Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is chronically high, just not so high as to be classified as actual diabetes. But the condition comes with health risks just the same, not the least of which is the much higher chance of developing full blown type 2 diabetes.
When that happens, you will need to monitor your blood sugar every single day and give yourself injections of insulin when necessary. You’ll be at greater risk for diseases affecting the heart, kidneys, and pancreas, as well as strokes. The overall lifespan for a diabetic tends to be about 10 years shorter than the average.
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, it is important to make lifestyle changes right away. When you do, you can avoid diabetes and actually reverse the prediabetes entirely. If you are overweight (one of the major risk factors for prediabetes), shedding just 10-15 pounds can greatly improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.
In order to combat prediabetes, your best strategy is to eat like you already have diabetes. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely worth it. Following are the 7 worst foods to eat if you have prediabetes. Work on eliminating these from your diet and you’ll be on the right track. Don’t worry – we’ve also got healthier alternatives that can help give you what you’ll be missing.
1. Sugary Foods
No surprise here. Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s insulin becomes overwhelmed by the sugar in your bloodstream and can no longer process it into energy. Diabetics and prediabetics alike must be careful about eating sugar to avoid dangerous spikes in blood glucose levels. That means eschewing things that have a ton of sugar but no redeeming nutritional value, like candy, soda, and baked desserts.
However, our bodies truly need sugar to fuel all life processes, so you don’t need to avoid it all together. The important thing is to enjoy your sweet treats mostly in the form of fruit. Fruit contains fiber along with sugar, which can moderate the rate at which the sugar hits your blood stream. If you have a high-protein snack along with your fruit, you will make even better use of that sugar.
2. Fruit Juice
While fruit is your best option for sweetness, drinking it in the form of juice just isn’t healthy. That’s because juice has all the sugar in fruit but none of the fiber. The sugar is also more concentrated in juice than you’d find in the whole fruit. The result of drinking juice is a skyrocketing blood sugar level.
Fruit juice also doesn’t tend to make you feel as full as whole fruit does (fiber plays a huge role in satiety). That can lead to overeating, or simply forgetting about those sugary calories when you plan your next meal. To enjoy fruit flavor without overdoing the sugar, try sparkling water with just a splash of juice added.
3. White Rice, Bread, and Flour
Even food that doesn’t necessarily taste sweet can break down into sugar in your system. This is certainly the case with refined starches. Things like white flour are processed so heavily that all of the original fiber, minerals, and vitamins are stripped away, leaving a product that is digested very quickly, hitting your bloodstream like a ton of bricks.
It is important to avoid foods like white bread, most pasta, and white rice for this reason. Better choices include whole grains like brown or wild rice and whole grain breads and pastas. You still can’t overdo it on carbs of any kind, but you can enjoy a normal portion of these whole grain products without sending your blood sugar into overdrive.
4. Full-Fat Dairy Products
Diabetes brings with it a higher risk for many additional diseases, including heart and cardiovascular concerns. High cholesterol, also a major risk factor for heart disease, therefore exacerbates the damage done by diabetes. But that’s not all. Studies have shown that a diet high in saturated fat can actually worsen insulin resistance, making it that much harder to reverse prediabetes.
It is better to skip full fat dairy products like yogurt, cream, cream cheese, butter, and ice cream. Luckily, there are low-fat or reduced fat versions of these products that you can still enjoy in moderation. Avocado and coconut milk are alternative foods that can provide the smooth mouth-feel of fat without a ton of it.
5. Fried Foods
Fried foods are problematic because they are loaded with fat and calories and quickly pack pounds onto your frame. Different fried foods affect your blood sugar differently, however. For example, French fries will spike your blood sugar more than fried chicken, because potatoes are largely carbohydrate while chicken contains more protein. Still, it is the preparation of these foods that is problematic.
Both chicken and potatoes can be very healthy when prepared differently. When fried, the extra fat content slows down the absorption of sugar, but doesn’t moderate it in the same way as fiber. Instead, you are likely to be hit with a huge spike at an unpredictable time. For all these reasons, fried foods are better off avoided.
Alcohol is something that you need to consume in moderation when you are fighting prediabetes. Different types of alcohol contain varying levels of sugar and can cause your blood sugar to either rise or fall. Studies show that people who drink a lot of alcohol are at higher risk for diabetes, and your risk with prediabetes is already elevated.
When you do consume alcohol, choose lower-sugar drinks like wine or spritzers, which are diluted with sparkling water. And to lower your risk of blood sugar issues as well as a host of problems like cancer and liver disease, limit yourself to no more than one drink per day (for women) or two drinks per day (for men).
7. Fatty Cuts of Meat
Certain cuts of meat are too high in saturated fat to be healthy. Beyond that, studies suggest that components in red and processed meats, especially sodium, can increase diabetes risk by causing insulin resistance. The nitrates in processed meat specifically are known to negatively affect the pancreas, which produces the insulin you need to convert sugar to fuel.
To combat prediabetes, avoid the fattiest steaks including filet mignon, T-bone, and porterhouse and instead eat leaner cuts like top round, eye of round, and top sirloin in moderation. Even better is to rely on proteins like skinless chicken and turkey, fish, and pork tenderloin.
In the end, reversing prediabetes comes down to moderation. You don’t necessarily have to avoid everything but plain, bland foods, but you will be better off cutting out certain things that have no redeeming nutritional value.
Find a new way to prepare your favorite fried dishes. Amp up the spices to enjoy flavor without fat. Transition off of sodas and onto homemade sparkling beverages made with water and just a dash of fruit flavor. There are lots of small, incremental steps you can take to improve your diet, shed excess pounds, and be much healthier overall. Soon, prediabetes will be a blip in your review mirror.