Most foods can be part of your diet when you have diabetes, but limiting certain types may help support healthy blood glucose levels and reduce your risk for other chronic diseases.

Certain foods and drinks can raise your blood glucose and insulin levels and promote inflammation. These effects can increase your risk of prediabetes and diabetes.

Prediabetes and diabetes can increase your risk of other chronic conditions, including heart disease, kidney disease, and blindness.

Although you can eat most foods when living with prediabetes or diabetes, limiting certain foods and drinks may help manage your condition and reduce your risk of complications.

The foods and drinks you consume can help keep your blood glucose levels in the target range recommended by your healthcare team.

Table sugar (sucrose), honey, molasses, and corn syrup are examples of added sugars. They help improve the flavor, texture, and shelf life of baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and pies.

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as regular soda and fruit-flavored drinks are also significant sources of added sugars.

Consuming added sugars in large amounts has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. For those living with prediabetes or diabetes, limiting added sugars can help keep blood glucose levels in the target range.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar consumption to no more than 25 grams (g) or 6 teaspoons per day for women and 36 g or 9 teaspoons per day for men.

This amount doesn’t include naturally occurring sugars found in plain milk, fruits, and some vegetables.

Sugary beverages — such as cola, other sodas, fruit punch, lemonade (and other “-ades”), and some mixed drinks — are not ideal for people with prediabetes or diabetes.

These beverages provide empty calories and offer no nutrients. For instance, a 12-ounce (oz), or 354-milliliter (mL), can of cola contains 23.1 g of sugar.

The same amount of sweetened iced tea contains 35.3 g of sugar, while an 8-oz lemonade contains 28.1 g.

Moreover, these sugar-sweetened drinks do not provide the same degree of fullness as eating solid foods with the same number of calories.

Some research has found that visceral fat deposited in the midsection might lead to metabolic changes such as insulin resistance, increased levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and a greater risk of fatty liver disease.

Limiting added sugar consumption may help reduce glucose levels, blood fat levels, and the risk of fatty liver disease.

What about energy drinks?

Some energy drinks contain as much added sugar as regular sodas. For example, one 8.4-oz can of an energy drink contains 26.3 g of carbohydrates exclusively from sugars.

Some are sugar-free, but all of them typically contain caffeine and other stimulants, such as taurine, ginseng, guarana, L-carnitine, and L-tartrate.

Caffeine and other stimulants can increase your blood pressure and may interact with many medications. It’s best to check with a healthcare professional before using these beverages regularly.

Although sports drinks are intended to provide fluid, carbohydrates, and electrolytes to athletes and people who engage in high intensity exercises, they can be an additional source of added sugars for others.

But lower sugar sports drinks are available. These may be helpful if you live in a hot climate, participate in strenuous sports or work activities, or are recovering from a stomach bug.

Coffee has been linked to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes. However, flavored coffee drinks should be viewed as liquid desserts rather than healthy beverages.

Like other sugary drinks, flavored coffees provide empty calories and offer no nutrients. Drinking these beverages without changing your diet to account for the calories could lead to weight gain.

For example, a 16-oz black coffee is a calorie-free beverage, but a 16-oz (473-mL) Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks contains 380 calories and 54 g of added sugar, and a Blonde Vanilla Latte of the same size has 250 calories and 35 g of added sugar.

You can order these coffee beverages with low- or no-calorie syrups and sweeteners and fat-free milk products to drastically reduce the calorie and sugar content.

To help keep your glucose levels within the target range and prevent weight gain, you can opt for plain coffee or espresso or ask for a lower sugar flavoring.

While trans fats are naturally present in small quantities in meat, butter, and milk, artificial trans fats are unhealthy. The latter are created by changing liquid oils to a solid form.

Trans fats are commonly used to improve texture and flavor and extend shelf life in commercial baked goods such as crackers and muffins, as well as fried foods, packaged snacks, and frozen foods.

Although trans fats do not directly raise blood glucose levels, they have been linked to increased inflammation, insulin resistance, and belly fat, as well as lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels and impaired arterial function.

Artificial trans fats have been outlawed in most countries. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of partially hydrogenated oil — the major source of artificial trans fat in the food supply — in most processed foods.

However, this doesn’t mean that all foods in the United States are now free of artificial trans fats. Manufacturers are not required to list trans fats on the Nutrition Facts label if a product contains less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving.

When possible, avoid products that contain the words “partially hydrogenated” in their ingredient list.

Current guidelines for alcohol consumption recommend a limit of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

If you have diabetes, you may want to limit alcohol consumption or avoid it entirely, as it may limit your liver’s ability to release glucose. This may cause low blood sugar levels several hours after alcohol consumption — especially if you consume alcohol without food.

Alcohol may also interfere with certain diabetes medications.

You can consult a healthcare professional to learn more about alcohol’s potential effects on your individual health conditions and determine whether any amount of alcohol can safely be a part of your diet.

Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are the macronutrients that provide your body with energy and support it in carrying out essential functions. Carbohydrates, in particular, are your body’s primary fuel source.

Carbohydrates come in different forms, including starches, sugars, and fiber. All carbohydrates except for fiber are broken down into glucose.

With the help of insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, glucose is transported from your bloodstream to your body’s cells and used as energy.

However, when you have type 2 diabetes, which makes up 90–95% of diabetes cases, your body cannot efficiently remove glucose from your bloodstream. This leads to high blood glucose levels.

High blood glucose levels cause your pancreas to make more insulin. Over time, your pancreas may wear out and produce little to no insulin.

If you have diabetes, it is advisable to pay close attention to what you eat — especially the types and number of carbohydrates you include in your diet — to help manage your blood glucose levels.

Doing so will also prevent sharp increases and decreases in your blood glucose level and reduce your risk of long-term complications.

While having diabetes or prediabetes does not necessarily mean you need to entirely avoid certain foods or food groups, choosing less of certain types of food may help support healthy blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of other chronic health conditions.

If you need support related to your condition, you can reach out to a healthcare professional, your family, and your social network. In addition, Healthline’s free app Bezzy T2D can connect you with other people living with type 2 diabetes. You can download the app for iPhone or Android.

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