Diabetes revolves around carbs. Does that mean that you can’t eat certain foods? Are there certain foods to avoid with diabetes? Yes and no.
Sidse, our Nutrition and Health Consultant, has answered “what food for diabetes”, with the verdict being that you theoretically should be able to eat whatever you want. That’s because if you’re insulin-dependent, the insulin takes care of the carbs. You just need to know how much to inject.
The common joke used by diabetes healthcare professionals is “any food is safe as long it hasn’t got poison in it”.
While there might not be any unsafe foods, there may be still some foods that you want to avoid. So, what foods to avoid with diabetes?
Well, some of it will be about carbs, especially for those who don’t use insulin. But it’s also about the food as a whole that can impact other areas of your health. Let’s have a look at why it might be a good idea to avoid the following foods.
What to eat less of
1) Crisps / potato chips
Crisps (or potato chips for those of you who are not in the land of Downton Abbey), having been made from potatoes, are rather carb-rich.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t eat something just because it has carbs. But it’s probably not ideal to be eating something that has many carbs as well as a lot of fat. And a lot of sodium.
On the other hand, you should certainly have carbs, fat, and sodium in your diet. And in their most basic form, crisps are just potato, oil, and salt, which is not inherently bad (although usually a bag of crisps will have more ingredients than that). It’s more a matter of not eating too much of it – and that can be tricky when you’ve got a whole bag of crisps in front of you.
The crisp-hole in your belly could instead be filled with homemade popcorn – without all the saturated fats and processed potato that would come with packaged crisps. Plus all that fibre in the corn will help to steady those blood glucose levels!
(Probably best to avoid the microwave popcorn, though, as that will likely contain trans fats, the “worst” kind of fat, according to Mayo Health Clinic.)
Mayonnaise in particular doesn’t need to be maligned when considering what foods to avoid with diabetes. Rather, it’s the fat content of the mayonnaise.
As Diabetes UK points out, too much saturated fat can lead to cardiovascular diseases in the future. Considering that those with diabetes are already at risk of cardiovascular issues, this is something to keep an eye out for. More generally, too much body fat can also hinder insulin sensitivity.
Sidse, Hedia’s nutrition guru, will also tell you in her blog post (what food for diabetes) that fat is an important constituent of a diet. It’s more about keeping a balance and eating the more beneficial kinds of fats.
As for the mayonnaise, it can contain saturated fats, which you might want to avoid. This is especially tricky when considering how easy it is to drizzle mayonnaise in an otherwise innocent salad or sandwich.
However, it is possible to find mayonnaise with mainly unsaturated fats. So, mayonnaise doesn’t need to be a problem. If you want other types of beneficial fats, look to olive oil or avocado to liven up your salad.
3) Sugary breakfast cereals
Unsurprisingly, sugar will raise blood sugar levels. That’s not to say that you can’t have sugar but when it comes to breakfast cereals, there could be better alternatives.
Many sugary breakfast cereals are refined, meaning that the grain from which they are made has been stripped of much of its fibre and other nutrients. Without the fibre to slow down digestion, the sugar is absorbed by the body much quicker.
On top of that, there is often added, refined sugar. That gives you a double-whammy of refined carbs, leading to a quick spike in blood sugar.
The variety of breakfast cereals is such that there is bound to be a less sugary cereal alternative. Porridge oats can also work a treat as an alternative – plus they’re a source of protein!
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that most sodas contain sugar. What can be surprising is how much of that sugar you’re consuming.
With drinks, it’s sometimes easy to forget what’s in them because you can drink them so quickly. Soda could be responsible for a blood sugar spike without you even realising it. When looking into what foods to avoid with diabetes, drinks certainly count as a foodstuff.
If you’re a fan of soda try the sugar-free alternatives which use artificial sweeteners instead. There is some debate over whether some sweeteners can cause long-term health issues.
Nonetheless, many sweeteners are classed as safe for various food safety authorities. And if you must have soda, it’s still probably better to go with artificial sweeteners rather than added sugar.
If you want to quench your thirst otherwise, fruit juice could be an alternative. It will still raise your blood sugar but it will at least be more nutritious. Otherwise, learn to love water with its 0% sugar. Tea and (unsweetened) flavoured water can make water more interesting too.
5) Fast-food pizza
Anecdotally, it appears that many with diabetes struggle with the blood sugar fallout that comes with pizza, at least according to online forums such as the diabetes.co.uk forum. You order a pizza and a few hours later end up with mysterious blood sugar levels.
Pizza, in all its cheesy glory, is incredibly fatty. That could be, partly, the reason behind those subsequent uncontrollable blood sugar levels. High levels of fat might cause insulin resistance, as suggested by this study (the study even mentions pizza!).
It would be cruel of us to suggest that you shouldn’t eat pizza. Instead, we’d suggest that you try making a pizza at home. That way, you can control how fatty it is and you can figure out more or less how many carbs are in it. How do you count carbs in homemade food? Find out here!
6) That cappuccino from the cafe
You could go round in circles trying to figure out whether coffee is good or bad for you. From the potential negatives, such as high cholesterol, to the potential positives, such as the fat-burning that could come from the raised metabolism from caffeine: the jury’s out on this one. (Although we would add that balance is probably always the best way to approach coffee.)
One thing that’s for sure is that the extra milk and sugar that can be added to coffee won’t necessarily be doing your blood sugar any favours.
When you buy certain kinds of quickly made coffees from cafes or automatic coffee machines, it’s not uncommon for that coffee to have stunningly superfluous additions such as syrups, coffee creamers, oils, and large amounts of milk. That can be filled with trans fats and sugars.
Perhaps it’s better to stick to a simple brew without the added fuss? If you do want milk or sugar: add it yourself, so that you know how many carbs you’re adding.
What Foods to Avoid with Diabetes? It’s up to you!
While the foods mentioned here may not always be ideal, we trust that you’re able to make the right decisions yourself. We’re not going to tell you to stop eating certain foods altogether. And we get it: you need your guilty culinary pleasures, too.
Our aim here is to bring awareness to certain foods that might go unnoticed in the overall goal for a stable blood sugar. It can just be interesting to know what’s going into your body.
It essentially all comes down to how many carbs you account for on a given day: if you account for some crisps, you can certainly have some crisps. And it’s our job at Hedia to make that calculating easier with our app’s carb calculator and diabetes assistance. Get your taste of Hedia from Google Play or the App Store!
At the end of the day, it’s all up to you!