Type 2 Diabetes diet

Facts you should know about the type 2 diabetes diet

Why is diet important for diabetics?

The incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing, but this disease is still incurable. In the treatment of type 2 diabetes, 70%-80% of the problems are directly related to diet control. Diet therapy is one of the important measures for type 2 diabetes treatment. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) urges all patients to seek the advice of a registered dietitian to develop a diet plan that suits their tastes and needs. The ADA now emphasizes that diet plans should take into account diabetes control, age, and health conditions, such as the potential to raise blood cholesterol levels and cause high blood pressure.

Meaning of a healthy diet

Diet therapy is a treatment that all diabetic patients need to adhere to. Mild cases can receive good results with diet therapy. For moderate and severe patients, physical therapy and drug therapy must also be used rationally based on diet therapy. Only if the diet is well controlled, oral drugs can exert a good effect. Otherwise, blindly relying on the so-called new medicines and ignoring diet therapy will hardly achieve good clinical results.

The impact of diet on type 2 diabetes is huge. Diet will directly affect postprandial blood sugar, especially eating high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods will increase obesity and insulin resistance, and abnormal blood sugar.

Purposes of diabetes diet treatment

  • To ensure nutritional balance. It aims to balance the basic needs and various energy nutrients in the patient’s body, and to correct energy, water, and metabolism disorders to a certain extent.
  • Reduce the burden of pancreatic islets. Make blood sugar and blood lipids reach or close to normal values, and prevent or delay the occurrence and development of complications.
  • Keep normal body weight. Dieters who reduce energy intake can improve receptor sensitivity to insulin.
  • Maintain health. In this way, adults can take part in various normal activities, and children can grow and develop normally.

Diabetes monitoring methods

  • Observe the patient’s symptoms and signs. Whether the patient has obvious symptoms of “three poly- and one loss”, polyuria, polydipsia, polyphagia, and weight loss.
  • Keep eyes on the body functions. The cycle of diabetes is relatively long, and there may be some lesions of the nervous system, such as numbness of the lower limbs, abdominal pain, blood vessel damage, blurred vision, and so on.
  • Do a laboratory examination. A doctor will draw fasting venous blood to measure venous plasma blood sugar and postprandial blood sugar two hours after a meal. Normal fasting blood sugar is less than 6.0mmol/L, postprandial blood sugar is less than 7.8mmol/L, and glycosylated hemoglobin is less than 6%. If one’s fasting blood sugar is greater than 7.0mmol/L, or the blood sugar two hours after a meal is greater than 11.1mmol/L, and the glycated hemoglobin is greater than 6.5%, the diagnosis of diabetes can be confirmed by repeating the measurement twice at different times.
  • Examine insulin function. After examination, a doctor can determine the severity of diabetes.【1】
Diet Guideline for Type 2 Diabetes

How a Healthy Diet Can Help You Manage Type 2 Diabetes?

Diet can affect insulin sensitivity and β-cell function, thereby affecting the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. However, an unhealthy diet will be due to obesity, which can affect insulin sensitivity and further affect the risk of type 2 diabetes. What’s more, many studies have shown that diet can affect the pathogenesis of diabetes independently of energy balance and obesity. Improper food and way of cooking may increase the risk of diabetes.

Why should You need a Type 2 Diabetes Diet

Achieve a Healthy Body Weight

Being obese or overweight puts you at significant risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a way to measure whether you are obese or overweight. A healthy weight for people aged 18 to 64 should be in the range of 18.5 to 24.9. BMI is about your height and weight using the following formula: weight divided by your height. The risk is high with a BMI below 18.5 and above 25.0.

A healthy weight reduces your risk of many diseases and can increase your life span. Losing weight is hard, but you can get more than a healthier body.

Avoid Complications of Diabetes

If diabetic patients can’t control blood sugar well, there will be chronic complications of diabetes. That’s because long-term blood sugar elevation can lead to the increase of glycation end products, which can aggravate the occurrence of related complications. For diabetic patients, if the blood sugar control is poor with infection, surgical trauma, and other stressful situations, it will also lead to an increase in hormones, which can induce the occurrence of diabetic ketoacidosis.

