What Foods to Avoid with Diabetes: A Comprehensive Guide

As of 2021, the International Diabetes Federation reports that 537 million adults live with diabetes worldwide. This global health crisis requires significant attention, especially regarding dietary management (International Diabetes Federation, 2021). 

Many people are eager to understand what to eat with diabetes and what foods to avoid. Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious health complications if not managed properly. Proper dietary choices play a crucial role in managing diabetes effectively. While many foods can help control blood sugar levels, there are also several foods that people with diabetes should avoid or limit in their diet. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best foods for diabetes and highlight the ones that should be avoided to maintain optimal health and well-being.

The Best Food for Diabetes

Embracing a healthy diet is key when determining what to eat with diabetes. These foods can help stabilize blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight, and improve overall health. Here are some of the best foods for diabetes:

  1. Non-Starchy Vegetables: Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, and other non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates and calories, making them excellent choices for diabetics.
  2. Whole Grains: Foods like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat contain more fiber and nutrients than refined grains, helping to slow down the absorption of glucose.
  3. Lean Proteins: Skinless poultry, fish, tofu, legumes, and lean cuts of meat are rich in protein and have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels.
  4. Healthy Fats: Sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, can improve insulin sensitivity and support heart health.
  5. Fruits: While fruits contain natural sugars, they can still be included in the diet. Focus on low-sugar options like berries, cherries, and apples, and consume them in moderation.
  6. Low-Fat Dairy: Greek yogurt, skim milk, and low-fat cottage cheese are good sources of calcium and protein without the added sugars found in full-fat dairy products.


  1. In fact, a study found that those who consumed 50-60% of their calories from whole grains reduced their diabetes risk by 27% (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2021).
  2. Protein sources like lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and plant-based proteins (e.g., tofu, lentils) supply essential nutrients without triggering abrupt blood sugar spikes. In a recent study, participants who consumed a high-protein diet had a 20% lower risk of developing diabetes (Journal of Diabetes Research, 2022).
  3. Healthy fats from avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds also contribute to effective diabetes management. One study found that individuals who consumed 5 or more servings of nuts per week had a 17% lower risk of developing diabetes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2022).

Foods to Avoid with Diabetes

  1. Sugary Foods and Beverages: Avoid sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, and sweetened teas, as well as desserts, candies, and baked goods loaded with added sugars. These can cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
  2. Refined Carbohydrates: Highly processed and refined carbohydrates, including white bread, white rice, and sugary cereals, can raise blood sugar levels rapidly.
  3. Saturated and Trans Fats: Reduce the intake of saturated and trans fats found in fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, butter, and processed snacks. These fats can increase insulin resistance and contribute to heart disease.
  4. Highly Processed Foods: Processed foods often contain high levels of sodium, unhealthy fats, and added sugars, all of which can negatively impact blood sugar control and overall health.
  5. Fruit Juices: Despite coming from natural sources, fruit juices are concentrated sources of sugar without the fiber content found in whole fruits. It’s best to consume whole fruits instead.
  6. Dried Fruits and Sweetened Snacks: Dried fruits may seem like a healthy option, but they have a higher sugar concentration due to the removal of water. Additionally, many packaged snacks marketed as “diabetic-friendly” can still contain significant amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats.


  1. Sugary drinks like sodas, sweet teas, and fruit juices with added sugars are particularly harmful. Regular consumption can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 26% (Harvard School of Public Health, 2021).
  2. Processed foods often contain trans fats, which increase heart disease risk – a common concern for diabetics. In fact, each 2% of daily calories from trans fats increases heart disease risk by 23% (American Heart Association, 2021).
  3. Additionally, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and rice should be minimized. These rapidly absorbed foods cause a 200% higher glycemic response compared to whole grains (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2021).

What Can You Drink with Diabetes?

When considering what to eat with diabetes, remember that what you drink is just as important. Water should be your go-to beverage, as it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. Herbal teas and coffee without added sugar can also be healthy choices.

Be cautious of diet drinks. Although they’re often sugar-free, some studies suggest they might stimulate sugar cravings and have other negative health effects (Yale School of Medicine, 2021). Instead, flavor your water with a fresh lemon or lime splash for a refreshing, blood-sugar-friendly drink.

Alcohol Intake

Moderate alcohol consumption can be permissible for some individuals with diabetes, but it’s essential to do so responsibly and with caution. Alcohol can interfere with blood sugar regulation and may interact with diabetes medications. Always consult with a healthcare professional before consuming alcohol, and if you choose to drink, do so in moderation.


Understanding what to eat with diabetes can significantly contribute to maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and a healthy lifestyle. By focusing on nutrient-dense foods and avoiding those high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates, you can effectively manage your diabetes. 

Remember, what works for one person may not work for everyone, so it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider or a nutritionist for personalized advice.


  1. American Diabetes Association. (2021). Eating Well. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition
  2. American Heart Association. (2021). Trans Fats. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat
  3. Harvard School of Public Health. (2021). Sugary Drinks. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/
  4. International Diabetes Federation. (2021). IDF Diabetes Atlas Ninth Edition 2021. Retrieved from https://www.diabetesatlas.org/en/
  5. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-diet/art-20044295
  6. Yale School of Medicine. (2021). Artificial Sweeteners May Damage Our Gut Bacteria. Retrieved from https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/artificial-sweeteners-gut-health

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