Diet for diabetes: Which foods are allowed?

First, the good news: Even if you have diabetes, you don’t have to stop eating your favourite foods altogether going forward. However, diabetics need to abide by a few rules. I will explain what “diabetes” is and provide advice on the best diet for diabetics.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease caused by a lack of insulin.

A distinction is made between two main forms:

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin produced by the cells in the pancreas, and is not curable.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance or disturbed insulin secretion, which can be triggered by hereditary predispositions and other factors.

  • overweight
  • lack of exercise
  • Unbalanced diet
  • Smoking

Type 2 diabetes can be treated with exercise, diet, and medication, but if not, insulin must be used.

Why is diet important in diabetes?

Diet plays a key role in diabetes, as it takes in nutrients that cause blood sugar to rise. Pay attention to the foods you eat to control your blood sugar.

Type 1 diabetes sufferers need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and know how many carbohydrates, fats, and fibre are in their meals to accurately calculate the right amount of insulin.

Change your diet to manage type 2 diabetes and reduce body weight, which is often a contributing factor to the disease.

A reduced-calorie, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet can help people with type 2 diabetes stop taking medication and improve their health.

Nutritional basics for diabetics

The most important idea is to strive for a healthy and balanced diet, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.

The following points must be observed:

  • The energy requirement of normal-weight diabetics is the same as that of healthy people.
  • Being overweight can have a negative impact on the disease. Aim for a normal weight.
  • Food should be consumed that does not increase blood sugar too much.
  • Ingredients are not taboo per se, but should only be consumed to a limited extent.

Carbohydrates in moderation

People with type 1 diabetes must be aware of how many carbohydrates they are consuming, as this affects the dosage of insulin.

The diet should provide 45–60% of the energy from carbohydrates, with no artificial sugar added, and fibre is ideally used.

A carbohydrate-reduced diet is recommended for those who do not reach their blood sugar target values, reducing the carbohydrate portion of the total energy.

The glycemic index

If you have diabetes, your sugar supply should be as even as possible. Both high and low blood sugar can have a negative effect on the metabolism in the long term.

The blood sugar-raising effect of carbohydrates is recorded by the glycemic index (GI). With a high GI, blood sugar rises rapidly. Therefore, diabetics should focus on a low GI diet. Especially foods rich in fibre have a low value.

Lots of fibre

Plant-based foods with fiber should be consumed to slow the rise in blood sugar levels, with 40 grams a day being ideal.

The following foods provide a lot of fiber:

  • Vegetables like cabbage or carrots
  • Legumes such as lentils and beans
  • whole grain products, e.g. E.g. wholemeal bread
  • Fruit, including apples and pears

Attention: Fruits should always be eaten in small amounts so that the fructose does not drive up the blood sugar.

Sugar in diabetes

Sugar should be limited to 5 teaspoons a day, as too much can lead to high blood sugar levels or weight gain.

Sugar is usually understood to be simple sugar, such as glucose or fructose. This is added to many finished products, drinks, and sweets. But it is also naturally contained in fruit, honey, and fruit juices.

Sweetener as an alternative?

Sweeteners are not always the best solution, as they can have negative effects on the microbiome of the intestine and blood sugar. 

Protein as a satiating agent

Proteins are essential for muscle building and blood formation, and should provide 10%-20% of total energy for diabetics.

Good sources of protein include:

  • meat and fish
  • Dairy products
  • legumes

Caution: If you suffer from kidney damage, it may be necessary to reduce the protein content of your food. Talk to your doctor or nurse about it.

The right fat amount of fat

Fat should make up 25%–30% of energy intake, with vegetable fats being more recommended than animal fats.

Additional diet tips for diabetes:

  • Reduce the amount of salt in your diet and use more herbs and spices instead.
  • Drink mostly water and unsweetened tea. Sugary drinks increase glucose levels.
  • Drink as little alcohol as possible. This lowers blood sugar and can therefore increase the risk of hypoglycaemia. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories and can thus promote obesity.



4th Professional Medical Student. Karachi Medical and Dental College.

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