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

Certain foods and drinks can raise 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.

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

Read on to learn about five types of foods and drinks you can eat while living with diabetes and five you may want to avoid.

You can eat most foods when living with prediabetes or diabetes, but some are particularly healthy.

Fiber-rich foods

Consuming enough fiber can help you stay full longer and avoid the fatigue that comes from eating sugary foods. Many fiber-rich foods also have a low glycemic index (GI). Examples include non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Protein-rich foods

Eating lean protein can help fill you up and provide important muscle energy. You can eat all lean meats — including lean beef, pork, and poultry — as well as fish and plant protein sources.


Fruits provide many important vitamins and minerals along with antioxidants and fiber. They’re a source of carbohydrates, but all fruits have a low to medium GI and can be part of your healthy eating plan.

Healthy fats

Your body does need fat, so it’s essential to include these in your diet. Olive oil and avocado are examples of healthy fat sources.

Unsweetened drinks

You don’t have to stick to water if you have prediabetes or diabetes. You can drink tea or coffee if it doesn’t contain sugar. Coffee has been linked to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes.

Opt for plain coffee or espresso or a low-sugar flavoring to help keep your glucose levels within the target range and prevent weight gain.

You can also drink flavored, unsweetened sparkling waters or sugar-free beverages.

The foods you can eat may vary based on whether you have prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, or type 2 diabetes. Your metabolism may also play a role, so it’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian about your best eating plan.

Limiting certain foods and drinks may help you manage your condition and reduce your risk of complications.

Foods with added sugars

Limiting added sugars can help keep your blood glucose levels in the target range. Examples include baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and pies.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar consumption to 25 grams or 6 teaspoons per day for women and 36 grams or 9 teaspoons per day for men.

Sugar-sweetened beverages

Sweetened drinks such as sodas, flavored coffee drinks, many energy drinks, fruit punch, lemonade (and other “-ades”), and some mixed drinks provide empty calories and offer no nutrients. Limiting these may help lower your glucose, blood fat, and chance of developing fatty liver disease.

Foods with saturated fats

Consuming saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels and your chance of heart disease. The American Diabetes Association recommends ensuring that no more than 10% of your daily calories come from saturated fats.

Some foods containing saturated fats are high fat meat and dairy products, poultry skin, and oils such as palm and coconut.


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 or avoid alcohol consumption, as it may limit your liver’s ability to release glucose. Alcohol may also interfere with certain diabetes medications.

Ultra-processed foods

This category includes foods high in added sugars, refined grains, unhealthy fats, preservatives, and salt.

Ultra-processed foods also contain ingredients you would not add to your food, such as high fructose corn syrup. Eating these foods significantly increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

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 multiple forms, including starches, sugars, and fiber. All carbohydrates except fiber are broken down into glucose in your body.

Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, helps transport glucose from your bloodstream to your body’s cells, where the glucose can be used for 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 insulin.

If you have diabetes, paying close attention to what you eat — especially the types and number of carbohydrates you include — is advisable 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.

Having diabetes or prediabetes does not necessarily mean you need to entirely avoid certain foods or food groups. But consuming 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 contact 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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