Diabetes Diet: The Best Diet for Diabetics Type 2 with Healthy Foods to Eat and Avoid 

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is research based and some of the views and findings do not conform with the CSN Diet.

The role of diet in managing type 2 diabetes

A type 2 diabetes diagnosis is not the end of the world, but it is still serious. Taking care of your body, and specifically in this case, your blood sugar levels, is vital.

This means that eating healthy should become part of your lifestyle. But what does a healthy diet look like for someone with type 2 diabetes?

The Best diet for Diabetics type 2

Understanding type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes usually only develops in adulthood, but due to rising obesity rates younger people are increasingly being diagnosed.

With type 1 diabetes the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, where in type 2 diabetes the body still produces insulin, but it’s unable to use it effectively. This is known as insulin resistance.

Over time, the demand for insulin becomes so high that the pancreas can’t produce it anymore, which leads to an insulin deficiency.

The role of insulin in your body
Insulin is a vital hormone for our survival which regulates blood sugar in the body. When you eat, your food is broken down into blood sugar. 

When that sugar enters your bloodstream, the pancreas are signalled to produce insulin. Insulin then helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells where it will be used to give you energy.

Insulin also tells the liver to store blood sugar for later use. When blood sugar levels in the cells increase, the levels in the bloodstream decrease, signalling insulin to decrease too.
These lower insulin levels tell the liver to release stored blood sugar, ensuring you have some energy when you haven’t eaten.

Things go wrong when too much blood sugar enters the bloodstream. Now the pancreas pumps out more insulin to get blood sugar into the cells.

Over time cells start to resist and stop responding to all the insulin. The pancreas keeps making more insulin to try to get a reaction from the cells, until eventually they can’t keep up, and blood sugar keeps rising. 
A lot of blood sugar in the bloodstream causes problems. All the insulin that is produced tells the liver and muscles to store blood sugar. 
When they are full, the liver sends the excess blood sugar to fat cells to be stored as body fat. That is how you gain weight, which ultimately puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms develop slowly over several years. They include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing of wounds and frequent infections.

Risk factors that increase your odds of developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • A family history of diabetes.
  • Obesity.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • Poor diet. 
  • People of certain ethnic groups are at a greater risk.
  • Ageing.

Untreated type 2 diabetes can lead to a number of complications.

Heart disease and stroke

As a diabetes patient you are up to five times more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke. 

This is because poorly controlled blood glucose levels lead to the blood vessels becoming clogged up and narrowed by fatty substances.

This leads to a poor blood supply to your heart or to your lower limbs, and increases the chance that a blood vessel in your heart or brain will become blocked, causing a heart attack or stroke.

Nerve damage

High blood glucose levels can harm the tiny blood vessels in your nerves, leading to a tingle or burning pain or numbness from your fingers and toes up through your limbs.

If the nerves in your digestive system are affected, you could experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.

Vision problems

The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. It becomes damaged when blood vessels inside become blocked or leaky, preventing light from passing through to the retina.

This is called diabetic retinopathy and impairs vision if it goes untreated. Effectively controlling your glucose levels lowers your risk of developing serious problems with vision.

Kidney disease

High blood pressure can lead to the small blood vessels of your kidney becoming blocked or leaky, making them less efficient.

Foot problems

A number of people with diabetes develop a foot ulcer, which can cause serious infections. If you have diabetes, look out for sores and cuts that don’t heal, puffiness, swelling or skin that feels hot to the touch.

csn diet scientific study

Keeping type 2 diabetes under control

 A study in 2020 reported that it’s entirely possible to manage type 2 diabetes with a healthy lifestyle. 

Controlling your blood sugar can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, or even treat or potentially put it in remission.

These lifestyle changes will play a role in managing blood sugar levels:

Weight management

Easier said than done sometimes, but remaining in a healthy weight range is vital for reducing blood sugar from the diabetic to the nondiabetic range.

A healthy diet

Stick to nutritious foods and avoid the bad stuff. It is also important to eat healthy portion sizes.

Exercise

Getting your body moving regularly promotes blood sugar management, and helps you to lose weight. In addition to that, exercise increases insulin sensitivity, helping blood sugar to enter cells from the bloodstream.

Try to aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day on most days – around 150 minutes per week. A brisk walk is classified as moderate exercise.

Ditch the cigarettes

Smokers have a 30-40% higher risk of developing diabetes. Furthermore it raises blood sugar levels temporarily, making it harder to maintain nondiabetic blood sugar levels. 

This increases your likelihood of developing complications of diabetes such as kidney disease and nerve damage.

Manage stress

Stress does not cause type 2 diabetes, but it can worsen it, as it stimulates the release of hormones that interfere with the body’s blood sugar regulation.

When you are stressed you are also more likely to seek comfort in a pack of cigarettes or with unhealthy snacks.

A closer look at diet: what should you be eating?

A healthy diet for a diabetes patient comes down to nutrition and balance. And it all starts with vegetables, which is the basis of a nutritious diet. 

Veggies provide fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients that help manage inflammation, support weight loss and support overall health.

The best choices of vegetables for type 2 diabetes will be rich in fibre, contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and contain nitrates, which reduce blood pressure.

