Diabetes Type 2 And Nutrition

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is one of the chronic health conditions associated with raised blood glucose levels, also called blood sugar, in the human body. To get a little background about the disease, let us first understand some of the basic concepts. 

Glucose present in the blood is the main source of energy for humans, and it is produced from the food that we eat on a daily basis. The action to transfer glucose into the body cells is performed by insulin, which is one of the basic hormones secreted by the pancreas.1 Diabetes occurs when insulin is inadequate to transfer glucose from the blood into the cells causing elevated blood glucose levels. 

There are two basic types of DM, type 1 and type 2. Both of these are related to the production and effectiveness of insulin in the body.  

What is diabetes type 2?

Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) is a condition when our body fails to regulate and utilise the blood sugar (glucose) as a source of energy. The physiology behind this is that either the pancreas is incapable of producing enough insulin to cover the role of transportation or that the cells and tissues are not functioning well towards the insulin to take up the glucose. This process is also known as insulin resistance.

A study revealed that globally around 366 million (8.3%) people in the age bracket 20-79 years suffered from T2DM, and around 4.6 million people died because of the disease in 2011. Researchers expect the number of cases will upsurge to 552 million (9.9%) by 2030.2

Diabetes can be lethal at one end, but on the other, the disease can be managed by introducing some lifestyle changes to prevent its complications. Modifications in your diet can regulate the blood sugar levels in the body, hence making diabetes manageable.

Poor diet is a risk factor for diabetes type 2

A poor diet is associated with nutritional imbalances such as excessive fats and simple carbohydrate intake and insufficient dietary fibre, which may lead to obesity. As more fat molecules deposit in our blood, our cells become overwhelmed and fail to function normally due to lipotoxicity. Consequently, cells can no longer respond to insulin which eventually contributes as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. 

Many studies in the past have identified that T2DM is strongly connected with an increased intake of carbohydrates and fats. Some researchers also identified the direct link between heavy consumption of sugars in the form of carbonated drinks and increased risk of obesity. This is ultimately related to the development of type 2 diabetes.2

So, it is advisable to maintain good body weight by healthy eating and cutting down our fat and sugar intake to avoid the risks of the disease. 

Diet high in simple sugars worsens symptoms and management of diabetes type 2

Simple carbohydrates (simple sugars) present in the diet are harmful to type 2 diabetics. Simple sugars are made of one or two chemical components, hence they are easy to be broken down and absorbed in the blood. This results in an increased amount of sugar in the blood. Some studies showed that over-intake of sugars like fructose could reduce the body's responsiveness towards insulin.3 Eventually, minor symptoms of T2DM will shift into major ones and most of the management regimes will become less effective or unhelpful. 

Simple sugars are present in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and milk. However, they are also artificially added to foods for adding sweetness. It is recommended to eat such foods in low quantities.

Diabetes type 2-friendly foods

There are many different types of food that type 2 diabetes people can include in their routine: 

Foods with a low glycaemic index

The glycaemic index (GI) is a rating system that determines how rapidly foods comprised of carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels.4 Foods that are rated with low GI tend to break down slowly; thus, there is no rapid increase in blood sugar levels. This is why including these items in your routine diet is considered a healthy option. 

Some of these eatables include whole grain bread, bran cereals, brown rice, oatmeal, and some vegetables like beans, peas, lentils, broccoli, and cauliflower. Fruits like apples, peaches, pears, oranges, grapefruits, etc., are suggested as well. Dairy products like skimmed or 1% milk, low-fat yoghurt, and soy beverages are good options too.5

Complex carbohydrates

Opposite of simple carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates. Since they are made up of multiple chemical structures, they are not digested quickly releasing fewer sugars in the blood. Therefore, they are considered key role players in type 2 diabetes management.6

Fruits like apples, blueberries, papaya, and pumpkin are some of the options in this category. Other than this adding lentils, sweet potatoes, yoghurt, quinoa, and barley is directed too. 

Fatty fish

Seafood contains nutrients like Omega-3 and 6, which are beneficial for a person’s overall health. They specifically aid in managing obesity and type 2 diabetes. These nutrients, when taken along with anti-diabetic medications, assist in reducing extra fats from the body, hence alleviating the symptoms and improving the health condition of type 2 diabetics.7

Salmon, herring, anchovies, and mackerel are some of the seafood which has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in them. Consuming these fats on a routine basis is particularly vital for patients with diabetes and those with an increased risk of heart disease. 

Nitrate-rich foods

Nitrate/Nitrite present naturally supports cells and tissues to take glucose from the blood, simultaneously helping to regulate the action of insulin in the body. These nutrients, when taken in the dietary form, will perform the same role as organic nitrates and prevent the complications of diabetes.8

Vegetables like beets, lettuce, celery, and green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, and arugula) are rich in nitrates. Other than these, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, pumpkin, and strawberries are also suggested, but they contain relatively lower amounts of nitrates. 


Diabetes is a health condition that continues for a lifetime, but proper measures, specifically improving the dietary lifestyle, can control the symptoms and prevent people from major problems. Effective education about nutrition will help people make changes in their food consumption and preparation to prevent the inception and complications of diabetes. 


  1. What is diabetes? | niddk [Internet]. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. [cited 2022 Oct 11]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes
  2. Sami W, Ansari T, Butt NS, Hamid MRA. Effect of diet on type 2 diabetes mellitus: A review. Int J Health Sci (Qassim) [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 11];11(2):65–71. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5426415/
  3. Macdonald IA. A review of recent evidence relating to sugars, insulin resistance and diabetes. Eur J Nutr [Internet]. 2016 Nov 1 [cited 2022 Oct 11];55(2):17–23. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1340-8
  4. What is the glycaemic index (Gi)? [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2018 [cited 2022 Oct 11]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/food-and-diet/what-is-the-glycaemic-index-gi/
  5. Asif M. The prevention and control the type-2 diabetes by changing lifestyle and dietary pattern. J Educ Health Promot [Internet]. 2014 Feb 21 [cited 2022 Oct 11];3:1. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3977406/
  6. Bonsembiante L, Targher G, Maffeis C. Type 2 diabetes and dietary carbohydrate intake of adolescents and young adults: what is the impact of different choices? Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 Sep 24 [cited 2022 Oct 11];13(10):3344. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8537173/
  7. Chauhan S, Kodali H, Noor J, Ramteke K, Gawai V. Role of omega-3 fatty acids on lipid profile in diabetic dyslipidaemia: single blind, randomised clinical trial. J Clin Diagn Res [Internet]. 2017 Mar [cited 2022 Oct 11];11(3):OC13–6. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5427353/
  8. Bahadoran Z, Ghasemi A, Mirmiran P, Azizi F, Hadaegh F. Beneficial effects of inorganic nitrate/nitrite in type 2 diabetes and its complications. Nutr Metab (Lond) [Internet]. 2015 May 16 [cited 2022 Oct 11];12:16. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4436104/

Amira Samnani

Bachelor of Science in Nursing- The Aga Khan University Hospital, Pakistan

Amira is a Registered Nurse with demonstrated clinical experience of working in health care industry. She has a 4 years of experience as a practicing nurse in Internal Medicine-Adult care unit. She is proficient in her knowledge about health education and promotion. Currently, she is seeking roles in her field while continuing her education to become health and wellness expert.

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