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Top 10 Foods to Avoid if You Have Diabetes.

Top 10 Foods to Avoid if You Have Diabetes.

Are you struggling with blood sugar levels despite avoiding sugars and white bread?

Stay with me to see what foods are causing this without you knowing. 

Introduction: Beyond Blood Sugar - A Holistic Approach to Diabetes.

Diabetic patients know how important it is to navigate their daily nutritional choices. Especially for those who have been  struggling with diabetes for a long- time, one can becomes increasingly sensitive to the rise and fall of blood glucose levels in the body. 

Various devices such as a Constant Glucose Monitor (CGM) can further help people track their blood sugar levels. But are there hidden foods that you might be consuming that may actually be making your health condition worse?

But, there is more to it than how your body feels. Many foods that we know as benign to Diabetes pose a huge risk to your health in the long term. What conceals them from the plain eye is that they are not necessarily sugars!

The increasingly popular hyper-palatable, ultra-processed foods have a high sugar, salt, and saturated fat content. These have caused a sharp rise in the prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Thus, they might not rise your readings on a CGM, but has an impact on your long term diabetes status.

India has been particularly witnessing this issue, which explains the high incidence and prevalence of type 2. 

The best solution to this conundrum is a whole-foods diet. Here is one of our client's story talking about her journey with Type- 1 Diabetes:

Rethinking Commonly Consumed Foods.

Let us begin by stating the obvious: Sugar content is not the only factor to find whether a food choice is safe for diabetics. 

You might be skipping sugar completely from your diet but still struggling. You might still be facing lethargy, body fatigue, and other complications of Diabetes. The reason is that there are foods in your diet that worsen your health profile. The worst part is that you might not even recognize those black sheep.

Take eggs, for example. Indians consume them quite often, and they are not sugar per se. However, it does contain high cholesterol, which slowly builds up in the blood and worsens insulin sensitivity. More on eggs here:

Chai- time snacks, late-night snacking, inconsistent eating/sleeping patterns, and eating out are all non-sugar factors that are making your health worse.

Since nutrition and lifestyle play the most important role in managing Diabetes, we must learn about these foods. Once we identify them, we should limit them before it is too late. 

The most shocking thing I come across while working with clients is that most people do with diabetes do not even know what is causing diabetes. No one takes the time to explain the mechanism behind being diabetic. I have listed the same in detail on this blog here and highly insist you read the same:

Top 10 Food's to Avoid If You Have Diabetes.

Now that you understand the root- cause of diabetes, let's explore the foods to avoid in your daily nutrition plan. 

Dairy

More than 60% of the fatty acids in cow's milk and, consequently, in dairy products are saturated. Saturated fats further prevent your body from utilizing glucose. 

Saturated fats also contribute to worsening insulin sensitivity and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Dairy products like ghee, yogurt, and paneer are commonly used in Indian cuisine. Dairy consumption in childhood and the risk to Type 1 Diabetes is very strong. Moreover dairy is also a leading contributor to Type 2 Diabetes. 

But what about Ghee? watch this:

Insulin autoantibodies (IAAs) are often the first indicator of islet cell autoimmunity in children at risk of prediabetes. The presence of bovine insulin in cow's milk can lead to the development of insulin-binding antibodies in children who consume cow's milk formula. Essentially, this suggests that introducing cow's milk to infants may elevate their risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

As Dr Michael Greger says, 

Decades ago, published cross-country comparisons showed a tight correlation between milk consumption and the incidence of type 1 diabetes. 

The "analysis showed that 94% of the geographic variation in incidence might be explained by differences in milk consumption." 

Investigators in Finland, the country with the highest rates of type 1 diabetes and cow's milk consumption, led much of the research into this area.

Eggs

A whole egg contains 5g of fat, and 216 mg of cholesterol. Just to give you a reference, your per day intake of cholesterol must be 0. How amazing is it that we know eggs as protein-rich foods, while they contain almost fifty percent fats. A huge percentage of cholesterol is present in eggs separately. 

Eggs can be a devastating food choice for patients with obesity, metabolic disease, prediabetes, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and cardiovascular diseases.

