Food to be avoided in a Diabetes Diet

Food to be avoided in a Diabetes Diet

I kept staring at the report on the table. It held the results of the tests that I had undergone as part of mandatory corporate medical health checkup.

“How could it happen?” I exclaimed out loud, shaking my head in utter disbelief.

Okay! So I was 29, mind you, just 29, and I had been diagnosed with Diabetes type II. Like how on the earth is this even possible!! Fine, I do have a family history. Both my Mom and Dad are diabetics but they developed the disease post 50 years of age and not in their prime years.

My colleague sitting next to me tried consoling me. He suggested that I take another test to confirm this. Maybe there was an error. I thought it was a good idea and I immediately scheduled another test the next morning.

Meanwhile, I tried gathering all the information that I could about how to manage this disease. God forbid, if I had it, I should be prepared. It had served as a warning to me. I now wanted to do everything possible in my capacity to prevent the occurrence of this disease or at least delay it as much as possible. Since I had a family history of this disease, I knew I would be impacted with it someday but now this incident had shaken me to the core and I wanted to delay that day as much as possible. I already knew the importance of diet and physical activity in the management of diabetes. But I was clueless about how to go about it. So I decided to pay a visit to a nutritionist friend of mine.

As I sat outside the chamber, I started reading all the billboards and posters around. I was surprised to know that every one out of 6 diabetics in the world was an Indian. Such high numbers!! Our sedentary lifestyle with high-calorie food and almost nil physical workouts was to blame. Also, genetically Indians were more susceptible to this disease. But this disease could easily be managed with a modified lifestyle. After all, even Ayurveda says, you become what you eat.

There are different types of diabetes and the food management depends on the kind of diabetes that a person has. The general notion is that avoiding sugar is enough. But that is not 100% correct. Sugar, of course, has to be avoided but there are certain kinds of food, especially those with high carbohydrates that also need to be avoided. The thumb rule for all kinds of diabetes whether Type II, Gestational Diabetes, or even if one has developed Insulin Resistance, is that the following food items should be avoided at all costs.

  • Sugar: Sugar can be refined sugar, honey, or maple syrup or sugar in the form of sweets, cakes chocolates, desserts, ice-creams. Tinned fruits also have loads of sugar in them. For tea and coffee, substitute sugar with sugar-free pills or if possible, completely avoid it.

  • Fruit Juices: Fruit juices lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar levels which then is mitigated by the release of increased insulin by the body. Thus a large amount of sugar gets converted to fat and glycogen. Instead, having the fruit as a whole is considered healthier as the skin and the pulp in the fruit binds its simple sugars and it takes a longer time for the body to absorb the sugar present in the fruit. Therefore, sugar levels are maintained in the blood. However, it is important to eat fruits in moderation. Excessive eating of whole fruits can also have an adverse effect on blood sugar levels. A great alternative is lemon water which has almost negligible carbs and virtually nil calories.

  • White bread, Pasta, etc:  Food for diabetics, especially the ones with Type I and Type II diabetes should contain minimal white bread and other all-purpose flour food items. Even rice is extremely high in carbohydrates and hence should be avoided. High-carb foods are known to increase blood sugar levels as they are high in the GI index and hence should be limited.
  • Junk and Packaged, Processed Food: This type of food is high in salts. Higher salt in the body  can create an upsurge in blood pressure. High blood pressure can result in fluid retention which may swell the hand and feet. This can be harmful to people already having diabetes. Thus, junk foods, packaged chips, processed cereals like cornflakes for breakfast are best avoided as snacks for diabetics. It is always better to have a fistful of almonds, or maybe some avocado or veggies dipped in hummus as snacking options
  • Potatoes: Did you know a medium-sized potato contains as much as 34.8 grams of carbs? Would this be more startling if I said this is more than 8 times of carbs present in 1 portion (70 grams) of stir-fried veggies? And if they take the form of french fries, they are likely to cause you more harm than just spiking the blood sugar levels. Hence, this goes without saying that potatoes are a big no for diabetics. If at all, you are craving potatoes, you may take a small serving of sweet potatoes.
  • Carbonated Drinks including diet soda: Carbonated drinks are nothing but an overdose of sugar and calories. This instant overdose of sugar in the system signals a release of insulin which is very harmful for diabetics. Even diet soda is not a safe option. Therefore, stay clear of these drinks. Lemon with water is the safest bet for diabetics.
  • Artificial Sweeteners: Most diabetics are aware that sugar is unsafe for them. Hence they rely on artificial sweeteners. But it is a little known fact that artificial sweeteners are differently sweeter than the normal sugar and thus confuse the body leading to more cravings for sweet food. They may alter the taste buds and even the naturally sweet foods may start tasting bitter. They also have an adverse effect on the gut health which is important for weight control.
  • Flavored Yogurt: Plain yogurt is healthy but the flavored version flooding the health market is definitely not. Check out the label for the ingredients and you would know that it is more of sugars and less of the fruit. They are high on carbs and sugars, both of which should be eliminated from a diabetic’s diet.

Apart from these, if a woman has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is best to get a gestational diabetes diet charted out by the medical practitioner or a nutritionist. A gestational diabetes diet has to be moderated as it can impact not only the mother but the baby in the womb too. Sweets, pastries, and cakes are a strict no. They are loaded with sugars and increase the blood sugars abnormally. Fruits should not be eaten on an empty stomach. Physical exercises are a must in such a case along with a proper diet.

The kind of food we eat is important in keeping the blood sugar levels and the insulin levels in the body under check. But if you develop insulin resistance, it becomes harder for the body to burn food. In such a case, it is imperative to follow an insulin resistance diet. The major food groups to be avoided in the insulin resistance diet are saturated and trans fats. These fats are normally found in animal sources like meats viz. Pork, beef, lamb, and cheese. Also, food fried in partially hydrogenated oil can be rich in saturated and trans fats. Therefore, it is best avoided.

There is another form of diabetic diet known as prediabetes diet. According to the American Diabetes Institution, a person is prediabetic if the fasting blood sugar is between 100 to 125 mg/dL and Oral Glucose Tolerance Test conducted 2 hours after eating food is in the range of 140-199 mg/dL. This signals a warning that Type II diabetes can become a reality soon unless immediate lifestyle changes are not made. The most important lifestyle change here is changing the way you eat, increasing physical exercises and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. The prediabetes diet’s basic approach is to limit highly processed foods and sugary beverages. It is better to have foods with low GI (Glycemic Index) and high fibre. Flavored coffee drinks, processed and sweetened breakfast cereal, soda should be avoided. It is a good idea to limit alcohol consumption as well.

Diabetes, as a disease can be managed by improving your lifestyle and incorporating physical workouts. Armored with new knowledge about what to avoid and how to go about, I was finally at peace with my reports and the test scheduled tomorrow. I was prepared to make some lifestyle changes and stop being a couch potato to usher in a healthy life

Back to blog