15 Foods to Avoid if You are Diabetic

Diabetes is a disease that affects hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Diabetes is potentially fatal. In fact, it kills more people in the… Simi - January 30, 2018

Diabetes is a disease that affects hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Diabetes is potentially fatal. In fact, it kills more people in the States than HIV/AIDS and breast cancer combined. It is the leading cause of kidney failure, amputations, heart failure, stroke and blindness.

Diabetes comes about when something goes wrong with the insulin in your body. When you eat something, your body turns it into glucose, a simple sugar. This is when the pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin acts as a sort of key that opens the cells in your body, allowing glucose to enter them. The cells can then use this glucose for energy.

With diabetes, this system doesn’t work and things go wrong. The most common forms of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2, although there are other kinds such as gestational diabetes, which affects some pregnant women. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancrease produces little or no insulin. The result is that glucose cannot enter the cells and be used, and builds up in the blood.

If left untreated, this high blood sugar level can cause severe damage to the eyes, nerves, kidneys and heart. It can even lead to coma and death. Type 1 diabetes usually starts in childhood. The onset of Type 2 diabetes is usually later, and mostly starts in adulthood. However, doctors are seeing a drastic increase in the number of children with this type. Obesity is a key factor, so keeping your weight down and eating healthily are crucial. Some foods can make your diabetes worse! Read on for the 15 worst foods for diabetics…

1. White Bread

Grains are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. A diet rich in vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds, and grains is the best way to avoid or help control your diabetes. So because bread is made out of grains it must be healthy, right? Wrong! Grains and other foods should be consumed as close to their natural form as possible.

Think of a crusty French loaf, white rolls or bagels. All of them are made out of white flour. White flour is refined and processed to such an extent that it has lost the wheat’s natural fiber and nutrients. It is a ‘nothing’ kind of food: it provides little in nutrients except for simple carbohydrates. These are the kind of carbs we want to avoid because their sugar is released into the bloodstream quickly. This causes a spike in blood sugar, and then a crash soon after.

Even if you aren’t a diabetic, but especially if you are, you should keep your blood sugar on an even keel. That means eating enough fiber-containing complex carbohydrates and avoiding simple carbs. Fibre-rich foods slow down the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream. This keeps the blood sugar level even over time. Choose whole grain or 100% whole-wheat bread instead.

Both of these bread is high in fiber because the husks, or outside layers, of the wheat, have not been removed. Fibre has extremely beneficial effects on our digestion and slows down the rise of blood sugar levels. But even if you choose a high-fiber bread instead of white, moderation is still key. Stick of one slice per meal, and also accompany your bread with some protein to help prevent blood sugar spikes.

2. Sugar-Loaded Breakfast Cereals

Are you rushed in the morning? No time to make breakfast? Well, if you resort to a bowl of cereal as you head out the door, you could be sabotaging your health. Many breakfast cereals are loaded with sugar in various forms. Whether it’s called high fructose corn syrup or sucrose, fructose or glucose, it’s still sugar. And diabetics need to avoid it.

Cereals that are high in sugar and highly-processed grains contain lots of empty calories. All they do it give you a short-term injection of energy without other nutritional benefits. Different people react differently to sweetened breakfast cereals. Although the ADA recommends oatmeal, if it is the sweetened, instant kind, it’s a bad choice. Instead, try slow-cooked steel cut or traditional oatmeal. These are less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar.

If you are pushed for time in the mornings, try prepping the night before. Soak steel cut or traditional oats in protein-rich, plant-based milk such as soy, or oat, or almond. Adding protein is another great way to slow down the release of sugar into the blood. To your oats, you could add a few almonds or other nuts, as well as pumpkin, flax or sunflower seeds for extra protein and healthy fats.

Another thing you can do is pre-make your own muesli or granola. Mix 3 cups of steel-cut oatmeal, 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup chopped almonds, ½ cup pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup ground flax seeds, and ½ cup of water. Bake at 160 degrees C, turning occasionally, for 25 minutes or until golden. Leave it to cool, and store in the fridge. This granola can be served with soy yogurt and one piece of fruit for breakfast.

3. Fatty Meats

Being a diabetic isn’t only about cutting our sugar intake. We also have to avoid high-fat foods, cholesterol and highly-processed oils. It might surprise you to find out that eating meat is linked to a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes. This finding means that diabetics should avoid meat as much as possible. Additionally, meat that is high in fat is full of saturated fat which triggers dangerous inflammation in the body.

