Diabetes is one of the most common diseases there is, and it’s becoming more common every day. Right now, nearly one person in ten has diabetes and the number is expected to climb even higher.
Diabetes is a disease in which people have far too much glucose (sugar) in their blood. This can happen either because the person’s body can’t make enough insulin for their needs (type 1 diabetes), or because their body is resistant to the insulin they do make (Type 2 diabetes). Keeping blood sugar within safe limits is vital when you have diabetes, and most people with the disease must take medication that helps regulate their blood sugar.
But diet too plays a major role in keeping blood sugar stable. Some foods can help keep blood sugar in check and can even lower the risk of developing diabetes in the first place. But other foods can raise blood sugar through the roof with only a bite or two. So what can I eat with diabetes? Below are ten of the very worst foods to eat if you have diabetes.
But wait—fruit is healthy, right? After all, we’re told we should eat four to five servings of fruit per day.
In general, fruit is a healthy option. But fruits that are very high in sugar or high in sugar and low in fiber, such as bananas, can raise your blood sugar as much as a candy bar. Choose fruit wisely, and opt for high-fiber, low-sugar fruits. And as for dried fruit, forget it. Dried fruits concentrate their sugar into a very small package, making them more like candy than like fresh fruit.
Corn—whether it’s corn on the cob, corn tortillas, corn flakes, or Doritos—is a very high-carb grain. And the type of carbohydrate it contains is quickly processed into sugar by the body. And once it’s converted to sugar, the body doesn’t care where it came from—it all raises blood sugar. So limit corn and corn products. Eating a bag of Doritos might not spike blood sugar as quickly as drinking a soda, but it could still have a profound effect.
Not only are most breakfast cereals loaded with sugar, they’re made from high-carb (and often low-fiber) grains whose carbohydrate content quickly makes its way into your bloodstream in the form of glucose. If you’re diabetic, opt for a diet with plenty of protein and healthy fat instead of cereal. You’ll feel full longer, and your blood sugar will stay much more stable. Have also a look at our article about the best snacks for type 2 diabetes.
For those who think fruit juice is a healthy alternative to soft drinks, think again. Fruit juice strips away all the fiber normally found in fruit, which slows down the absorption of sugar. This leaves you with a high-sugar, low-nutrition beverage that’s only slightly better than soda. In fact many juices—even unsweetened ones—have a higher sugar content than their carbonated counterparts. An 8-oz. glass of orange juice has more sugar than a 12-oz Coke. So forget the juice and choose whole fruit instead.
While a side of fries or a baked potato every once in a while won’t kill you, take care when to include potatoes in meals. Potatoes are starchy vegetables with little fiber, and our bodies are very efficient at turning that starch into sugar…which in turn can raise blood sugar dramatically. If possible, choose non-starchy vegetables, such as mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes, or sweet potato fries in place of French fries.
White bread contains a ton of empty calories. A single slice of bread has about 77 calories—more than 2 chocolate bars!—and the bulk of those calories come from simple carbs which get turned into sugar within minutes. If life without bread is unthinkable, stick to 100% whole-grain bread, eat no more than one slice at a meal, and pair it with foods containing protein and healthy fat to slow down the conversion of carbs to sugar.
Pancakes or waffles
Pancakes and waffles deliver a double-whammy of sugar…which is a very bad thing for those with diabetes. Not only do we tend to load them down with sugary syrup, they’re full of easily-digested carbs with no fat, protein, or fiber to slow down their digestion. No one would eat a plate of candy for breakfast, but when we choose pancakes or waffles, for all practical purposes we’re doing just that.
White rice is one of the most nutritionally-empty foods there is. It’s so devoid of nutrients, in fact, that until food manufacturers started “enriching” it with artificial vitamins and minerals, people living on a rice-based diet were dying in droves from nutritional deficiencies. What white rice does contain in abundance is starch. Lots and lots of starch. Starch which gets turned into sugar as its digested and hits your bloodstream within minutes of eating it.
For meals which traditionally contain rice, choose brown rice or wild rice instead. And if indulging in the white stuff is a serious temptation, try this: imagine that each spoon or rice is pure sugar. Because as far as your body is concerned, there’s not a lot of difference between the two.
Although the sugar content alone of soft drinks should be a concern—the sugar leads not just to blood sugar spikes but to weight gain, which exacerbates diabetes—there’s more to it than that. Even sugar-free sweetened soft drinks are linked to diabetes. Studies show that consumption of a single soda—whether sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened—increases the risk of diabetes by 26 to 33 percent. Choose healthier drinks like green tea or even plain water instead.
Flavored coffee drinks
Black coffee is fine for those with diabetes. Even a cup of coffee with cream and a small amount of sweetener is ok once in a while, provided you imbibe sparingly and adjust the rest of the meal to accommodate the extra sugar.
However, when it comes to flavored coffee drinks from the local coffee shop, it’s another story. “Drinks” such as Starbucks’ Frappuccino or McDonald’s Frappe—or even a flavored latte—aren’t really drinks. They’re dessert in a cup.
A single 16-oz. vanilla Frappuccino contains 430 calories and a whopping 69 grams of sugar—more sugar than three candy bars and nearly twice the sugar in two cans of Coca-Cola. And even a plain vanilla latte has 35 grams of sugar—the equivalent of 1 ½ candy bars or a 12-oz can of soda. If you want coffee, then by all means drink coffee. But save the dessert-in-a-cup for dessert. Better yet, just give it a pass.