Diabetes is one of the most common diseases, affecting more people than ever before. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA):
- In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, had diabetes. Of that, 21.0 million were diagnosed and 8.1 million were undiagnosed.
- Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults had Type 1 diabetes in 2012.
- Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States as of 2010.
These statistics may be scary, and the numbers may get even worse in the coming years.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person suffers from a high level of glucose in the blood. High blood sugar levels are caused either by a lack of insulin production (Type 1 diabetes) or insulin resistance in the body (Type 2 diabetes).
When suffering from diabetes, it is important to keep blood sugar levels under control or else it can affect different parts and organs of the body, from your eyes to your toes.
Diet plays a significant role in managing the disease. There are some foods that can help lower the risk of diabetes and help with blood sugar management. On the other hand, certain foods can exacerbate the symptoms and medical complications.
Here are the 10 worst foods for diabetics as well as people who are at risk of developing diabetes.
1. White Bread
White bread is a staple in many breakfast menus. It may be quick and convenient to have a slice or two of white bread with some jam or butter before leaving the house. But for diabetics, white bread is not a good option.
White bread is made of refined flour, which lacks fiber and nutrients. In fact, white bread is considered a bad carbohydrate food, which means it has empty calories and is absorbed quickly by the body. Any food that gets absorbed quickly triggers a release of insulin, which affects blood sugar.
The ADA recommends choosing whole-grain bread or 100 percent whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Its high fiber content slows the rise of blood sugar.
However, stick to just 1 slice of whole-grain bread at meals and have some vegetables, legumes or beans with your bread.
2. Sugar-Loaded Breakfast Cereals
When you’re running late in the morning, you may not have time to eat anything but a quick bowl of cereal.
But many types of breakfast cereal are loaded with fast-digesting carbohydrates and sugar, making them high on the glycemic index (GI). When you eat such cereal, your body quickly breaks it down, which rapidly raises your blood sugar level.
Also, such cereals have few nutrients and lots of empty calories.
Fortunately, not all cereals are made with the same bad ingredients. Cereals with a low GI are digested more slowly and minimize spikes in blood sugar levels after meals.
Opt for rolled oatmeal, steel-cut oatmeal, oat bran, buckwheat, wheat bran, barley and other healthy morning cereals.
3. Fatty Meats
Fatty or marbled cuts of meat are not good for people with diabetes or those at risk of the disease.
A 2014 study published in Nutrients reports that meat consumption is consistently associated with Type 2 diabetes risk. Meat consumption is easily modifiable and has potential benefits of doing so, especially in people who are at a higher risk of diabetes.
In addition, fatty meats have a hefty amount of saturated fat, which initiates inflammation in the body and leads to various side effects.
Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease. Diabetic people are already at an increased risk of heart disease. Eating high-fat meats compounds that risk.
By limiting your saturated fat intake, you can help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Those at risk of diabetes can also lower their chances of developing the disease by eating less meat.
Hence, instead of feasting on fatty bacon, hamburgers, bologna, hot dogs or spare ribs, opt for lean protein choices like skinless chicken and turkey, fish and shellfish, and lean pork tenderloin.
Sweetened sodas are hugely popular throughout America, but it is a bad beverage choice for diabetics due to the high sugar and calorie content.
Sugary drinks also contribute to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.
A 2010 study published in Diabetes Care reports that in addition to weight gain, higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. People who regularly consume just one to two servings of these sugary beverages a day have a 26 percent greater risk for Type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks.
Another review of relevant studies published in 2015 in Nutrition Reviews confirms the relationship between diabetes and sweetened drinks. However, the exact biological mechanisms were still unclear.
If you are working to keep your blood sugar in check or manage your weight, you should avoid soda and other sweetened beverages. Instead, opt for healthy drinks like green tea.
5. Canned Fruit Juice
Canned fruit juice may be a convenient way of ensuring regular fruit intake, but it is not good for diabetics or people at risk of the disease.
According to nutrition and health experts, canned fruit juices lack nutritional value. In addition, many are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners that can cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar levels as well as contribute to weight gain. Both these factors can worsen diabetes complications.