A study that took place nearly 100 years ago noted a striking fact: a group of young and healthy people was divided into a group on a high-fat diet and half on a high-carbohydrate diet. After only two days, the high-fat group ended up with twice the blood sugar. They found that as fat intake goes up, so does blood sugar. But they also found the opposite: that as the amount of fat we eat gets lower, so our insulin works better to allow energy into the cells.

High blood cholesterol levels also increase the risk for heart disease. Seeing as diabetics are already at higher risk for heat disease, it makes sense to avoid fatty meat. Drastically limiting your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, you can help to keep your risk of having a heart attack or stroke down. If you are at risk of developing diabetes, you are advised to eat less meat.

Healthier protein choices than meat are legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds. So, instead of tucking into hot dogs, burgers, bolgna, spare ribs or bacon, try a vegan burger or a delicious bean dish for a dose of healthy, low-fat protein. If you are adamant about eating meat, choose lean protein such as skinless chicken breasts or turkey or fish 

4. Carbonated beverages/Sodas

Sweetened carbonated beverages or sodas are extremely popular across the world. Every day, millions of these drinks are consumed. Drinking these sodas, however, puts your health at risk. They are very high in sugar and calories. This means they are a very bad choice for diabetics. In fact, they’re a bad choice for anyone!

Research shows that drinking sugary drinks contributes to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and other conditions. A study found that apart from contributing to weight gain, drinking a lot of sugar-loaded drinks is linked to Type 2 diabetes, as well as metabolic syndrome. Even if you drink just one or two servings of soda a day, you have a 26 percent higher increase for Type 2 diabetes than people who do not.

Diabetics and those who are trying to avoid getting diabetes, should avoid sugar-sweetened carbonated drinks altogether. They have no nutritional benefits, and will only increase your blood sugar level quickly. This blood sugar spike will then be followed by a ‘crash’, leaving you tired and craving more sugar. Cutting down on soda can be difficult if you are used to drinking a lot of it. Cut down slowly, and introduce healthy alternatives with time.

There are plenty of great alternatives available. One of your best choices is green tea, which has many health benefits. You can drink it hot or cold. In fact, tea, in general, is a great choice. During the hotter months, try brewing up a pitcher of iced tea. Add slices of lemons or oranges, and a few sprigs of mint, and you have a delightfully refreshing summer drink. Avoid honey for sweetening as it will cause a blood sugar spike. Instead, opt for stevia or xylitol.

5. Canned Fruit Juice

We’ve all heard that getting our 5 (or 10!) a day is important. Recently, the five-a-day of fruits and veggies has been ten-a-day by the scientists. Maybe you think that canned fruit juice is an easy way to get your fruit intake, but it’s not healthy for diabetics or people who are at risk of developing diabetes. Canned or other fruit juices are low in nutritional value, and high in sugar. This high sugar content causes blood sugar spikes. Additionally, some fruit juices have unhealthy artificial sweeteners added to them.

Amazingly enough, even some artificial sweeteners cause blood sugar to spike and make us gain weight, just like sugar. Both these factors can worsen any complications you might have as a result of diabetes. A study showed that while eating leafy green vegetables and low-GI fruit lowers the risk of diabetes, drinking fruit juices is associated with a higher risk and incidence of diabetes in women.

Further research has shown that in order to prevent Type 2 diabetes, it is important to limit drinks that have had sugar added to them. This includes sweetened fruit juice. But even fruit juice that hasn’t been sweetened is a bad idea for diabetics. Without the fiber of the whole fruit, juices cause the blood sugar spikes that are unhealthy for diabetics.

Instead of consuming fruit drinks, fruit juices, canned juices, canned fruits and fruit punch, go for the whole fruit instead. Some fruits are better than others because they have a lower GI. The GI measure of a food item tells you how quickly the sugar content of the food is released into the bloodstream. For good health, choose oranges, apples, avocados, berries, cherries, grapefruits, pears and kiwi fruit.

6. White Rice

White rice is popular around the world and is part of the staple diet in Asian countries. The problem with white rice is that it has been highly processed. The outer husks of the grains have been removed, meaning that it is low in fiber as well as magnesium. White rice has a high GI score, making it an unwise choice for diabetics. Regular consumption of the white stuff causes dangerous blood sugar spikes.

In fact, the more white rice you eat, the higher your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. It also makes it difficult to control your blood sugar levels if you are already trying to manage your diabetes. Research has shown that whole grains can protect you from becoming diabetic. Refined grains, such as white rice, increase your risk. Studies show that most of the carbohydrates we eat should come from whole grains.

