Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes

When it comes to managing diabetes, food choice is vital. Eat the wrong things, and your blood glucose can skyrocket; eat the right things, and your blood sugar levels are more likely to behave. Dr. Roza Israel and her team at I & R Medical Services offer comprehensive diabetes treatment and control, including advice on the best and worst foods for diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that prevents your body from using blood sugar properly and efficiently. The hormone insulin, made in the pancreas, helps your body use glucose from food breakdown for present and future energy needs. Insulin also regulates the sugar level in your blood, keeping it from getting too high or too low.

People with Type 1 diabetes don’t make enough insulin. People with Type 2 diabetes produce enough insulin but don’t use it efficiently; if the disease progresses, the body stops making enough insulin.

In both types of diabetes, blood glucose levels remain high, which can cause a host of health problems including:

How does food affect diabetes?

Many things affect your blood sugar levels — exercise, medication, stress, illness, menstruation, and alcohol consumption. However, the food you eat has the most influence. 

People with diabetes or prediabetes should limit the number of simple carbohydrates they eat. These carbohydrates quickly break down into glucose and can flood your bloodstream if insulin doesn’t transport it into cells for energy. Complex carbohydrates and proteins break down more slowly, preventing blood sugar levels from spiking.

Best foods for diabetes

The best foods for diabetes are nutrient-rich foods that prevent sudden blood sugar spikes and dips.

Fatty fish

Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, and mackerel are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which protect blood vessels and help reduce inflammation.

Leafy greens

Spinach, kale, and other greens are high in vitamins and low in digestible carbs. So eating your greens gives you a nutritional punch (especially vitamin C) without a sugar surge.


This breakfast staple is a friend of your heart. Eggs decrease inflammation, make you feel full for hours, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol.


Any kind — walnuts, almonds, pistachios. They’re all high in fiber and low in digestible carbs.

Worst foods for diabetes

Large numbers of simple carbohydrates can exacerbate your diabetes. Following are foods and beverages to avoid or to limit to a once-in-a-while treat.

Soda and juice

Sweet and fizzy beverages, which are high in sugar and low on nutrition, are bad choices for people with diabetes. A 12-ounce can of regular soda can contain 38 grams of sugar, the equivalent to about 9 teaspoons of sugar. Lemonade, sweetened iced tea, and some fruit juices have about the same amount of sugar as soda.

White bread, pasta, and rice

When it comes to controlling carbs, white isn’t right. Refined white bread, pasta, and rice are stripped of fiber — and fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. If you eat breads and high-carb foods, switch to whole wheat bread and pasta and brown rice, which contain more fiber.

Sugary breakfast cereals

Breakfast cereals, even the healthy-sounding kinds, are loaded with sugar. When you start your day with cereal, you feel a quick sugar high and then a dip, which leaves you hungry far sooner than if you ate eggs or another protein-packed food for breakfast.

You can find out more about the best ways to control your diabetes from the team at I & R Medical Services by scheduling an appointment online or by calling the office directly: 718-737-9559.

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