Which foods should a diabetic not eat?

Diabetics have a health condition that doesn't allow their bodies to break down sugar to be used as energy. To avoid dangerous complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, amputation and kidney damage, those with diabetes must adopt lifestyle changes. Diet is one of the most important changes, but it's difficult to decide which foods to avoid, because one doctor may encourage several servings of a food while another doctor may tell you to avoid them. Your best bet is to find a doctor with many patients who have their blood sugar under control and follow his diet suggestions.


When some people think of sugar, they think of candy, chocolate, sweets and soft drinks. Processed sugar, artificial sweeteners and honey are addictive and harmful to diabetics because they raise blood sugar levels. Diet and sugar-free foods, with the exception of sugar-free jelly, tend to include sugar and carbohydrates that aren't good for diabetics. They are disguised on food labels under the words that end in "-ose," such as fructose, dextrose, maltose, sucrose and lactose; or they're even listed as corn syrup or starches. The white substance we think of as sugar is sucrose, but there are also many other kinds of sugar diabetics should not eat.


Grains such as corn, rice, wheat, rye and barley are considered healthy for most people, but they can be harmful to diabetics. Cereal, bread and pasta are just a few of the foods made from grains that can raise blood sugar. Maltose, the form of sugar found in grains, is the worst sugar for diabetics.


Some vegetables contain a lot of starch that turns to sugar in the body. Potatoes, parsnips and some beans in particular raise blood sugar, and diabetics should limit carrots, peas and beets.


Dairy products such as milk and cottage cheese contain the sugar lactose. Small amounts of skim or low-fat dairy products can be used, but those that are high in fat should be avoided.

Saturated Fats and Salt

Saturated fats, such as those in cooking oil, margarine, chicken skin and whole dairy products, can raise bad-cholesterol levels and make diabetics more likely to develop heart disease. Salt can raise blood pressure in diabetics, which can also cause heart disease. It's better to avoid the risk of heart disease by cooking with healthy fats such as those in olive oil, canola oil and fish oil, and avoiding processed foods that usually contain high amounts of unhealthy fats and salt. Grilling, broiling and steaming food is preferable to frying, and fresh food is better than canned.


While fresh fruit is an important part of every healthy diet, the sugar in fruit, called fructose, is higher in some fruits than others. Many processed foods that have "No added sugar" written on their packages contain fructose, and the amount of fructose diabetics eat should be limited. Fruits with a lot of fibre and a small amount of sugar that can strengthen the immune system, such as apples, mangoes, oranges and bananas can be eaten by diabetics. Fruit juice should be diluted if used because they're higher in carbohydrates than fruit.

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About the Author

Cathryn Whitehead graduated from the University of Michigan in 1987. She has published numerous articles for various websites. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and on Whitehead has done extensive research on health conditions and has a background in education, household management, music and child development.