Products that are whole instead of refined include brown rice or wild rice, both of which are high in fiber. This fiber helps to prevent glucose rushing into the bloodstream all at once. Instead, sugar enters your bloodstream at a healthy pace for sustained energy. Other lower GI alternatives to white rice include wholewheat couscous, wholewheat pasta, pastas made from maize, rice or spelt, as well as quinoa, millet, and amaranth.

In fact, along with white bread and pasta, white rice is another of the white foods that diabetics should avoid. They are all high-GI processed carbohydrate-rich foods that are low in fiber. This combination of high carbs/low fiber can cause high blood sugar levels, which is particularly problematic for diabetics. In summary, diabetics and those wanting to avoid the disease should choose high-fiber whole foods to help prevent high blood sugar.  

7. Potatoes and French Fries

Can’t imagine your plate without fries? Well, it turns out that potatoes, and especially fries, are one of the foods that are a definite no-no for diabetics. Whether you fry them, boil them, mash them or bake them, potatoes are not a good choice if you are a diabetic. The problem with potatoes is that they are starchy vegetables. These starches are actually long sugars that break down easily in the gut. This leads to a sudden spike in blood sugar, something that diabetics should avoid.

And then if you make the potatoes into french fries, you’re adding fat, calories and sodium. Eating a lot of fried food can lead to clogged arteries and heart problems. Research has shown that the greater your consumption of potatoes, especially in the form of french fries, the higher your risk of Type 2 diabetes. This finding was independent of BMI and other risk factors.

This study found that replacing potatoes with whole grains reduced the risk of diabetes significantly. Try interesting grains/seeds such as amaranth, quinoa and millet instead of potatoes. They are loaded with nutrients such as protein, slow-release carbs, vitamins and more. They can also be prepared quickly, and in a number of interesting and delicious ways. Try cooking them with broth/stock to give an extra kick of flavour.

Or try replacing ordinary potatoes with sweet potatoes. They make delicious fries, and are much lower in GI than regular potatoes. Cut your sweet potatoes into frie-sized pieces and put them on a baking tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and use your clean hands to spread the oil all over the sweet potatoes. Bake at 180 degrees C for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size.

8. Pancakes

Pancakes are very unhealthy if you have diabetes. They are made of refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and added fats. The trans fats which are used to make them are totally unhealthy. They may be delicious but if you have diabetes, stay away from them. There are several studies which have linked these foods with a high risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Even worse, they are topped with butter and sugary syrup which can spike your blood sugar levels.

Pancakes have low fiber content. They are even less filling and this means you can get hungry quickly. You will need to eat throughout the day to satisfy your hunger. As a result, the blood sugar levels will keep on rising and dropping during the day. This situation is bad if you have diabetes or risk getting diabetes. They do not have proteins to keep you feeling full. Lack of fiber is not good for your digestive system as well.

This food can risk you to heart problems. They are in the same category with foods such as bakery sweets, pastries, cupcakes, and cream cakes. The refined sugar is supplemented only to make them sweet. There is no other benefit that you can get from them. These sugars are responsible for elevating your blood pressure. They have also been linked to inflammation, abnormal blood lipids, and heart problems.

You can control the number of ingredients if you are making them at home. The pancakes that you buy contain more than the daily limit of ingredients you are supposed to take a day. You can make pancakes using whole grains. This will help you to have the required fiber content in your food. Consider using fruits and grated nuts as well. This will enable you to control the calorie content of the pancakes.      

9. Fruits

It is definitely important to get enough fruit in our diet. Indeed, even for diabetics, fruit is important. They provide us with important carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and fiber, and are usually low in fat and sodium. But not all fruits are created equal. Some are very high in sugar, with a high GI. Consuming these kinds of fruits will cause the dreaded blood sugar spikes that diabetics should avoid.

Bananas should only be eaten before they become fully ripe. When they are at their ripest, they are high in sugar. Similarly, another tropical type fruit is high in sugar. Try to avoid melons, mangoes, and sapodilla (chikoo), all of which contain high levels of sugar. Also avoid canned fruit, especially if it is canned in heavy sugar syrup. Also to be avoided are chewy fruit rolls and sweetened applesauce. Jam, jelly, and preserves should be avoided unless you have a tiny portion.

As we said earlier, avoid fruit juices, fruit drinks, and fruit punch. They are also high in sugar. This sugar goes virtually straight into your bloodstream, causing a blood sugar spike. This is dangerous for diabetics, or for anyone who might be a risk of developing diabetes. This includes those with a family history of the disease, those who are overweight or obese, those with heart problems and anyone who is sedentary.

