Finding the Best Diet for Managing Diabetes

August 09,2022 |
Woman carrying healthy food.

Living with diabetes can make it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with food. With strict meal planning and exercise, ongoing management can become overwhelming and lead to distress or feelings of depression. However, in order to improve longevity and reduce the risk of further complications, it’s important to eat a healthy diet that helps stabilize blood glucose levels. Rather than sticking to a meal plan you hate, consider exploring your options to discover something that works for you. To help you get started, here’s more information on finding the best diet for managing diabetes.


The Importance of Tracking Food Intake

Regardless of the foods incorporated in the diet you plan to try, one of the best ways to monitor its impact on your health and blood glucose response is to keep a food diary. There are several diabetes apps that integrate meal planning and food intake tracking, or you can stick to the old fashion method of a food journal. Whatever allows you to stay consistent in the easiest and least time-consuming manner. This way, you can keep track of how certain foods impact your blood glucose level, resulting in easier long-term management.

For those that don’t like to diet, try to approach diabetes meal planning with an open mind. Diet is a term that’s used to describe the contents of what you eat and doesn’t need to carry a negative connotation. As with anything, the most important thing to keep in mind is that moderation is key. You can still enjoy many of the foods you love, as long as you’re eating healthy, nutritious foods most of the time. If you have any questions about food intake, supplements, or alternative products (i.e., sugar-free), talk to your doctor. It’s important to understand how these things can impact your blood glucose levels prior to adding them to your diet.


Diabetes-Winning Diets

The Forbes Health editorial team recently created a Forbes Health Best Diets Panel of experts to analyze various mainstream diets and their effect on diabetes health. They found some of the best diets for people with diabetes in 2022 included the following:

Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diets don’t require you to track your food intake or delve out specific portion sizes. Instead, they focus on eating more fresh vegetables and fruits, sticking to whole grains, and getting protein from fish or moderate amounts of dairy. Nuts, legumes, and extra virgin olive oil are also emphasized in Mediterranean diets while processed or red meat and sweets are limited. Individuals who ate a Mediterranean diet found success with diabetes management over time and those who follow it were less likely to develop diabetes throughout their life.


DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet primarily focuses on reducing intake of sodium and improving overall heart health. This is especially good for individuals living with diabetes, who are already at an increased risk of developing heart disease. Individuals who eat based on guidelines of the DASH diet find that they benefit from improved insulin resistance and stronger blood sugar control. Some of the main foods that are included in the DASH diet are lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Anything with added sugar is limited along with sodium and foods that are high in saturated fat.

Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic is considered one of the best hospitals and health centers in the United States. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Mayo Clinic diet is a great option for individuals living with diabetes. This particular diet was created by the experts at Mayo Clinic and can be adopted by anyone—diabetes or not. It’s comprised of two distinct phases—the “Lose It!” phase and the “Live It!” phase.

The “Lose It!” phase helps individuals lose excess weight while the “Live It!” phase is meant to be adapted for long-term health. The Mayo Clinic diet approaches healthy eating as a lifestyle, but during the initial phase some individuals may notice an increase in blood sugar as they’re losing weight. There are special adaptations that can be performed for individuals with diabetes, so talk to your doctor before beginning.


Another option for individuals living with diabetes is the MIND diet, which is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. It stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurogenerative Delay. The primary focus of this diet is eating mostly plant based. While you can still have animal products in moderation, red meats are limited or avoided. The biggest difference between the MIND diet and others is that it doesn’t have as large of an emphasis on eating fruits as other balanced diets. This can be especially beneficial for individuals living with diabetes who are sensitive to sugar intake. However, the MIND diet does put an emphasis on berries, which tend to be lower in sugar than other fruits. Butter, margarine, sweets, and pastries are meant to be avoided or only consumed in moderation.

Nordic Diet

Finally, the last option on the most recent list of best diets for managing diabetes is the Nordic diet. This is a diet that’s based off of historical eating patterns of northern European countries. It’s extremely dense in nutrients and is another diet that places a heavier weight on plants over animals. The main foods emphasized in the Nordic diet are root vegetables, eggs, fruits, berries, and fish. Other animal products can be eaten sparingly, but usually in small portion sizes or as a side dish. The Nordic diet has also been shown to reduce LDL levels and high blood pressure in individuals with diabetes, which can help reduce the risk of complications.

Similarly, other studies have shown that either a plant-based diet or a heart-healthy diet both support diabetes management plans. You may want to experiment with the various diets to see what works best for your current lifestyle and food preferences. However, always talk to your doctor before adopting a new diet or exercise regimen. 


The Worst Diets for Managing Diabetes

On the contrary, there are also a few diets that are not recommended for those living with diabetes. These types of extreme diets can even be risky for healthy individuals and may lead to long-term complications or problems with metabolic rate. When you have an underlying condition like diabetes, they can become downright dangerous. Some of them include:

Intermittent Fasting

People living with diabetes should not engage in intermittent fasting, which includes specific times that forbid eating. This can lead to extremely low blood sugar, which is dangerous for diabetes. Diabetes management is best handled when you maintain consistent eating patterns, which can help stabilize your blood sugar. Intermittent fasting is also dangerous, as it can reduce caloric intake to low levels which can further decrease blood sugar and even reduce overall muscle mass.

Low or No-Carbohydrate Diets

Unfortunately, there’s a huge misconception that carbohydrates are bad and should be avoided. That’s simply not true. There are good carbs and bad carbs, both of which impact your blood glucose levels differently. Complex, slow digesting carbs can help you stabilize glucose levels, while simple, fast digesting carbs cause spikes in blood sugar. When you eliminate carbohydrates completely, you may experience dangerously low levels of blood sugar that can cause bodily harm or further complications.

Dieting Pills

Finally, never assume that you can simply take a “diet pill” and shed unwanted pounds. Diet pills are supplements that haven’t been approved by the FDA and may have adverse reactions with insulin or other diabetes medications. Instead, it’s better to find a healthy diet that you can maintain over time.

Regardless of if you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it’s important to take the necessary steps to optimize management and keep your body healthy. One of the best ways to achieve this is through diet and exercise.

Regardless of which type of diet you choose, always talk to your doctor before making any changes. While you may be motivated to lose weight quickly, managing your diabetes during the process is extremely important. Continue to regularly check your blood glucose levels and discuss any concerns with your doctor. Byram Healthcare has a range of continuous blood glucose monitors. We also offer diabetes support and educational materials to give you everything you need for comprehensive care.