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5 Types of Food That Can Help Keep Diabetes At Bay

Diabetes is a chronic disease which affects millions of people across the world. In cases where the condition is uncontrolled, patients are at risk of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and other serious health conditions (1).

Before diabetes is diagnosed, individuals go through a period in which their blood sugar levels become high but not high enough that they can be diagnosed with diabetes. This condition is known as pre-diabetes. The condition is marked by abnormally high blood sugar levels which are often due to insulin resistance (2).

Your diet is associated with pre-diabetes risk –if you are eating more calories than your body requires, these calories will eventually get stored as fat causing you to gain weight. Body fat – especially body fat which is stored around the abdomen is linked to insulin resistance (3).

Although certain risk factors for the development of diabetes cannot be changed, such as age, genetics and past lifestyle choices, there are actions that you can take to reduce your risk of developing type two diabetes. The key is early intervention, it is important to get your blood sugar levels out of the pre-diabetes range and to eat the right kinds of foods (4).

5 tips to help keep diabetes at bay

1. Cut Out Sugars And Refined Carbs From Your Diet

By eating sugary foods and refined carbs, those who are already at risk will then be on the fast track to developing diabetes, as these foods increase blood sugar and insulin levels (5, 6, 7). Many studies have also found that people who have a high intake of fast-digesting carbs are forty percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who have lower intakes (8).

2. Choose Water As Your Main Drink

Researchers who studied the effects of sweet drinks on diabetes found that it is best to avoid sweetened beverages and fruit juices if you want to prevent the development of diabetes (9). Instead, an increased water intake can provide benefits in terms of better blood sugar level control and insulin response (10, 11).

A twenty-four-week study found that overweight participants who drank water in place of diet sodas during their weight loss programs were experiencing a decrease in insulin resistance, lower fasting blood sugar levels and insulin levels (11).

3. Follow A Very Low Carb Diet

There has been consistent research that suggests that very low carbohydrate diets can lower blood sugar and insulin levels, increase sensitivity to insulin and also reduce other risk factors for diabetes (12, 13, 14, 15).

A study of obese men who had pre-diabetes and were asked to follow a ketogenic diet found that their average fasting blood sugar levels decreased from 118 to 92 mg/dl, which is well within the normal range. Participants also ended up losing weight and improved several others of their health markers (14).

4. Eat A Diet Which Is High In Fibre

Studies that had obese, elderly and prediabetic participants have found that consuming fiber can help to keep blood sugar and insulin levels low (16, 17, 18). Although the cause is not yet clear, insoluble fibers have been found to be linked to a reduction in the blood sugar levels and also a decreased risk of diabetes development (19, 20).

5. Minimise Intake Of Processed Foods

Processed foods are linked to all kinds of health problems, which include heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Studies have suggested that by cutting back on processed foods that are high in vegetable oils, refined grains and additives could be key to reducing the risk and onset of diabetes (21, 22).

Further studies also suggest that poor-quality diets which are high in processed foods can increase the risk of diabetes by almost thirty percent – however by including nutritious whole foods, this risk can be reduced (23).

For more information on foods that can keep diabetes at bay, see our diabetes course.