So what fruits can diabetics eat? Firstly, the key is moderation. Eat no more than two portions of fruit a day. Make sure it is low-sugar fruit. Choose fresh fruit or fruit canned without added sugar. You can also consume jams and preserves that are sugar-free or low in sugar, as well as no-sugar-added applesauce. Berries such as blueberries and strawberries are a great source of anti-oxidants, and oranges are full of vitamin C.

10. Flavored Coffee

It’s not that long ago that coffee was thought of as bad for your health. But there is growing evidence that coffee can have a protective effect on the body. In fact, it seems that coffee might protect us from conditions as diverse as depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and certain cancers. And it can help to prevent the onset of diabetes. But there are problems with drinking coffee for diabetics.

The problem comes in when you go to a coffee shop and order a large Frappucino or Chocolate Mocha, or something similar. These types of coffee are so loaded with sugar and calories that they’re like drinking dessert! These coffee drinks are full of fatty milk, whipping cream, sweet syrups and sugar, and they’re some of the worst things that conscious diabetics can consume. The combination of fat and sugar are a blood sugar spike in the making.

If you are trying to avoid diabetes, instead of those rich, creamy drinks, try low-fat versions. Use fat-free milk or plant milks such as almond, oat or rice in your coffee. These are low in fat, but give you a good hit of protein with your cuppa. However, the story for those who already have diabetes is not so good. According to research, there is a clear difference between those with and those without diabetes in the way in which they respond to caffeine and coffee.

A study showed that after research participants drank coffee, their blood sugar levels went right up. In fact, their blood sugar levels were higher overall on the days on which they drank coffee than on the days on which they abstained. Although studies have found that coffee might be protective for those who haven’t developed diabetes, caffeine, including coffee, can be dangerous for anyone who already has Type 2 diabetes.  

11. Flavored Yogurts

Yoghurt can be a great food choice for anyone who is concerned with their health. After all, the best yogurts are full of gut-healing probiotics. Yoghurt can provide part of a nutrient-rich breakfast, or can be eaten as an easy snack. If you don’t eat dairy products, opt for the soy or coconut versions instead. Luckily, plain yogurt is low in carbohydrates, so that you avoid those nasty blood sugar spikes.

But what about flavored yogurts? Can diabetics eat them? Yes and no. Most flavored yogurts that you buy in the store are full of sugar. They might contain a bit of fruit, but it’s likely that the sweetness you taste in these store-bought ‘fruit’ yogurts comes from sugar. This is obviously not good for diabetics. Also, toppings such as candies, granola, and nuts add to the sugar and fat load.

So what do you do? Instead, opt for natural, plain yogurt with the probiotics retained. Read the label carefully to make sure that the yogurt contains active, live cultures. These are most protective of one’s health. If you want a fruity flavor, add your own fresh fruit, or even pureed fruit. A combination of fresh blueberries and crushed almonds is delicious.

And what about artificial sweeteners? Earlier on we suggested using stevia or xylitol to sweeten your beverages. These are artificial sweeteners that are said to be better for you than others. But the fact is that we still don’t know if artificial sweeteners are good or bad for us. They were first made to help people cut down on the amount of sugar they ate and to help them lose weight. However, research now suggests that these sweetening agents might actually cause weight gain.

12. Trans fat

Not all fats are created equal. There are three main types of fat in our diets: unsaturated, saturated, and trans fat. Unsaturated fats are considered good in small amounts as a way of slowing down hardening of the arteries. This helps to prevent increased blood pressure and heart disease. Unsaturated fats can also improve blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is considered bad because it has the opposite effects to unsaturated fats. It raises LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and promotes the hardening of the arteries.

Trans fat is the third category of fat, and it’s particularly bad news for diabetics. It raises LDL cholesterol and also lowers HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. These put you at higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Because diabetics are already at higher risk of stroke and heart disease, we have to be extremely careful about the amount and type of fat in the diet, as well as the type and amount of carbs.

So what is trans fat? These fats are produced when liquid oils are forced to solidify by a process called partial hydrogenation. The solid fat produced is made into margarine or vegetable shortening. The worst thing about trans fats is the fact that they seem to be in everything! Everything except whole foods, that is. Examples of foods that contain trans fats are french fries, chicken nuggets, crackers, chips, cookies, pies and many more.

