Foods To Prevent Diabetes: A Complete Guide to Foods Which Fight Diabetes

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  • 2nd Revision: Manisha Kuttetira
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"He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the kills of the physician.” Chinese proverb on food. 

Food makes us capable of building homes, working , going to schools and colleges and sleeping peacefully at night. It's important for maintaining blood sugar levels, blood glucose, preventing insulin resistance all of which can lead to lifestyle diseases like diabetes. 

Physical activity can govern what you eat. Crazy and busy schedules around the day makes people resort to junk food resulting in their health getting  affected. 

The current trends are more towards plant food, vegan and environmentally friendly sustainable ones. Food safety and quality is also extremely questionable these days. Read on to find out how you can reverse diabetes and enjoy life disease free. According to 600 million cases of food borne diseases were reported in 2010. 

Foods to prevent diabetes

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are edible seeds of the plant Salvia hispanica. Once a major food crop in Guatemala and Mexico, chia seeds were the food of the Aztec gods.

Chia seeds contain 11g fiber in 2 tablespoons and enables us to suppress appetite thus acting as a weight loss food ¹. 

Chia seeds slow down the ease of  the body converting complex carbohydrates into glucose, and  has shown to be a good food for lowering and regulating blood sugar levels. They can be an effective food to control diabetes, especially Type-II diabetes because  it can improve glucose levels and regulate insulin resistance. 

It is a new diet trend to include  chia seeds into regular smoothies, cereals and pasta for preventing diabetes. They do not contain gluten but are a good source of protein (16%), fats (31%), carbohydrates (42%) and fiber. Protein content of chia seeds can regulate blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, and aidin achieving a good glycemic index. This is a food for healthy eating as it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants that helps prevent heart disease in addition to preventing type 2 diabetes. It can control insulin levels,has anti inflammatory properties, has antioxidant properties, and benefits in complications of diabetes. 

One of the best ways to reduce blood glucose is of course through physical activity and a healthy diet. Chia seeds can help manage disease if there is a diabetes risk in an individual especially with a family history of type-2 diabetes ².


Beans feature among the top foods to prevent diabetes, especially type-2 diabetes, but some studies also report them for preventing type-1 diabetes as well.

They are a part of diabetes risk prevention and a healthy diet that help in regulating blood sugar. Beans are rich in dietary carbohydrates but unlike starchy vegetables they are also full of fiber that helps in reducing digestion time and thus does not contribute to blood glucose levels. 

According to the USDA, the dietary split of a cup of cooked beans contains  mostly protein at 16g, fibers at 1.2 g, carbohydrates at 47g, fiber at 16g  and 236 calories. According to ADA (American Diabetic Association) the best beans for diabetics include kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans and black beans.

They are plant foods and are low in fat and prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Black soybeans contain compounds that help in weight loss and for lowering insulin resistance. It might be a great food for people at diabetes risk but it is important to calculate it as a food containing carbohydrates and protein. Although beans are starchy vegetables, they also contain fiber to be treated as a food contributing to good glycemic index in individuals for increased insulin sensitivity and to prevent diabetes. 

A healthy diet will contain at least one meal of cooked beans according to the American Diabetic Association. If you have prediabetes or Type-II diabetes, this type of bean based diet will provide 15g of carbohydrates per serving and must be factored in for proactive blood sugar level monitoring. Healthy diets contain beans on their menu as they are good carbohydrates, rich in soluble and insoluble fibers, low glycemic index foods, a class of complex carbohydrates, also a source of proteins and are an inexpensive and nutritious aid to prevent diabetes ³.

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is rich in protein, low in saturated fats and contains less sugar and is an ideal food in a diet to prevent Type-2 Diabetes. This is included in a healthy diet for diabetics as it does not raise blood sugar levels. They have a low glycemic index and are associated with reduced blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and blood pressure in recent research.

According to, greek yogurt is thickened yogurt that is strained to remove whey, lactose and liquid. Yogurt is also associated with gut benefits from probiotics as it is associated with high protein and lower carbohydrates. Diabetics must stick to 15g of carbohydrates and 1g of sugar in one serving. Saturated fat is usually high (7-14 g ) in yogurts and care must be taken while shopping. Vitamin D in yogurt is also helpful in controlling blood sugar levels


Nuts like almonds are very good snacks. One ounce of almonds contains 15 vitamins and minerals and 32% of the RDA of manganese, 19% of manganese and 17% riboflavin. It helps control blood sugar levels and relevant to this, is a study in human subjects of approximately 58 individuals who ate almonds everyday for 24 weeks experienced a 3% decrease in long term sugar levels.

Nuts also reported better insulin resistance with lower plasma levels of insulin

When there is a genetic disposition to Type 2 Diabetes and insulin resistance, it's important to resort to lifestyle changes to prevent prediabetes and delay diabetes ⁴.