Here are complications that can be prevented through a healthy diet.

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Tumors
  • Microvascular disease
  • Diabetic nephropathy
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glycohemia
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

Foods to eat with type 2 diabetes

Healthy carbohydrates 

Carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, are essential to any healthy diet guideline, and about 45 percent of your total daily calories should come from healthy carbohydrates. Here’s a simple ratio: 1/2 of your plate should be non-starchy vegetables and fruits, 1/4 of the plate should be protein, and the remaining 1/4 should be whole grains. Diabetic patients also need carbohydrates to supply energy to the body. In another aspect, we should not control carbohydrates too strictly.

Here are some recommended carbohydrates for diabetic patients.

  • Millet
  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Naked oats
  • Brown rice
  • Oat
  • Quinoa
  • Black rice
  • Buckwheat

Fiber-rich foods

This kind of food can increase satiety, reduce fat absorption, and control total energy intake. Because pectin has the effect of delaying food absorption and reducing the speed of glucose absorption, it can inhibit the speed of postprandial blood sugar rise. Besides, it can significantly improve glucose tolerance and maintain normal metabolism. Furthermore, studies show that dietary fiber is an indispensable nutrient for maintaining human health. In this way, adequate intake of dietary fiber has special functions for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Fruits and vegetables should be the basis of every meal. They provide few calories and offer many health benefits, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and so on. Furthermore, each color of fruit and vegetable has its benefits. Therefore, eating a variety of colors not only makes eating more interesting but also provides different types of beneficial nutrients.【2】

Here are some recommended fiber-rich foods for diabetic patients.

  • Fruits: apples, bananas, peaches, cherries, grapes, kiwis, citrus, grapefruit, pineapple, mango, etc.
  • Vegetables: cabbages, carrots, winter melons, kelps, beans, celery, peel, root vegetables, etc.

Heart-healthy fish

There are many types of fish that diabetic patients can eat, both deep-water and fresh-water fish. Because fish is rich in protein, mainly high-quality protein. It is easily absorbed by the human body and contributes to nutrition. It also contains certain unsaturated fatty acids. These acids have the effect of lowering blood sugar and preventing cancer. The vitamins and minerals contained in fish help to enhance the body’s nutritional levels. However, diabetic patients should not eat squid, because squid contains a lot of cholesterol. It can easily cause blood sugar and blood lipids to rise. Here are some recommended heart-healthy fish for diabetic patients.

  • Carp
  • Salmon
  • Eel
  • Cod
  • Grouper
  • Yellow croaker

‘Good’ fats

Fat is an important source of body heat and is essential for absorbing some fat-soluble vitamins. Fat is also an important raw material for man processes in the body and has a less direct effect on blood sugar than carbohydrates. Therefore, people should have the right amount of fat each day. However, excessive intake of fat may in turn affect diabetic patients. Excessive calorie intake will inevitably make people fat, increase the body’s need for insulin, and then cause blood sugar to rise. Therefore, diabetic patients must limit their daily fat intake.

Fat has the highest calorie of all foods. In general, each gram of fat provides 9 calories. Diabetic patients should limit fat intake. Fat should account for 20% to 25% of total heat energy, especially animal fats such as cattle, sheep, and butter, diabetic patients need to consume the following for they have more unsaturated fatty acids. They are more suitable for diabetic patients.【3】

  • Coconut oil
  • Palm oil
  • Fish oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Soybean oil

Top Diabetes-Friendly Foods to Eat

Diabetic patients should take low-sugar, low-starch foods or whole grains and vegetables as staple foods.

If diabetic patients eat them for a long time, their blood sugars will decrease and they are not prone to other complications. The top diabetes-friendly foods to eat are as follows.

  • Whole grains, such as naked oats, buckwheat noodles, oatmeal, etc.
  • Beans and soy products, etc.
  • Bitter gourd, mulberry leaves, onions, mushrooms, grapefruit, etc.