 

Higher pre- pregnancy intake of cholesterol and saturated fats has been associated with an increased risk of developing Gestational Diabetes

Increased intake of foods containing animal fats results in high triglyceride and low HDL levels (good cholesterol). This picture sets you up for worsening blood sugar levels, insulin insensitivity, and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Meat

A study by Harvard investigated the relationship between red meat consumption and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that consumption of red meat, including processed and unprocessed red meat, was strongly associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants who ate the most red meat had a 62% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate the least.

High iron stores in meat have been associated with increased glucose intolerance and insulin insensitivity in the general population. As the serum ferritin levels tested higher, the subjects were more likely to have abdominal obesity. This association was significantly greater for heme iron (the type of iron found only in animals). 

Both iron intake and abdominal obesity independently release inflammatory cytokines in the body. This chronic inflammation, further, is the main culprit in the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

Oils

When navigating fats for good diabetes management, follow one rule. Choose foods with "good" unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid "bad" trans fats. 

An easier way to identify if a fat is good or not is to follow these rules:

  • Does it come from a plant
  • Is it in it's whole form

Nuts, seeds, whole olives, avocadoes etc would by the above logic be good fats. Oil's, eggs, cheese, nut butters etc would be the fat's to avoid.

Just a tbsp of oil could have as much as 12 grams of fat. For the best results, I suggest my clients stay below 30 grams of fat per day. That would literally be as little as a couple of spoons of oil and no other fat added to the diet.

Instead, focus on learning oil- free cooking techniques and eat your fats form nuts and seeds. Here is one oil- free cooking video for some inspiration:

Artificial Sweeteners

You might be choosing zero-calorie cold drinks over regular ones to avoid white sugar intake. Such zero-sugar foods contain synthetic sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame. While they will not instantly rise your blood sugar levels, they are certainly responsible for continuous sugar cravings and failing gut- health. 

One 8-year observational study found that people who drank more than 21 artificially sweetened beverages per week almost doubled their risk of being overweight.

The same study noted that total daily calorie intake was lower in individuals who drank diet beverages despite their increase in weight. This suggests that artificial sweeteners may influence body weight in other ways than calorie intake. 

A 14-year study of 66,118 women observed an association between drinking artificially sweetened beverages and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Think of the stevia and sucralose you add to your daily chai/ coffee. I suggest my clients omit honey, jaggery, brown sugar and maple syrup too. Stcik to whole dates if you must and eat enough whole fruits (not juices) through the day. Despite being sweet, fruit consumption is associated with an improvement in diabetic markers. 

Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks such as sodas are the biggest red flag for a diabetic and obese patient; in fact, equally so for anyone. 

High sugar intake brings all the risk factors, which include high calorie intake, inflammatory agents, increased total fat content, and more. You can always keep a bottle of fresh water with lemon, mint, cucumber, and all the good plants to keep your body on top of the antioxidants and electrolytes.

Refined Grains 

The single most detrimental food component in the Indian diet is refined grains. White bread, white flour, and white rice are staples. Refined grains is anything where the grain undergoes processing. Like polishing the grain of rice to remove the outer barn layer. 

Whole grains offer you the whole part of the grain, which includes fiber and minerals, while refined grains fill the portion up with starch (sugar) only. 

Replacing refined grains with whole grains is the first step anyone worried about their health must take to reduce weight and manage Diabetes more effectively. 

Just switching from white rice to brown rice alone can reduce fasting glucose by upto 20%. Switching to eating millets further reduces it by 36%!

Our body quickly absorbs processed grains such as white flour bread, which results in blood sugar spikes. It puts higher demand for insulin while the high blood sugar itself leads to cellular and organ damage.

Refined foods have low satiety, which means you feel hungry sooner and are prone to consuming more calories (possibly bad ones). 

Packaged Snacks and Processed Foods

Highly processed foods are high in calories and low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber content. They keep you full for a shorter time, and you will be eating a larger portion of a processed meal to feel full at a certain time. 

Packaged snacks contain preservatives, binding agents, trans fats, cholesterol, refined sugars, and even higher salt content. 

All these factors contribute to blood sugar spikes, weight gain, high triglyceride levels, hypertension, eventual kidney damage, and an increased risk of developing Diabetes.

