If you suffer from pre-diabetes, it’s not too late to turn your health problems around.
Some 70% of pre-diabetes sufferers go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes, but by making the appropriate changes to your lifestyle, you can make a full recovery.
The most urgent and important changes concern your diet.
By adopting a strict pre-diabetes diet, you put yourself in the best position to make a full recovery.
The question is: what is the best pre-diabetes diet? There are many opinions surrounding the food you can and can’t put into your body.
This guide presents all the information you could possibly need to help you make the best decisions for your pre-diabetes diet.
Note: this guide does not constitute medical advice. It’s aimed at those aiming to avoid diabetes.
How Diet Relates to Pre-Diabetes
Pre-diabetes is a precursor to diabetes – a health condition where the body is unable to process sugars correctly.
- Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your body isn’t producing enough insulin.
- Type 2 Diabetes occurs when your body is unable to move sugar to your cells efficiently in spite of the insulin being produced.
The primary cause of pre-diabetes – and ultimately diabetes – is giving your body too much sugar in the first place. To cure yourself, it’s crucial to reduce your sugar intake.
This is the most obvious link between diet and pre-diabetes.
But it runs deeper…
Because, if you’re overweight, your cells become more resistant to insulin and this increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Ultimately, to reduce this risk, we must consume healthy blood sugar levels and remain at a healthy weight.
What Are the Warning Signs of Pre-Diabetes?
It’s estimated that around 79 million American adults have pre-diabetes – and this figure is growing every year.
If trends continue the way they are, as many as one in three adults could be suffering from the condition by 2050.
Worryingly, around 90% of pre-diabetes sufferers don’t know they have the condition because there are no clear symptoms.
This means they aren’t aware of the need to make urgent lifestyle changes.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get your blood sugar levels and blood pressure tested periodically.
Pre-Diabetes Diet Plan: The Basics
A great pre-diabetes diet aims to reduce your consumption of high-sugar foods, particularly those that cause big spikes in blood sugar levels.
But adopting a low sugar diet isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when food manufacturers insist on sneaking sugar into most packaged foods. In fact, an estimated 70% of packaged food has some form of sugar, corn syrup, or other refined sweeteners.
Sugar triggers our appetite – and so manufacturers put it in everything.— Eric Edmeades, trainer of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
Here are some basic guidelines that all nutritionists will agree you should follow.
- Consume food with a low GI score
The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks all foods out of 100, based on the level of the blood sugar spike they are likely to cause. This is based on how much sugar is in the food, but also on how long it takes the body to process it.
When the body takes a long time to process food, not as much sugar ends up in the bloodstream and the food will have a lower GI score to reflect this. These foods should make up the majority of your pre-diabetic diet.
- Fill up on fibers
High-fiber foods take longer for the body to process, so they’re a great choice if you’re trying to lower blood sugar. What’s more, they are very filling. By loading up on these foods, it should be easier to stick to your diet without being tempted to overeat.
- Avoid sugary soft drinks and desserts
These are the worst culprits for weight gain and blood sugar spikes.
- Steer clear of alcohol
Most alcoholic drinks are packed with ’empty calories‘ that can cause you to pile on the pounds. If you’re regularly downing cocktails or alcopops at the weekend, this definitely needs to stop, as these drinks are overloaded with sugars.
- Stay hydrated
If you have high blood sugar levels, it’s really useful to stay hydrated as this allows you to excrete more excess sugar through urine. Also, people often mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will assist in your efforts to stop overeating.
What Foods Can I Eat On a Pre-Diabetes Diet?
Here is our full list of recommended foods to eat during a pre-diabetes diet plan. Check our guide for some ideas for healthy snacks you can create using these ingredients.
- Non-starchy vegetables
Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, onions, snow peas, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, frozen vegetables.
- Starchy vegetables
Sweet potatoes; potatoes; winter squash; green peas; corn; pumpkin.
Salmon, shrimp, tuna, crab, clams, mackerel, herring, tilapia, pollock.
Lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, and soy products – such as tofu, edamame, and soy milk, meat substitutes.
- Healthy fats
Olive oil, avocado, natural peanut and nut butters, and vegetable oils.