Foods to Limit or Avoid with Type 2 Diabetes

A basic principle is that you should not eat foods that may quickly raise blood sugar, as well as foods with high sugar content or high starch and fat. These foods are high in sugar or high cholesterol and animal fats, and will easily increase blood sugar, increase blood lipids, and prone to other diseases. Diabetic patients should avoid the following foods.

  • All kinds of sugar, candied fruit, canned fruit, soda, juice, jam, ice cream, sweet biscuits, sweet bread, sugar-free biscuits, and sugar-free foods.
  • Animal brain, liver, heart, lung, waist, egg yolk, butter, pork, beef, etc.

What to Drink When You Have Diabetes

It’s advisable to drink water, which is the healthiest drink. You can also drink tea, any type is ok. However, it is not recommended to drink too strong tea, which will affect the secretion of other hormones, and may indirectly affect the blood sugar situation. Besides, if you like other drinks, you can also drink pure coffee, such as black coffee. It’s very low in sugar but high in caffeine. So, check your heart condition before drinking coffee. You’d better not drink other carbonated low-sugar drinks. As for alcohol, it is recommended to drink in moderation. For 12 degrees of red wine, it is advisable to drink 150 ml at a time. For beer, 300 ml every day.

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Soybean milk
  • Tea: black tea, green tea, etc.
  • Vegetable juices: celery juice, carrot juice, etc.
  • Black coffee
  • Small amounts of alcohol or red wine
Diet Guideline for Type 2 Diabetes

Best Diet Plans You Need to Know

Vegetarian or Vegan diets

A vegetarian diet is a dietary pattern that does not contain animal foods. Vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, and poultry, and neither do vegans. But vegans go further, excluding all animal products from their diets – even dairy and eggs.【4】 A vegetarian diet is rich in dietary fiber, which increases insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. A vegetarian diet is low in cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, so it helps lower blood cholesterol levels.

Compared with the problems of an unreasonable diet and lack of nutrients brought by vegan food, so as to keep the control of blood lipids and blood sugar stable, it is recommended that diabetic patients have some milk and egg. Compared with the vegan diet, the vegetarian diet is more reasonable and can ensure a balanced intake of nutrients.

Moreover, eating a vegetarian diet should also control the total energy. Many patients think that as long as they do not eat animal food, others can be left free. It is extremely harmful to the stability of blood sugar. The most easily overlooked dietary problem for vegetarians is excessive caloric intake and the ratio of fat to energy supply is too large, so vegetarians also require strict control of diet. Food should be cooked in the form of boiling, steaming, cold mixing, etc., so as to maintain the original flavor of vegetarian food. If the cooking method is mainly fried with a large amount of oil, it will not be beneficial to the control of blood lipids.

ADA diabetes diet

An American Diabetic Association diet (ADA diet) is an eating plan set forth by the ADA that is considered best suited for diabetic patients needing to control blood glucose levels. These diets do not necessarily follow a strict plan, but the association does encourage diabetic patients to limit their daily caloric intake, include a variety of foods, and limit the intake of certain foods, such as fruits, alcohol, and fried foods. The most defining characteristics of a diabetic diet are the regulated amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and foods high in processed sugars that are allowed.

An American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet typically recommends between 1,600 and 2,800 calories per day. Women are generally encouraged to aim for the lower range, or mid-range if they are very active. It is suggested that men consume the mid-range number of calories, but if they are very active, they may need to consume up to 2,800 calories per day. 【5】

Paleo diet

You may also hear it called the “caveman” diet. When you follow this plan, you try to mimic what humans ate during the Paleolithic era, which began about 2.6 million years ago. You’ll eat the kinds of foods that our ancestors might have hunted, fished, and gathered, and avoid foods that weren’t common until farming began. You’ll also drink plenty of water and try to be active every day. 【6】

The paleo diet can be very different from the way you eat now. For example, the meat, fish, and farm produce you eat should be fresh, not frozen or canned. Some other good foods are eggs, coconut oil, olives, and some nutrient-dense root vegetables like sweet potatoes. Small amounts of honey are also allowed.

