Type 2 Diabetes: What Kind of Diet Works Best?

Have you been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? If so, one of the most important aspects of managing this disease will be your diet. Before we delve deeper, take note that your diabetic diet should be built on the basic foundations of healthy eating. You’ll want to keep that in mind as we discuss these three different approaches to the diabetic meal plan.

Woman testing her blood glucose levels

Are you insulin dependent?

Here are some great principles to keep in mind:

  • Eat a variety of vegetables on a regular basis
  • Get your fats from healthy, unsaturated sources like avocados, nuts and oily fish
  • Avoid processed foods as much as possible

Starchy Carbs – Good or Bad for Diabetics?

Whole grains and healthy starchy carbohydratesThere seems to be no end in sight to the debate over starchy carbohydrates and their place in an effective diet. Groups like the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK recommend including a healthy source of starchy carbs in every meal. Others claim that these carbs will promote weight gain (not good for type 2 diabetes).

So what kind of effect do they have on blood glucose management?

Unfortunately, the jury is still out as to whether these are good or bad to include in a diet for type 2 diabetes. That may be reasoning enough for some to want to cut starchy carbs out of their meal plan. However, you can still include some whole grains in your diet if you do it wisely. Here’s a great list of whole grain foods from the American Diabetes Association (ADA):

  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole grain corn or corn meal
  • Whole oats or oatmeal
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Whole grain barley
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Whole farro
  • Quinoa

(Want to learn more about whole grains and other forms starchy carbohydrates? Check out this resource page on the ADA’s website.)

Does a Low Carb Diet Work?

A low carbohydrate diet is a very popular choice for people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Many have reported a significant improvement in their average blood glucose levels after adopting a low carb diet. Some even claim that they are less reliant on their prescribed diabetes medication afterwards.

So what is the downside?

Despite these claims and it’s popularity, low carb diets are not officially endorsed by all health organizations for diabetics.

Diabetic trying to configure a new meal planIn 2006, a Swedish study had 16 obese diabetics adopt a low carb, low calorie diet for just under 2 years. Data suggests that the majority of these volunteers’ blood glucose levels consistently improved, independent of their weight loss. 11 patients reported a 50% drop in their daily dosage of insulin over the course of the study.

Spokesmen from the ADA have acknowledged that restricting carbs can help type 2 diabetics control their blood glucose levels. However, they don’t officially recommend it because they patients tend to find it too restrictive.

If you want to adopt a lower carb diet, we recommend that you meet with your doctor to discuss the specifics before making this shift.

Let’s Get a Little More Raw

Those who are doing research on how to properly detox their body often come across articles on the raw food diet. Can this type of meal plan work for someone with diabetes? Well, there are some positives and negatives to this type of diet.

Here are some perceived benefits from a raw food diet:

  • It can help you lose weight
  • Lowers your cholesterol levels
  • Lowers your triglyceride levels
  • It can lower your risk of heart disease
  • These effects could theoretically improve glycemic control

However, there are some downsides too:

  • This type of diet can get fairly expensive
  • Harder to get healthy sources of iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients
  • Cooking foods can make it easier for the body to absorb important nutrients
  • Some types of vegetables can be toxic when consumed raw
  • A non-vegan raw diet can put you at greater risk for foodborne illness

Diabetic discusses a new diet with their doctorIf you are interested in trying the raw diet, this site is an excellent source of starter recipes.

As you can see, there are positives and negatives to all of these types of diets. So what’s the best kind of diet for type 2 diabetes? The answer will depend on you. Everyone is different and the ideal diabetic diet will be based on several factors that are specific to you.

In any case, it’s a smart choice to talk things over with your primary health-care provider before making any serious change to your diet. You may also want to consider finding a dietician as your diet is a key part of long-term diabetes self management. These professionals will help you build a meal plan that supports your overall treatment plan and improves your quality of life.



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