Peaches, cantaloupe, berries, apples, pears, oranges, tangerines, watermelon.
- Hydrating beverages
Water, black coffee.
Take the time to create enjoyable meals
As you can see, there are plenty of delicious foods that you can consume while you’re overcoming pre-diabetes. You should absolutely take the time to create exciting and fulfilling meals from these ingredients.
After all, any diet which relies on human willpower to succeed is unsustainable!
Any diet which relies on human willpower to succeed is unsustainable! That lasts for days, maybe weeks and occasionally for some people, months.
But at some point, what’s going to happen is that the food devel is going to do something to distract the angel.— Eric Edmeades, trainer of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
What foods to avoid if you are prediabetic?
The food groups below are the worst culprits for causing weight gain and huge blood sugar spikes. As such, they should be avoided by all prediabetics.
- Chocolates, sweets, and cakes
The reason these taste so deliciously sweet is because they’re lathered with sugars.
- Refined and processed carbohydrates
White bread, rice, pasta, bagels, french fries, and other refined-flour foods send your blood sugar skyrocketing.
- Trans fats
Found in microwave meals, fatty meats, margarine, spreads, creamers, and many baked goods.
- Breakfast cereals
Most breakfast cereals are highly processed and packed with sugar. The same is true of cereal bars. Even the healthiest breakfast cereals aren’t a sensible choice for prediabetics.
- Packaged snack foods
Chips, pretzels, and crackers are also mostly made from refined flours. They provide little in the way of protein and nutrients.
- Sugary drinks
You shouldn’t just avoid fizzy drinks. Fruit juices, milky coffees, and sweetened teas are also overloaded with sugars.
- Alcoholic beverages
Beer and wine are particularly carb-heavy. Alcohol is fantastic at increasing your appetite.
Should I use the ketogenic diet if I have pre-diabetes?
The ketogenic diet is an extremely low-carbohydrate diet.
Typically, you’ll be granted up to 50 grams of non-fiber carbohydrates per day (or 10% of your daily calories). The rest of your calories will come from fat and protein.
The aim of the keto diet is to limit carbohydrates to the point that your body doesn’t have enough glucose to power the brain normally. At this point, the body begins to turn fats into ketones, which are molecules that supply energy for the brain and the body. This process is called ketosis – and it has been shown to limit the amount of sugar being released into the bloodstream.
It’s a difficult diet to stick to but can work wonders for prediabetics.
Should I use the DASH diet if I have pre-diabetes?
This is another diet designed to help you reduce high blood pressure. It’s focused on making healthy choices, rather than eating fewer calories.
With this diet, you’re encouraged to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.
This type of diet wouldn’t appear to be as extreme as our diet plan explained above.
How Does the Glycemic Index Work?
The Glycemic Index is available to view online. The higher food scores, the more harmful it is to prediabetics. The score is mostly based on how quickly sugar from food will enter your bloodstream.
Although it’s recommended for prediabetics to limit their overall sugar intake, the GI score will help you identify the foods which aren’t as dangerous for sufferers of the condition.
Here are some examples of GI scores. You’ll notice that natural and high-fiber foods tend to have a lower GI score, than foods with processed and refined ingredients. That’s large because the body digests high-fiber foods more slowly.
Bear in mind that the index doesn’t take portion sizes into account. The scores are purely based on how blood sugar levels are affected.
- Foods with a GI score of 55 or less raise blood sugar levels slowly.
- Foods with a GI score between 56 and 69 raise blood sugar levels at a moderate pace.
- Foods with a GI score of 70 or above raise blood sugar levels quickly.
Can You Reverse Pre-Diabetes With Diet?
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to reverse pre-diabetes by changing your diet.
If you can become more physically active, that will help too. It’ll stimulate weight loss, plus it encourages your muscles to use up your excess blood sugar.
But, if you’re wondering how to reverse pre-diabetes, know that the food you put in your body will always have the biggest impact.
Follow our pre-diabetes diet – and you’ll be well on your way to a full recovery.
Even if you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, it is still possible to recover by making these changes to your lifestyle.
Post-diabetic is possible!— Eric Edmeades, trainer of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
Work with your doctor to manage and receive updates on your condition.