This Is the Best Diet for Managing Diabetes, According to Doctors

Some diets just aren’t good for you. They’re too restrictive, too expensive, or way too hard to stick with. But many diets developed by health experts are designed to target specific health issues — everything from weight loss to heart disease. Some diets are good for more than one condition.

It turns out one of the best diets to reduce high blood pressure, for example, can also help you manage other health conditions such as diabetes.

The U.S. News & World Report ranked this diet No. 1 in its Best Diets for Diabetes category. It’s also the easiest diet to follow, the best plant-based diet, and the best diet overall (tied with the DASH diet), according to the same experts.

Here’s everything you need to know.

How are diet and diabetes related?

Diabetes

Diabetes | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

In most cases, Type 2 diabetes is not caused by food alone. There are certain factors, such as race, age, and genes, that can also increase your diabetes risk.

But when it comes to irregular blood sugar, your weight does make a difference. And weight gain is often (though not always) related to your diet.

People who consume high-calorie foods mostly made of refined carbohydrates are more likely to be overweight or obese. Those who consume foods of greater nutritional quality (a healthy balance of protein, fiber, and fat) are less likely to experience unwanted weight gain.

Gaining weight increases your chances of many chronic diseases, including diabetes. The more you consume, the more insulin your body has to produce to compensate. This can cause insulin resistance, which often leads to issues regulating blood sugar.

Which foods raise blood sugar the most?

The foods that negatively affect blood sugar (often causing blood sugar “spikes”) are those high in carbohydrates and/or hidden added sugars. These might include:

  • Bagels
  • Breakfast cereal
  • White bread, rice, and pasta
  • Desserts and candy
  • Alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Highly processed foods that contain large amounts of fat can also contribute to high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes. Red and processed meats and most fast food meals are good examples of other types of foods you might want to avoid.

What is the Mediterranean diet good for?

Grilled chicken breast and vegetables in a pan

Grilled chicken breast and vegetables in a pan | Pilipphoto/iStock/Getty Images

The easiest diet to follow, best diet for managing blood pressure, and the best diet for diabetes, The Mediterranean diet has few (if any) flaws. Its many health benefits can reduce or even eliminate many of the risk factors associated with the nation’s deadliest chronic diseases.

Research suggests the diet can help prevent weight gain. And according to Mayo Clinic, a Mediterranean-style diet may also reduce heart disease risk as well as slow or prevent the mental decline associated with various types of dementia.

You may also benefit from the Mediterranean diet if you have Type 2 diabetes.

Best foods for managing diabetes

The Mediterranean diet recommends consuming high-quality foods most of the time, and lower-quality foods only occasionally. This automatically reduces the amount of refined carbs and other sugars and saturated fats you might be eating, leading to lower blood sugar and better health.

Some of these foods might include:

  • Fresh, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables — not bottled juices or dried snacks (veggie chips)
  • Whole grains that contain sufficient amounts of fiber
  • Beans and legumes for added fiber and protein
  • Nuts and seeds to add more healthy fats to your diet
  • Dairy products such as plain yogurt and high-quality cheese (not American “cheese”)
  • Fish, seafood, and poultry for high-quality protein and fat.

The diet recommends saving foods such as red meat and sweets for “special occasions.” A meal plan like this doesn’t tell you what you “can” or “can’t” eat. But it does recommend spending your calories on foods that aren’t going to send your blood sugar levels through the roof.

The Mediterranean diet and high blood pressure

Many people living with Type 2 diabetes also develop high blood pressure. The good news is, the best diet for diabetes is also one of the best diets for your heart.

Foods that are recommended for people following a Mediterranean-style diet are also considered heart-healthy.

Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, for example, contain fiber. Fiber not only helps stabilize blood sugar, but can also help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. These foods are also naturally low in sodium and fat, also important for regulating blood pressure.