The Best Diet for Diabetes

The aim of managing diabetes is to normalise blood sugar levels so that you experience fewer complications. Food affects blood sugar levels however there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet for diabetes that works for everyone.

When we consider the evidence, we have seen that a number of simple changes to your diet can reduce HbA1c by 0.5%. This is a similar reduction that is seen from medication and is associated with a lower risk of diabetic complications (Brinkworth 2004, UKPDS 13 1995).

It is possible to take greater control of your blood sugar levels with some simple changes to food and eating habits. Many of diets for diabetes will also have bonus benefits for your heart health through increasing your good cholesterol (HDL) and reducing your bad cholesterols (LDLs and Triglycerides). An Accredited Practising Dietitian can advise on the right diet for you and your lifestyle. A recent systematic review (Olubukola 2013) of all the evidence found the diets for diabetes that have shown to be most effective include:

  • Low Glycaemic Index (GI)
  • Mediterranean
  • High-protein diets
  • Low carbohydrate
Heidi Luxton, Diabetes Diet and Gold Coast Dietitian

Low Glycaemic Index (GI) Diet

Foods that contain carbohydrates have a GI which is a number used to rank and score foods according to the effect they will have on your blood sugar levels. A Low GI diet can not only reduce your HcA1c but it can increase your good cholesterol levels, even out your blood sugar levels, keep you feeling fuller for longer and help you lose weight.  A dietitian can help you find low GI foods that you can swap into your current diet without difficult restrictions.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruit and vegetables, lower in meat and meat products and with moderate amounts of dairy products (mostly cheese and yoghurt), fish and wine. Like the other diet options, this has been shown to lower blood sugars, lead to more weight loss and improvement in cholesterol levels. This can be a very enjoyable diet for diabetes but advise from a dietitian will ensure that you get the right types and amounts of each of the food groups without weight gain and maximise the health benefits.

High-Protein Diets

These diets provide up to a third of your calories from protein and have shown a reduction in HbA1c concentrations. It is thought that the effect may be because a high-protein diet can suppress your appetite and improve insulin sensitivity. High-protein diets for diabetes need careful consideration and monitoring to prevent unnecessary and excessive protein intake which may have longer-term impacts on organs such as kidneys.

Low Carb Diets

This diet restricts carbohydrates to 20-60g/day and has shown to lead to weight loss, improve blood sugars and improve your cholesterol levels. This type of diet for diabetes can be challenging and restrictive at first so getting help from a dietitian initially will ensure you are getting the right balance of nutrients you need for good health as well as ensure you have enough energy for your lifestyle.

So how do you get started on the right diabetic diet for you?

Choosing the right diet for you is a personal decision which should take into consideration your lifestyle, food preferences and medical history. A dietitian can guide you through that process and identify the diet for diabetes that is most likely to work for you as well as provide lots of practical information to get you started and stay on track such as recipes, meal plans and shopping guides.

These are our dietitians with specialist experience and knowledge in finding your perfect diet for diabetes.

Heidi Luxton, Diabetes Diet and Gold Coast Dietitian

Heidi Luxton, Accredited Practising Dietitian

Molly Warner, Diabetes Diet and Gold Coast Dietitian

Molly Warner, Accredited Practising Dietitian

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