Nuts like almonds help reduce heart disease risk by weight management and by reducing cholesterol levels and these are also important for diabetics for disease management. Nuts are also fullin fibers and also good for diabetics.


Studies conducted on broccoli indicate that eating a meal with broccoli can lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity than with mashed potatoes.

It also has 3g of fiber in every cup and one can experiment with creating a buddha bowl with broccoli and starchy vegetables to help Type 2 diabetes disease management and for reducing diabetes risk. If you have prediabetes it's important to get a lot of fiber in your body. Its antioxidants, Vitamin C,Vitamin A are helpful for patients with gestational diabetes. Healthy eating involves including this superfood in their diet. According to broccoli, garlic and lemon have been shown to help in weight loss. Potassium in broccoli is helpful in reducing blood pressure. Broccoli is also rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats like ALA or Alpha-linolenic acid ; another heavy source of this is the Oily fish and these are very helpful in fighting heart diseases.

Foods with fiber

Plant foods like avocado, artichokes and broccoli, popcorn are good for weight loss and also to prevent type-2 diabetes. 

High fiber diet can increase insulin sensitivity, heart disease, lower blood pressure and supports weight loss ⁵. Artificial sweeteners are present in fruit juice and contain low calories and has been shown to be bad but this is not reliable as there are other studies that promote the health benefits for them ⁶.

Fruit and vegetables

Considerable research has shown that consuming red meat like beef and pork is linked to type-2 diabetes risk, cardiovascular disease and all cause mortality. For this reason people at risk for diabetes must switch over to plant foods and consume more of diabetes risk reducing foods like fruit and vegetables ⁷. 

While vegetables are good, starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas are bad news for patients with type-2 diabetes. Fruits though having high fiber have a high glycemic index and should be eaten in moderation when having a diabete risk.It is also important to monitor grains in addition to fruits and vegetable sin your diet as refined grains like white bread are also not good as they have a high glycemic index. Spinach, cauliflower, apples and grapefruits are among the superfoods for monitoring blood glucose levels and disease management in diabetics.


Garlic helps in reducing heart disease in diabetics, reduces blood glucose levels and also prevents atherosclerosis. It also helps in reducing cholesterol levels and reducing high blood pressure that can help in reducing diabetes risk.It acts by helping in secretion of insulin from pancreas ⁸. Two cloves of garlic is a medicinal dose for lowering blood glucose levels for people with Type 2 diabetes.


It is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, lutein, Zeaxanthin and is very effective in controlling blood glucose levels in type -2 diabetes patients. It is higher in carbohydrates and it is advisable to get 40-75g of carbohydrates to avoid unhealthy fluctuations in blood glucose levels, but squash has other benefits like fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that is good for disease management ⁹. 

Shirataki noodles

It's a great alternative to pasta and the soluble fiber in these foods makes the glucomannan in them aid in managing type 2 diabetes. It's also very low carbohydrate containing food. Alfredo pasta can be replaced with shirataki noodles with tofu and broccoli ; Vitamin C from broccoli in addition to protein and fiber and low calories from shirataki noodles from these two superfoods help them in reducing blood sugar levels. Vitamin D ¹º. Developing diabetes can be averted if one sticks to a healthy diet plan that includes less saturated fat. Obesity is another thing to watch for that raises diabetes risk and food alternatives offering low calories must be considered. It is said that Vitamin D becomes lower in higher body weight that makes an individual more likely to get diabetes, prediabetes and related health disorders. 

Implementing these foods into your daily life

Keto diet

Ketogenic diet is a high fat, adequate protein, low-carbohydrate diet that is helpful for Type 2 diabetes patients as it helps in maintaining low blood sugar levels but at healthy levels and prevents large spikes in blood glucose levels. The very low carbohydrate contents in the diet helps with metabolic syndrome, managing heart disease, insulin resistance and blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes ¹¹.

Mediterranean diet

Studies have shown that long term use of mediterranean diet helps with better blood glucose levels. The patients also showed better cardio vascular symptoms that prevented heart disease. These people were having 30% calories from fat with only 10% from saturated fats from olive oil. The Mediterranean is rich in whole grains and vegetables with no red meat replaced by oily fish or salmon.This type of diet when practiced on a daily basis for 4 years helped a study group with type 2 diabetes as the group showed better glycemic index although weight loss was not there ¹².

Paleo diet

Paleo diet reduces BMI and glycosylated hemoglobin levels. It emphasizes a high protein, low carbohydrate diet that includes no red meat and vegetables. It was shown to produce better insulin levels through reduced insulin sensitivity. 

Heart disease risk factors can be reduced with low LDL levels, better cholesterol and triglycerides levels ¹³. 

