How different types of foods affect diabetes

Food has a direct effect on blood glucose. Some foods raise blood glucose more than others. An important part of managing diabetes is to know what and how much to eat. Follow an eating plan that fits your lifestyle while helping to control blood glucose. The three main nutrients found in foods are carbohydrates (carbs), proteins, and fats.

Carbohydrates (Carbs)1,2,3

The main purpose of carbs in the diet is to provide energy as your body’s main fuel source. Carbs, combined with the amount of insulin you have in your body, determine your blood sugar levels and have a big impact on how you feel.

Carbs are the starches, sugar, and fiber in foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, milk products and sweets. They raise blood glucose faster and higher than other nutrients in foods (proteins and fats). Knowing what foods contain carbs and the amount of carbs in a meal is helpful for blood glucose control.

Choosing carbs from healthy sources like vegetables, fruits and whole grains (high fiber) are preferred over carbs from sources with added sugars (like soft drinks, fruit drinks, cakes and candy), fat, and salt.

Carbohydrate counting is a method to measure all carbohydrates consumed during meals and snacks that contribute to blood glucose. Carbohydrate counting, or “carb counting,” helps many people with diabetes manage their food intake and blood sugar.

Tracking and totaling the number of grams consumed is a common way to monitor your carb intake. This often requires a diary and writing down the number of grams of carb after each meal or snack and then adding up the total for the day.


In addition to carbohydrates, protein must be monitored. Proteins are the primary part of each cell and are required for the function of body tissue and organs. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are broken down in the liver and converted to sugar to be used for energy.

Proteins are a necessary part of a balanced diet, can keep you from feeling hungry, and help with sugar cravings. They do not directly raise your glucose like carbs. However, to prevent weight gain, use portion control with proteins. In people with type 2 diabetes, protein makes insulin work faster, so it may not be a good idea to treat low blood sugar with protein shakes or mixes.

rotein-packed foods to eat include beans, legumes, eggs, seafood, low-fat dairy, peas, tofu/soy products, lean meats and poultry, as well as nuts and seeds.


Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and maintain body temperature. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too.

Dietary fats also play a major role in cholesterol levels and ultimately diabetes-related cardiovascular (heart) disease. They do not raise blood glucose but are high in calories and can cause weight gain. Fats are a necessary part of a balanced diet, especially healthy fats from fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados.

The total daily fat recommendation for adults is 20% to 35% of your total calorie intake. Less than 10% of your daily fat calories should come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. To lower saturated fat intake, unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil, are recommended.

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