Foods, Prediabetes

Healthy Eating for Prediabetes

Healthy Eating for Prediabetes
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

According to Mayo Clinic, prediabetes is a condition when blood sugar, or blood glucose, is higher than normal. Prediabetes is a warning sign that type 2 diabetes is likely to develop within years, but that warning could be life changing in a wonderful way. 

That’s because if you have prediabetes, certain lifestyle changes can lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In particular, if you are overweight, losing weight and choosing a healthy diet can lower risk for diabetes by over 50%! Do you know what it means to eat healthy, and do you know how to eat healthy, if you have prediabetes? Here is an overview.

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What Does It Mean to Eat Well for Prediabetes?

Healthy eating for prediabetes is designed to lower blood sugar. According to the CDC, what you eat can affect your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A good prediabetes diet can:

The tricks are to control portion sizes, and to select healthy foods.

Weight Loss Tips with Prediabetes

  • Increase portion sizes of non-starchy vegetables, such as salads and raw and cooked vegetables.
  • Limit portion sizes of high-calorie foods without many nutrients, such as fried foods, desserts, and creamy condiments.
  • Emphasize lower-calorie foods, such as vegetables, lean proteins, and fruit.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Look for fiber and protein to fill you up.

Good and Bad Foods for Prediabetes

The best foods for prediabetes promote weight control and help improve your body’s insulin response. Research published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, as well as an article in Preventive Medicine, found that people had a lower risk for diabetes when their diets were higher in:

  • Fiber, especially from whole grains, but also in vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans.
  • Magnesium, which is in vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Caffeine, such as in coffee and black and green tea.
  • Whole grains, such as oats, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, popcorn, and whole-grain pasta.
  • Vegetables and fruit.
  • Healthy fats, such as vegetable oils, avocados, and nuts.

In addition, the Linus Pauling Institute suggests that eating more legumes, such as beans and lentils, can improve control of blood sugar.

On the other hand, bad foods for prediabetes can increase risk for type 2 diabetes by contributing to weight gain, raising blood sugar, or increasing insulin resistance. These can include:

  • Processed meats.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages and foods.
  • Fatty red meat.
  • Refined grains, such as white bread, rice, and pasta, and refined cereal.

Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming at least 7 servings of fried food per week was associated with 55% greater risk of diabetes. Eating 1 to 3 servings was linked to 15% greater risk compared to less than once weekly.

Healthy Diets for Prediabetes

The best prediabetes diet to lower blood sugar is one that helps you control your weight, is rich in nutrient-dense foods, and limits nutrient-poor, calorie-dense foods. It also needs to be something that you can follow for the long-term, as managing blood sugar is a lifelong undertaking.

The Best Diet for Prediabetes

Is… Includes… Limits…
  • Full of foods you love
  • Easy to fit into your lifestyle
  • Simple
  • Flexible enough to include treats and special occasions
  • Is balanced and varied
  • Possible without buying special “diet” foods
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes (beans peas, lentils)
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Reduced-fat dairy products
  • Processed meats
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Added sugars, such as in desserts and sweetened foods
  • Refined starches, such as white pasta, bread, and rice
  • Fatty red meats
  • Excess unhealthy fats, such as palm oil and butter

There are many healthy diets for prediabetes. It turns out, according to a review article published in The Lancet, that it probably does not which one you follow. It can be low-glycemic, vegetarian, Mediterranean, or carb-controlled, for example. In fact, the prediabetes diet for you is the one that works best for you. 

These are just a few examples of dietary approaches that can lower blood sugar.

  • Mediterranean diet. This type of eating emphasizes heart-healthy olive oil, vegetables, whole grains, and moderation.
  • Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) does not just lower blood pressure as originally intended. It can also improve insulin sensitivity, according to research in Diabetes Spectrum. Compared to the typical American diet, it is lower in sweets and red meat, and higher in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Plate Method. This simple approach is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Diabetes Association. Just fill your plate half-full with vegetables, one-quarter full with a lean protein such as fish or chicken, and one-quarter full with a high-fiber carbohydrate, such as a whole grain, starchy vegetable, or fruit.

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Regardless of which you follow, it appears that they have a similar effect. In one meta-analysis published in the journal Endocrine, people who followed a generally healthy diet, regardless of the specific plan, lowered their risk for diabetes by about 20%.

Preventing Diabetes through Diet and Other Lifestyle Changes

Lark’s Diabetes Prevention Program can help you follow the best diet to prevent prediabetes. Lark’s weight loss coaching focuses on small, effective changes that work for you, and Lark’s holistic approach is designed to improve overall well-being while lowering risk for type 2 diabetes.