A 2008 study published in Diabetes Care reports that consumption of green leafy vegetables and fruit was associated with a lower risk and incidence of diabetes, whereas consumption of fruit juices could be associated with an increased risk and incidence among women.
Another study published in PLOS ONE in 2014 supports dietary recommendations to limit sugar-sweetened beverages, such as fruit juice with added sugar, to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Instead of canned fruits, fruit punch, fruit drinks and fruit juices, opt for whole fruits with low GI scores (less than 55) like apples, avocados, berries, cherries, grapefruits, grapes, kiwis, and oranges.
6. White Rice
White rice is a staple in diets in Asian countries and very popular elsewhere in the world. But due to being highly processed, white rice can cause blood sugar spikes similar to that of sugar.
White rice has a high GI score and lacks nutrients like fiber and magnesium. The more white rice you eat, the greater your risk of Type 2 diabetes and the harder it is to control your blood sugar level.
A 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that substitution of whole grains, including brown rice, for white rice may lower the risk for Type 2 diabetes. The findings support the recommendation that most carbohydrate intake should come from whole grains rather than refined grains to help in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes.
Another study published in 2012 in the BMJ reports that higher consumption of white rice is associated with a significantly increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian (Chinese and Japanese) populations.
Instead of white rice, opt for brown rice or wild rice that has high fiber content, which helps slow the rush of glucose into the bloodstream.
7. Potatoes and French Fries
Consuming potatoes –whether baked, boiled, mashed or as French fries – on a regular basis is harmful for people who have diabetes.
This is because the starch in potatoes is made of long strings of glucose that breaks down rapidly in the intestine. As the starch is absorbed into the bloodstream, it leads to a sudden spike in blood glucose levels.
Frying potatoes to make tasty French fries simply adds to the load of fat, calories, carbohydrates and sodium. Lots of fried foods are also loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat.
A 2015 study published in Diabetes Care reports that greater consumption of potatoes, especially French fries, was associated with a higher Type 2 diabetes risk, independent of body mass index (BMI) and other risk factors. Replacing potatoes with whole grains was associated with a lower risk.
Instead of potatoes, opt for a side of non-starchy vegetables or oven-baked sweet potatoes, which have a low GI score.
8. Pancakes or Waffles with Syrup
Though easy to make and tasty to eat, pancakes are another food that people with diabetes or at a higher risk for it should avoid.
Not only are pancakes and waffles usually made with refined white flour, they are often topped with butter and a whole lot of sugary syrup, which is usually just high-fructose corn syrup. Both butter and sugary syrup can lead to a spike in blood sugar levels.
As pancakes are low in fiber, they are less filling and can make you hungry again more quickly. They also do not contain any protein that keeps you feeling full.
Pancakes also make you more vulnerable to heart problems. Same is the case with bakery sweets like donuts, pastries, cupcakes, and cream cakes.
If you want to eat pancakes, make them at home using healthy ingredients. You can make the batter with whole grains and add mashed, grated or chopped nuts as well as fruits or vegetables to add a punch to the taste as well as nutritional value.
9. Sugary Fruits
Fruits are generally a healthy option for everyone. Most fruits are healthy for diabetics as well but not the ones that are high in sugar content.
Fruits like fully ripe banana, melon, mango, and sapodilla (chikoo) contain more sugar than their counterparts. Eating them can raise your sugar level in the blood which is why it is a risky option for you.
However, you don’t need to avoid eating them altogether. You can still enjoy these fruits but in small serving sizes, like ½ banana or an extra small banana (6 inches long), ½ cup of cubed mango, 1¼ cup of watermelon, and 1/3 cup of cubed chikoo a day.
Also, you can eat other delicious fruits like blueberries, apples, and guava.
10. Flavored Coffee
A normal cup of black coffee with no sugar is perfectly fine for a prediabetic. The problem arises when you go to your local coffee shop and order that large sized Frappucino or white Chocolate Mocha or any other beverage of the sort.
These coffee drinks are loaded with sugar, sweet syrups and whipping cream and contain almost as much calories and sugar content as fully fledged desserts.
You don’t want to miss out on the coffee drinks that are the stuff of your dreams, and you won’t have to. You can opt for low-fat variations of the drink or go for tea instead.
However, coffee is not good for people already suffering from diabetes.