The only way to make sure you are eating healthy fats is to read the labels of packaged foods. Don’t use margarine that contains trans fats, or partially-hydrogenated fats as they are sometimes labeled. There is new margarine on the market that doesn’t contain these fats. They might be a little more expensive, but your arteries will thank you in the long run. Instead of margarine, try using a small amount of olive oil.

13. Battered fish dinners

You might think fish is a healthful choice, right? Not always. It all depends on how it is prepared, and what side dishes you choose. Typically, battered or breaded fish comes with sides of french fries, coleslaw and hush puppies. But every single item of this meal is a poor choice for diabetics. This meal is loaded with calories, fat, carbohydrates and loads of sodium. It packs double the recommended carb level for diabetics per meal, and double the recommended daily allowance of sodium.

Battered or breaded fish is covered in a high-carb coating and then deep fried. This adds a hefty load of fat to the dish. The coleslaw contains mayonnaise, which is also high in fat. French fries are high-GI potatoes deep fried in fat, including trans fat. Hush puppies are deep-fried balls of starchy cornmeal. All in all, this is an extremely unhealthy meal for a diabetic. The carb, fat, and sodium levels are all too high. Healthy alternatives must be found.

Instead, stick to this simple method for planning your meals. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as zucchini, salads, broccoli and leafy greens. A quarter of your plate should be filled with a starch. As mentioned earlier, potatoes are a poor choice. Instead, opt for whole grains such as quinoa or amaranth, or choose sweet potatoes over regular. The remaining quarter of your plate should contain protein.The best choice is beans or lentils, but you could include fish.

If you do choose to eat fish, avoid batters or breading. Instead, dry your fish fillet and lightly coat in seasoned brown or wholewheat flour. Shake off any excess flour. Then fry with a tiny amount of canola or olive oil at a medium temperature. That way you are reducing both the carbohydrate and fat content of the meal. Instead of traditional french fries, try oven-baked sweet potato fries. Instead of mayonnaise on your coleslaw, try a vinaigrette dressing instead.

14. Deep-fried chicken

Where would America be without good ol’ fried chicken? It’s as American as the hamburger, and millions of chickens are eaten around the world every day. Fried chicken is often seen as a down-home comfort food. It’s also one of the most purchased foods on the planet. The problem is that frying chicken adds a whole load of carbs, calories, fat, and sodium to something that could be a healthy choice.

But do you have to give us crispy chicken if you’re a diabetic? Not necessarily. You just have to be careful about your choices. For example, a famous chain restaurant makes an extra crispy fried chicken dish, as well as a grilled chicken meal. The nutritional differences between the two dishes are staggering. The fried chicken is more than double the calories of the grilled chicken and contains an unbelievable four times the amount of fat.

There is also significant sodium present in purchased fried chicken. This puts you at further risk of high blood pressure, cardiac disease and stroke. And fried chicken is covered in carbohydrates that we just don’t need. The obvious choice when you are dining out is grilled chicken, particularly chicken breast. The white meat of chicken is far lower in fat than the darker meat.

If you are eating at home, try combining whole grain bread crumbs with light seasoning, some finely grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs. Coat skinless chicken breasts in this crumb mixture, then bake until golden. This way you are avoiding a great deal of fat, which is bad news for diabetics. Once again, replace the accompanying regular fries with sweet potato ones, or try a whole grain accompaniment such as quinoa.

15. Flavored water

What could be more innocent than drinking water? Surely it’s got to be good for you. Well, yes and no. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of clean water a day is excellent for all aspects of your health. The problem comes with bottled waters, specifically flavored ones. Picking up a bottle of water is very convenient, and we often go for the flavored ones to prevent boredom.

But flavored waters are hiding a nasty secret. They are often high in sugar and calories! A study tested one popular brand of so-called ‘vitamin water’. It actually contained nearly 13 grams of sugar and 48 calories in an 8-ounce serving. The catch here is that this particular brand is sold in a 20-ounce bottle. This means that each bottle contains 2.5 servings. So, if you drink the whole bottle, you are getting nearly triple the sugar, calories, and carbs!

This is obviously bad news for diabetics, but it’s also bad news for the environment. Plastic water bottles are responsible for some of the world’s worst pollution. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been made is still on earth. With millions of water bottles being produced and discarded every day, avoiding bottled water is one way of trying to save the planet.

Instead, take your own water with you in a reusable cup. You can also make delicious iced teas to drink during your day. Try brewing green, white or black tea and cooling overnight. Add slices of citrus fruit or kiwis, and some berries and mint for flavoring. When ready to drink, add ice cubes. Pour into long glasses (or into your reusable cup), and enjoy