The Best and Worst Foods for a Diabetic Diet

Diabetes can be manageable if you know how different foods affect your blood sugar

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Registered dietitian Toby Smithson says consuming almonds, peanuts, and walnuts improves insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.

More than 380 million people are living with diabetes, and the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, the number of people with the condition will double. The disease can originate at several different points in life, such as during childhood or pregnancy, or later in life. Diabetes causes the levels of glucose in the blood to rise because the body cannot produce enough insulin or process it properly; this keeps the glucose out of the cells that need it and saps the body of vital energy.

Click here for the Best and Worst Foods for a Diabetes Diet slideshow.

Toby Smithson, registered dietitian, nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator, has successfully managed her own diabetes for the past 46 years. Other health problems, such as heart disease, can be associated with diabetes, so it is important to take precautions when choosing what foods you eat. “Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease two to four times. Therefore, heart health is a crucial element of diabetes management,” Smithson said.

People with diabetes can measure how food affects their blood sugar by monitoring their blood-glucose levels. Stabilizing blood sugar depends on the foods you eat, so it is important to be aware of what certain foods do to your blood. “Monitor your blood glucose before a meal and two hours after with a goal of 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter before meals and 180 milligrams per deciliter or less hours after,” she says.

There are foods that can help people living with diabetes better manage the disease, but other foods can spike your blood sugar to dangerous levels. Read on to learn more.

Baked Goods

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Baked goods that contain trans fats are dangerous for people with diabetes.

“Store-bought baked goods contain trans fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease,” Smithson says. “People with diabetes at are a much higher risk of heart disease even before adding foods high in trans fats to the equation.”

Barley — Best

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Smithson recommends eating one half cup cooked barley, which is equivalent to a 15 gram carbohydrate choice and contains 1.5 grams of soluble fiber.


“Barley is a good source of soluble fiber, a cholesterol-lowering fiber,” Smithson says. “It is a carbohydrate food, but has also been shown to blunt spikes in blood-glucose levels in people with diabetes, who may see a decrease in their average blood-glucose levels measured by an A1C test.”