and avoid adding extra salt to your snacks, salads, and other food items. Speak to your doctor about your recommended salt intake, especially based on your overall blood pressure levels.

3. Cholesterol-dense foods

Avoid eating egg yolks, liver, high-fat animal proteins, and high-fat dairy products.

4. Trans fats

Reduce the intake of foods that are high on the trans-fat count, such as baked goods, processed snacks, and foods, and instead replace them with healthier options such as whole-wheat bread, red rice poha, and so on.

In addition to these dietary tips to prevent your risk of diabetes, speak to your diabetes healthcare team to understand how much exercise you need daily and what other lifestyle changes to make, if any.

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