Antioxidants can reduce free radicals and help manage inflammation, all of which worsens type 2 diabetes.

Veggies that are high in antioxidants include: sweet potato, spinach, red peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomato, cabbage, onion, watercress and fava beans.

Type 2 diabetes increases your risk of heart disease because consistently high blood sugar levels can damage the heart and blood vessels.

Eating foods that are naturally rich in nitrates can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall circulatory health.

Nitrate rich vegetables include: arugula, beets, lettuce, celery and rhubarb.

Vegetables are an excellent source of fibre, which helps you stay full for longer and makes you less likely to have a sugar spike.

For fibre, try veggies like spinach, bok choy, asparagus and cauliflower.

Apart from vegetables, you also need the following to stay as healthy as possible with type 2 diabetes: 

  • Fruit
  • Wholegrains (oats, brown rice or quinoa)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy protein such as skinless poultry, lean cuts of red meat, fish or tofu)
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado
  • Water or unsweetened drinks

Counting your carbs

Keeping track of your carbohydrate intake is one way you can manage your blood sugar levels. In carb counting, you add up the amount of carbohydrates you eat with each meal.

Tracking your carbs teaches you how many grams of carbs you need to eat to maintain a safe blood sugar level while taking insulin injections.

Is keto a good idea?

Keto is a low carb diet that focuses on foods rich in protein and fat, along with non-starchy vegetables.

Typically you will be eating meat, cheese, nuts and lots of leafy greens. Carbohydrates are a no-no for the most part, including grains, legumes, root vegetables and fruit.

Studies have shown that low carb diets can help people with type 2 diabetes manage blood sugar levels, while also improving levels of HDL (good cholesterol).

There is, however, the risk that your meals are too high in saturated fat. It can also be challenging to get enough fibre on a keto diet and you will have to eat significant amounts of fibre rich low carb foods, like green veggies.

While there are pros and cons to following the keto diet, more research is needed to establish if it is safe in the long term.

The Mediterranean diet 

This diet is often recommended for type 2 diabetics, and with good reason.

The Mediterranean diet aims to be rich in vitamins, fibre and healthy fats. It is low in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fats and added sugars – all of which diabetes patients should avoid. 

The diet focuses on plant-based foods, including fruit, vegetables, dried legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Red meat is limited but small portions of fish, poultry, egg and dairy products are allowed.

According to research people with type 2 diabetes who follow the Mediterranean diet have lower blood sugar levels, and the diet is linked to reduced weight and decreased cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

One study even noted that following the Mediterranean diet long term can be linked to a 20-23% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a 28-30% lower risk of heart problems.

There is no set plan for following the Mediterranean diet. Here is a guideline:

Focus on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, extra virgin olive oil.

Consume in moderation poultry, eggs, cheese, yoghurt and red wine.

Limit or avoid red meat, sugar sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, other highly processed foods and beer.

The DASH diet

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension is a diet designed to lower blood pressure, and is sometimes recommended for those with type 2 diabetes.

This diet, which is very similar to the Mediterranean diet, has been shown to come with great benefits if you have type 2 diabetes.

It helps to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin resistance, and is also efficient for weight loss. All of this protects you against diabetes-related complications in the future.

What types of foods are emphasized in a diet for managing type 2 diabetes?

A healthy diabetes diet should emphasize nutrient-rich foods such as leafy greens, whole grains, fruits with low glycemic index, lean proteins (like chicken and fish), and high-fiber foods. It’s also encouraged to eat a variety of colorful vegetables for their vitamins and minerals.

 Are there any milk alternatives that are recommended for a type 2 diabetes diet?

Yes, milk alternatives like almond or soy milk can be a good choice for a diabetes diet because they generally have lower sugar content compared to regular milk.

What food groups should be limited or avoided when following a diabetes diet?

Foods high in simple sugars (like sodas and sweets) and bad fats should be limited or avoided to prevent rapid increases in blood glucose levels.

How should meals be balanced for someone with type 2 diabetes?

Meals should be well-balanced with a combination of lean protein sources, healthy fats (from nuts and seeds), and carbohydrates (mainly from vegetables). Whole, unprocessed foods should be chosen over refined options to improve meal quality.

How can adopting the best diet improve the wellbeing of someone with type 2 diabetes?

Adopting the best diet that includes consistent healthy eating and a variety of whole foods can contribute to better blood glucose management, lead to a sustainable lifestyle, and improve overall wellbeing for individuals managing type 2 diabetes.

Conclusion

Being consciously aware of what we eat is the cornerstone of a healthy life, whether we have type 2 diabetes or not. But if you do, a healthy diet is vital to manage your condition. 

Eating balanced, nutritious meals can prevent a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and if you have it already, healthy food can prevent complications from arising.

Karien

Karien

Hi, my name is Karien Nel and today I’m 37kg lighter than the day I started my weight loss journey with CSN Diet.

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2 thoughts on “Diabetes Diet: The Best Diet for Diabetics Type 2 with Healthy Foods to Eat and Avoid ”

  1. Hi Karien, I want to shed approximately 10 -:15 kg. Currently est 106kg. What program would you recommend. Regards

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