Type 2 Diabetes: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid

Renée Naturally Qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist & Western Medical Herbalist

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting around 90% of New Zealand diabetes sufferers. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin (the pancreatic hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood) in small quantities, but not enough to fuel the cells. Insulin is what lets your cells turn glucose from the food you eat, into energy for your body. With type 2 diabetes, cells also become resistant to what little insulin there is in the bloodstream (this is commonly referred to as insulin resistance).

Most commonly, this type of diabetes is seen in later years. However, we are now seeing an alarming number of children diagnosed with this condition. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include; poor diet, obesity, lack or exercise, age and hereditary factors. In both prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes, diet is of primary importance. Often people with type 2 diabetes can initially manage their condition through exercise and diet, however, over time many people will require oral drugs and or insulin. Below are some general dietary guidelines for prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.

Before making any major changes to your diet, please speak to your doctor about what is right for your situation.

Foods to Eat

  • Aim for foods with a low glycemic load. Low glycemic foods only cause a modest rise in blood sugar and are better choices for people with diabetes (You can read more about the glycemic index/load and what foods are best, here http://www.glycemicindex.com/)
  • Onions and garlic have demonstrated blood sugar lowering action in several studies and can help to reduce the risk of diabetes-related cardiovascular disease.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet that includes plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps to reduce blood sugar surges.
  • Include spirulina into your diet as it can help to stabilize blood sugar levels. It can be added in powder form to green smoothies or taken in tablet or capsule form.
  • Frequent consumption of legumes (ie. lentils, chickpeas) is important
  • The fat and proteins consumed should primarily come from plant sources. Consuming animal meat fats increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (people with diabetes are particularly prone to heart disease), Plant-based fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado are associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk. Fat also contributes to feelings of satiety (satisfaction after a snack/meal) and can play a role in managing overeating and carbohydrate cravings.
  • Healthy protein options include; Legumes, eggs, fish and seafood, organic dairy products, peas, tofu, lean meats (such as turkey and skinless chicken).
  • Eat complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, whole fruit, vegetables, beans, and lentils.

Foods to Avoid

  • Avoid simple/refined carbohydrates such as sugar, pasta, white bread, white rice, cookies, pastries, alcohol and juices.
  • Avoid trans fats, high-fat animal products, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and any highly processed foods.
  • Avoid char-grilled/burnt meats. These are high in advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which perpetuate damaged cell receptors and can cause further insulin resistance.
  • Reduce salt intake. This helps to lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of a heart attack or stroke (two diseases that are commonly associated with Type 2 diabetes).
  • Avoid pre-packaged frozen meals. These meals are usually loaded with salt, as a flavour enhancer and also to help preserve them.
  • Avoid honey, maple syrup, and rice malt syrup. Although these sound healthy as they are “all natural,” they will still spike your blood sugar just as pure fructose would!
  • Avoid dried fruit. Although it contains fibre and many nutrients, the dehydration process removes the water, so you are a left with a very concentrated sugary sweet treat! Choose low-glycemic fresh fruit instead like berries or grapefruit.

Effective treatment of diabetes usually requires the professionally supported integration of a wide range of therapies and a willingness to significantly improve diet and lifestyle.


Do not come off or change any diabetic medicine without first consulting with your doctor.

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