In a study of 13 patients with Type-2 Diabetes, a Plaeolithic diet of lean meat, oily fish and fatty fish, vegetables resulted in reduced blood pressure and better weight loss when compared to regular ADA diet plans. The Paleo diet is also low on other heart disease aiding factors like saturated fats, calcium, energy, energy density and higher in unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin C and vitamin D suggesting they should be made a part of healthy eating in diabetes patients ¹⁴.

Vegetarian or vegan diets

Plant food diets or vegetarian diets in individuals makes them half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes symptoms as non vegetarians. A low fat vegan diet is better at reducing diabetes risk. Vegan diets provide better glycemic index or better blood glucose levels. Vegetarian diets with starchy vegetables with complex carbohydrates are not good and increase insulin resistance that enables increase in blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia. This is mainly due to less weight gain, increased dietary fibers, plant based proteins effect on blood glucose levels¹⁵.

Foods to limit

Carb-heavy foods

According to, white bread, pasta and rice are heavy on carbohydrates and increase blood sugar levels in Type1 and Type II diabetes patients. Increased blood sugar levels due to low carbohydrate tolerance results in increased insulin resistance that puts diabetics at risk for heart disease.

High GI fruits

High GI fruits like melon and pineapple increase blood sugar levels faster than other fruits but fruits with a lower glycemic index can help diabetics, like grapefruits and apples according to

Saturated and trans fats

Saturated and trans fats are present in processed foods, chips, baked goods  and these are unadvisable for patients with Type 2 diabetes.

According to , coconut oil, butter, whole fat milk and cream contain saturated fats and fried foods, and crackers contain trans fat. They increase LDL and reduce HDL cholesterol and increase cardiovascular disease. 

Weight gain is associated with increased calories from fat as an added risk factor for disease hence it is important to make sure to make the RDA of fat from unsaturated fats or healthy fats like from oily fish. Also Type 2 diabetes puts patients at increased heart disease risk so it is important to control fat intake¹⁶.

Refined sugar

Cakes, biscuits, store bought or homemade sweets must be avoided by diabetics to reduce sugar intake of refined sugars. Fruit and plain milk contain natural sugars. According to, women are allowed to take 25g of sugar every day and men around 40g. Reading labels for added sugars can help in reducing 1 million deaths due to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Sugary drinks

Sugary drinks like coffee, shakes, sodas, pops, sports drinks and beverages increase calories results in weight gain and increase blood sugar levels, causes insulin resistance and taking more than two sugary drinks per day increases type 2 diabetes risk. The nurses health study found out that after eight years of folllwoing 90,000 women, subjects that took only one or more sweetened beverage were twice as likely to get type 2 diabetes than those who never took one ¹⁷.

Salty foods

Foods rich in salt like pizza, processed foods like boxed potatoes, olives and pickles raises blood pressure and puts people at risk for heart disease. It appears as sodium on food labels. Although there are no effects of sodium on blood sugar levels or insulin resistance it puts a person at risk for heart disease. 

Type-2 diabetics are already at risk for heart disease, atherosclerosis and other symptoms and this added burden of disease from dietary intake should be avoided or minimized. Ways to reduce salt from food would mean cutting red meat or processed meat, using fresh fruits and vegetables, not salts to oily fish or fatty fish food before or after cooking ¹⁸. Sticking to 2300mg of sodium in a day is recommended.


CDC recommends that women limit to one and men to 4 drinks per day. This is because alcohol ican real in weight gain and tamper with insulin sensitivity causing rapid spikes in blood glucose levels that raises diabetes risk and heart disease risk. Also insulin therapy taken by Type-2 diabetes patients puts them at risk of hypoglycemia from drinking alcohol.

Conclusive Summary

A conclusive, detailed plan will help with managing disease symptoms, reversing diabetes, help with gestational diabetes and prediabetes and also reverse the disease. Foods that one must include in the diet help with monitoring blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and help with normalizing insulin levels and insulin sensitivity, managing weight gain, controlling heart disease symptoms. The foods typically contain fiber, protein, are low in carbohydrates and contain vitamins C and Vitamin D in addition to other nutrients. The foods that one must avoid include saturated fats and trans fat foods, sugar added drinks, salt rich foods as they put you at a higher risk for all types of diabetes and one must avoid these for diabetes prevention. Impaired glucose tolerance results in developing type 2 diabetes and care should be taken to eat a healthy diet, get lots of physical activity in a day and drink lots of water.


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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aarthi Narayan

Master of Science (M.S.), Biological science, University of Illinois Chicago

Scientist with 10+ years of strong industry, academic experience in Molecular biology, Tissue culture, Protein purification techniques. Mid-level experience in Diagnostics and start-ups. Excellent at completing large scale projects and experiments with minimal supervision in a timely and efficient manner.

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