Before you dismiss this point, thinking you do not consume any processed foods, might I point out at a few that we routinely include in your diet:

  • Ketchup
  • Maggie
  • Energy/ Protein Bars
  • Protein Powders and Supplements
  • Breakfast Cereals
  • Chai Time Nashta
  • Mid- night chips and Popcorn etc

Excessive Salt

Salt intake does not directly impact blood sugar levels. But it does increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and, subsequently, kidney damage and cardiovascular disease. Salt-induced risks add up to the baseline risks of diabetic complications. They considerably hasten the process of developing complications of Diabetes. Now before you stop using salt in your home- cooked meals, watch this:

Research indicates that diets with excessive salt intake are most often due to increased ratio of processed foods, packaged snacks, and red meat. All these together speed up the development of complications of Diabetes and worsen blood sugar management. 

Fried Foods

French fries, cheese sticks, and chicken strips! We are eating fried foods way more than we should be eating them. These fried foods are not only high in calories but also in saturated, trans fats. 

These do a great job of increasing blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels and total calorie intake. This eventually leads to obesity and increased basal inflammation. 

You can always choose healthier snacks such as vegetable sticks with hummus, fresh salads, banana chips, or air-fried potato chips.

Power Foods To Include In Your Diet.

I have a detailed article with specific recipes that can become a part of your daily nutrition. Here is a full list:

Now that we know what foods to avoid, here is a list of what foods to put on priority when you are planning meals:

Legumes and Pulses

Legumes are naturally low in fat and practically free of saturated fat. Because they are plant foods, they are cholesterol-free as well. Pulses and legumes are a good source of plant protein, thus, keeping you full for long hours.

But most importantly, Legumes and Pulses are responsible for something called the Second Meal Effect. Watch this:

Pulses are not only healthy for you, but rather a necessity if you have diabetes.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are a rich source of phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals. When you increase the content of whole grains in your nutrition, the fiber allows the glucose to be absorbed and released slowly into the blood. 

This enables the body to avoid sudden sugar spikes and also manage blood glucose levels more efficiently without the need for extra insulin.

What's more, countries across the world with the longest lifespans also have higher whole- grain consumption!

Fruits and Vegetables

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and digestive problems, and positively affect blood sugar. Vegetables and Fruits literally change your gut microbiome and optimize weight loss. 

Various different families of fruits and vegetables exist, each with hundreds of different beneficial plant compounds. Eat a variety of types and colors of produce to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs.

What I Suggest You Eat In A Day

To ease things out for you, here are some sample meal plan options for you:

Breakfast:

  • Sprouted Mung stir- fry with a bowl of fruits.
  • Herbal Tea

Lunch:

  • Start with a salad or sauteed veggies. Nearly 50% of your meal must be veggies or fruit. 
  • Pair this with any whole grain and lentil of your choice. Brown rice and lentil curry is an excellent option, so is a millet based chapati and curry.

Dinner:

  • Let 50% of your plate be filled with cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy etc. 
  • Rest can be a repeat from lunch. Avoid using flour's for dinner though and instead have whole millets as a replacement for rice. 

Evening Snack:

  • Nuts and fruits are an excellent option.

Beyond Food: A Holistic Approach

Dietary choices make a huge difference in the overall health and well-being of the body. However, a healthy lifestyle is not limited to changing a single factor. It needs to be holistic, sustainable, and one that covers the fort from maximum number of sides.

So, once you have committed to a plant-based diet and bid goodbye to the 'bad' fats, refined sugars, animal sources of iron and proteins, excessive salt, it is time to supplement and strengthen the plan. Here is what you are going to do:

  1. Include thirty minutes of exercise at least five days a week.
  2. Stay hydrated throughout the day. Use cucumber water with mint and lemon to keep your electrolytes in the best range.
  3. Avoid stress. Practice meditation and mindfulness to cope with emotions.
  4. work towards seven to eight hours of undisrupted, quality sleep. 

Conclusion

Changing your lifestyle might require effort and discipline in the beginning. But this investment will go a long way in preventing chronic diseases.

You can join my online program to stay connected and committed. Also, stay tuned to my blog for regular updates on the latest science on disease management. 

Let's Just Talk. No Obligations.

I do free consultations every Tuesday's and Thursday's. Either way you will get some actionable tips to reach your fitness goals faster.

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About Roshni Sanghvi

Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada.

She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.