In 2015, over 9% of the American population had diabetes, and that number has only grown. Diabetes is a chronic disease that influences the body’s response to insulin. Once people get diagnosed with diabetes, their diet significantly changes.
Some foods that appear healthy are actually detrimental. Many contain hidden sugars, preservatives, and salts that can be hard to spot on the nutritional label. Read on for the worst foods for diabetics.
How Diet Soda Is Just As Bad As Regular Soda
Most people know that soda doesn’t fit into a diabetic diet. But did you know that diet soda carries risks as well? Research by the American Diabetes Association found a consistent link between diet drinks and diabetes. Participants who drank it daily had a 67% higher chance of type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar levels, belly fat, and metabolic syndrome.
Another study in Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology linked diet soda to a higher risk of diabetic retinopathy. This damages the blood vessels around the eyes and may cause diabetics to go blind. Do yourself a favor and avoid diet sodas.
Avoid Most Artificial Sweeteners
Although artificial sweeteners advertise themselves as “diabetic-friendly,” researchers are finding the opposite. In 2018, researchers discovered that artificial sweeteners contribute to diabetes and obesity more than most people think. They affect your blood glucose and blood vessels in a way that only harms your insulin.
The good news: some artificial sweeteners are safe for diabetics. Stevia and tagatose have not harmed blood glucose levels in studies. If you have questions, talk to a doctor or nutritionist about choosing the healthiest artificial sweeteners.
Drop Low-Fat Milk; Go High-Fat
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Health experts have debated over the best type of milk for decades. Although diabetes researchers once recommended a low-fat diet, this is no longer the case. Low-fat milks supply less fat but replace it with sugar. Registered dietitian Nicole Anziani says that this can spike your blood sugar.
Plus, high-fat milks may reduce peoples’ chances of diabetes. In 2014, Swedish researchers connected high-fat dairy to a lower risk of diabetes. They can also help people with pre-diabetes. Other studies have called high-fat milk “neutral” in the development of diabetes, but low-fat milks aren’t as healthy.
Flavored Yogurt Isn’t As Healthy As Plain Yogurt
In 2015, a meta-analysis in PLoS ONE concluded that yogurt is healthy for diabetes. But this review only focused on whole, unsweetened yogurt. Flavored and fruit-filled yogurts are packed with added sugars, according to registered dietitian Despina Hyde Gandhi.
Although most dairy products have a low glycemic index, add-ons such as granola, syrups, and fruit raise the index. Buy plain, non-flavored yogurt and include fresh fruits and nuts to flavor it yourself. Registered dietitian Heather Cunningham recommends checking the label for less than 20 grams of carbs and no added sugars.
The Downside Of Canned Fruits And Vegetables
Canned fruits and vegetables are a subject of debate in diabetic diets. On the one hand, research in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine noted that canned produce has the same nutritional value as fresh produce. On the other hand, canned fruits and vegetables have more sugar and salt, respectively.
Canned fruit has added sugars as preservatives, while canned vegetables have more sodium. Plus, cans contain bisphenol A (BPA). In 2015, researchers linked BPA to higher rates of type 2 diabetes. You’ll have to decide whether the convenience of canned foods is worth the risk.
Skip Lattes, Cappuccinos, And Other Coffee Drinks
Drinking coffee doesn’t raise peoples’ risk of diabetes. But for diabetics, caffeine can destabilize blood sugar. According to a 2008 study, 250 mg of caffeine increases your blood sugar by 8%. For those with insulin sensitivity, this is something you want to avoid.
Coffees with milk, cream, and syrup are worse for diabetics, says Diabetes UK. Even small sizes of these drinks contain over ten teaspoons of sugar. The best option for diabetics is to drink black coffee and enjoy decaffeinated coffee whenever possible.
Stay tuned for salad dressings that sneak sugars into your diet.
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Dried Fruit Is Not As Safe As Fresh Fruit
Diabetics can eat certain fruits, as they are part of a healthy diet. But they should avoid dried fruit because they are highly concentrated forms of whole fruit. “In these concentrated forms, everything goes up,” says nutritionist Rupali Datta. “The sugar levels, the glycemic index.”
Because dried fruits are smaller than fresh ones, people tend to eat more. For instance, a cup of fresh grapes has 27 carbs, but a cup of raisins has 115 carbs. Diabetics are far more likely to receive a blood sugar spike from dried fruits.
Some Cheeses Work, But Not High-Salt Cheeses
Cheese can help a diabetic diet. In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study found that cheese can lower peoples’ chances of type 2 diabetes. But not all cheeses are created equal. Some have much higher sodium than others. For instance, mozzarella has four milligrams of salt per ounce, while feta has 316 milligrams per ounce.
Some cheeses also have more nutrients than others. Parmesan and Monterey Jack are high in protein, while Provolone offers more calcium than others. Search for low-sodium varieties whenever possible, and always check the label.
You Shouldn’t Eat Most Fast Food Meals
Although diabetics can eat fast food, most of it doesn’t help their condition. “[Fast-food meals] high in sodium, carbs, and unhealthy saturated fat,” explains Sandra Arevalo, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Many meals with fries and a soda have over 1,000 calories.
Fortunately, many fast-food restaurants now offer salads and low-carb sandwiches. The American Diabetes Association provides some tips for eating out. Get the smallest sized lunch; replace soda with water; swap the side of fries or share it with someone else.
Never Choose Fat-Free Salad Dressings
People with diabetes may pick up “light” or fat-free salad dressings to be healthier. But these dressings do the opposite. Full-fat dressings contain healthy fats that help the body to absorb nutrients. Integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov says that olive oil and vinegar aid people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
Small studies assert that salad dressings can improve glucose levels. In the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers wrote that salad dressing helps blood glucose levels. If you buy low-fat salad dressing, you’ll miss out on those benefits.
Coming up: never trust one kind of caffeinated drink.