1. Rodríguez-Poncelas, A., Mundet-Tudurí, X., Miravet-Jiménez, S., Casellas, A., Barrot-De la Puente, J.F., Franch-Nadal, J. and Coll-de Tuero, G., 2016. Chronic kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy in patients with type 2 diabetes. PLoS One, 11(2), p.e0149448.
2. Bansal, N., 2015. Prediabetes diagnosis and treatment: A review. World journal of diabetes, 6(2), p.296.
3. Patel, P. and Abate, N., 2013. Body fat distribution and insulin resistance. Nutrients, 5(6), pp.2019-2027.
4. Nathan, D.M., Davidson, M.B., DeFronzo, R.A., Heine, R.J., Henry, R.R., Pratley, R. and Zinman, B., 2007. Impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance: implications for care. Diabetes care, 30(3), pp.753-759.
5. Weeratunga, P., Jayasinghe, S., Perera, Y., Jayasena, G. and Jayasinghe, S., 2014. Per capita sugar consumption and prevalence of diabetes mellitus–global and regional associations. BMC Public Health, 14(1), p.186.
6. Gross, L.S., Li, L., Ford, E.S. and Liu, S., 2004. Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 79(5), pp.774-779.
7. Maki, K.C. and Phillips, A.K., 2014. Dietary Substitutions for Refined Carbohydrate That Show Promise for Reducing Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Men and Women–3. The Journal of nutrition, 145(1), pp.159S-163S.
8. Barclay, A.W., Petocz, P., McMillan-Price, J., Flood, V.M., Prvan, T., Mitchell, P. and Brand-Miller, J.C., 2008. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk—a meta-analysis of observational studies. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 87(3), pp.627-637.
9. Imamura, F., O’Connor, L., Ye, Z., Mursu, J., Hayashino, Y., Bhupathiraju, S.N. and Forouhi, N.G., 2015. Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction. Bmj, 351, p.h3576.
10. Carroll, H.A., Betts, J.A. and Johnson, L., 2016. An investigation into the relationship between plain water intake and glycated Hb (HbA1c): A sex-stratified, cross-sectional analysis of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–2012). British Journal of Nutrition, 116(10), pp.1770-1780.
11. Madjd, A., Taylor, M.A., Delavari, A., Malekzadeh, R., Macdonald, I.A. and Farshchi, H.R., 2015. Effects on weight loss in adults of replacing diet beverages with water during a hypoenergetic diet: a randomized, 24-wk clinical trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 102(6), pp.1305-1312.
12. de Luis, D.A., Izaola, O., Aller, R., de la Fuente, B., Bachiller, R. and Romero, E., 2015. Effects of a high-protein/low carbohydrate versus a standard hypocaloric diet on adipocytokine levels and insulin resistance in obese patients along 9 months. Journal of diabetes and its complications, 29(7), pp.950-954.
13. Gower, B.A. and Goss, A.M., 2014. A Lower-Carbohydrate, Higher-Fat Diet Reduces Abdominal and Intermuscular Fat and Increases Insulin Sensitivity in Adults at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes–3. The Journal of nutrition, 145(1), pp.177S-183S.
14. Volek, J.S., Phinney, S.D., Forsythe, C.E., Quann, E.E., Wood, R.J., Puglisi, M.J., Kraemer, W.J., Bibus, D.M., Fernandez, M.L. and Feinman, R.D., 2009. Carbohydrate restriction has a more favorable impact on the metabolic syndrome than a low fat diet. Lipids, 44(4), pp.297-309.
15. Perez-Guisado, J. and Munoz-Serrano, A., 2011. A pilot study of the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet: an effective therapy for the metabolic syndrome. Journal of Medicinal Food, 14(7-8), pp.681-687.
16. Ulmius, M., Johansson, A. and Önning, G., 2009. The influence of dietary fibre source and gender on the postprandial glucose and lipid response in healthy subjects. European journal of nutrition, 48(7), p.395.
17. Brahe, L.K., Le Chatelier, E., Prifti, E., Pons, N., Kennedy, S., Blædel, T., Håkansson, J., Dalsgaard, T.K., Hansen, T., Pedersen, O. and Astrup, A., 2015. Dietary modulation of the gut microbiota–a randomised controlled trial in obese postmenopausal women. British Journal of Nutrition, 114(3), pp.406-417.
18. Kobayakawa, A., Suzuki, T., Ikami, T., Saito, M., Yabe, D. and Seino, Y., 2013. Improvement of fasting plasma glucose level after ingesting moderate amount of dietary fiber in Japanese men with mild hyperglycemia and visceral fat obesity. Journal of dietary supplements, 10(2), pp.129-141.
19. Weickert, M.O. and Pfeiffer, A.F., 2008. Metabolic effects of dietary fiber consumption and prevention of diabetes. The Journal of nutrition, 138(3), pp.439-442.
20. Meyer, K.A., Kushi, L.H., Jacobs Jr, D.R., Slavin, J., Sellers, T.A. and Folsom, A.R., 2000. Carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and incident type 2 diabetes in older women–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 71(4), pp.921-930.
21. Ley, S.H., Hamdy, O., Mohan, V. and Hu, F.B., 2014. Prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: dietary components and nutritional strategies. The Lancet, 383(9933), pp.1999-2007.
22. Maghsoudi, Z., Ghiasvand, R. and Salehi-Abargouei, A., 2016. Empirically derived dietary patterns and incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis on prospective observational studies. Public health nutrition, 19(2), pp.230-241.
23. Maghsoudi Z, Ghiasvand R, Salehi-Abargouei A. Empirically derived dietary patterns and incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis on prospective observational studies. Public health nutrition. 2016 Feb;19(2):230-41.