What are the foods to avoid with prediabetes?
Certain foods can cause drastic or even dangerous spikes in blood sugar. Over time, these spikes can increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Highly processed and refined foods, as well as foods high in sugars and sweeteners should be eaten sparingly. These foods tend to have a high Glycemic Index, which means that they are absorbed rapidly in the digestive system.
The quicker a carbohydrate-containing food is digested and absorbed, the more rapidly blood sugar will spike. As if this wasn't reason enough to avoid these foods, highly processed and refined foods also tend to be low in nutrients.
For Prediabetes, Eat This... not That!
Whole Grains vs Refined Grains
Refined grains start as whole grains but have the bran and germ removed during the milling process. The bran and germ contain the most fiber and nutrients; unfortunately, when these are removed, the remaining product contains very little nutrients at all!
Both whole grains and refined grains are high on the Glycemic Index. However, whole grains contain high amounts of fiber, which is digested more slowly and therefore releases blood sugar more slowly. For example, i's better to choose:
- Brown rice over white rice
- Whole wheat bread over white bread
- Whole wheat pasta over white pasta.
Fresh Foods vs Pre-Packaged Foods
Prepackaged foods tend to contain additives that may be harmful to someone with prediabetes. These additives include trans fats. Although trans fats are not directly linked to blood sugar, they impact other important factors linked to prediabetes, such as high cholesterol.
Trans fats have also been linked to weight gain, increased inflammation, and insulin resistance. Although they are making their way off of the shelves, trans fats can still be found in certain margarines, peanut butters, frozen dinners, and bakery items.
You should also limit pre-packaged snack foods such as pretzels, crackers, and chips. Made with white flour, these foods provide very little nutrients and cause your blood sugar to rise drastically.
Your best bet would be to eat these items sparingly and pick fresh foods whenever you can. One great tip is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and stick with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods tend to be low on the Glycemic index, high in fiber, and high in nutrients- all factors that slow the release of blood sugar.
Sugar and Sweeteners vs Natural Flavors
Foods and drinks that are sweetened with sugar and other sweeteners such as honey or agave cause your blood sugar to skyrocket. Examples of these foods include candy, soda, sugary cereals, flavored coffee drinks, pastries, cookies, cakes, and alcohol.
Limiting these foods is important to maintaining blood sugar control. Instead of soda, try:
- Water with fruit slices
- Naturally flavored seltzer water
Fresh fruit is a great substitute for sugary snacks like candy and cookies. Next time you're craving a sweetened latte, try skip the sweetener or opt for a smoothie- a fresh fruit energy boost!
The Bottom Line...
Just like many other conditions, prediabetes can be managed and even reversed through better food choices. It is important to know what foods to pick in order to make the best choice.
Whenever possible, choose:
- Whole grains over refined grains
- Anything instead of trans fats
- Fresh foods instead of pre-packaged foods
- Naturally sweet foods such as food instead of sugar and other sweeteners
Interested in a total overhaul to better manage your prediabetes? Check out our comprehensive prediabetes diet recommendations.
Have you joined our Diabetes Support Group yet? Led by Certified Diabetes Educator Zoe Fienman RD, LDN, use this Q&A group as a forum to learn from experts and support the community.
Kaitlyn Willwerth is a Registered Dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. Kaitlyn's work focuses on providing individualized health and lifestyle coaching and, most importantly, support. She is a Certified LEAP Therapist and has also completed the Monash University 'Low FODMAP Diet for IBS' online training course for health professionals.