You need to stay away from dairy and grains, such as wheat and oats. But that’s not all. You have to avoid potatoes and beans, peanuts and peas. Refined sugar, salt, and highly processed foods are not allowed.

Mediterranean diet

You may already be familiar with one of the world’s most popular healthy diets. That would be the Mediterranean diet — an eating plan rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil, and which even allows some dark chocolate and red wine.

The standard Mediterranean diet aims to follow the traditional eating patterns of Mediterranean cultures. It emphasizes choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and olive oil, according to Oldways. That’s supplemented with fish or seafood about twice a week, along with moderate amounts of dairy, eggs, and poultry. The diet discourages eating red meat and sweets, and you’ll also want to steer clear of processed foods, which are often packed with added sugars and sodium. This eating plan also allows you to drink up to one glass of red wine per day (though if you don’t already drink, you’re not encouraged to start).

The green Mediterranean diet avoids red and processed meat entirely while placing plants in the spotlight in a way that goes above and beyond that of the standard Mediterranean diet. You’ll still opt for traditionally “good” Mediterranean-style foods, like whole grains and fresh produce. 【7】

Key concepts of the eating style include colorful fruits and vegetables, olive oil and healthy fats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, reduced red meat and high-fat dairy, lean protein, less dairy, eggs, cheese, limited refined carbs, and processed foods, alcohol in moderation.

800 Calorie Diet

An 800-calorie diet Plan is a food plan that includes only 800 calories per day. This is a very restrictive diet and a meal plan eat should only be followed with medical supervision. An 800-calorie diet is usually low in carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Foods that are typically allowed in an 800-calorie meal plan vegetarian include lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits. The average person needs about 2000-2500 calories per day, so an 800-calorie diet is a significant reduction in caloric intake.

This type of diet is not sustainable long-term and is not recommended for most people. If you are considering a shopping list for an 800-calorie diet, speak to your doctor first to see if it’s right for you.【8】 The premise of using this method is: particularly fat, short-term, male. Otherwise, it will seriously affect the secretion of female hormones, seriously affect the health of people, and people may even rebound to a much heavier weight than before.

High-Fiber Diet

A growing number of research suggest that a high-fiber diet may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. The problem is that most Americans don’t get enough fiber to realize its potential benefits. According to the American Dietetic Association, the typical American eats only about 11 grams of fiber per day. Health experts recommend that most people consume at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

Most dietary fiber is not digested or absorbed, so it stays in the gut to regulate the digestion of other foods and affect stool consistency. Breakfast cereals are a good source of fiber. Some fruits and vegetables are especially helpful in treating constipation, such as plums and plum juice.

Intermittent Fasting

IF is a way of eating that calls for alternating between fasting (or significant reduction of calorie intake) and eating at specific times, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. It’s different from other diets in that it’s not about eating specific foods. IF is not about depriving yourself, either. Rather, it’s about eating your meals during a certain time frame and fasting for the rest of the day and night.

There are some different types of intermittent fasting: 16:8, alternate-day fasting, and 5:2 fasting.

  • 16:8. This method requires 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating during the day. Followers of 16:8 would skip breakfast and eat between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. or noon and 8 p.m., and fast the rest of the evening and morning.
  • Alternate-day fasting. This includes restricting calories on fasting days and eating normally on other days. For example, you might strictly control calories on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then eat normally on the other days.
  • 5:2 fasting. On the two non-consecutive “fasting” days of the week, you are allowed to intake very low calories (about 400 to 500 calories).

Keto Diet

The ketogenic, or keto, diet is popular as a way to help people lose weight. It’s a low-carb, high-fat eating plan. Most of what you eat is fat, whether that’s unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados, or saturated fats like butter and coconut oil. About 20%-30% of your diet is protein, either lean (like chicken breast) or fatty (like bacon). You’re supposed to strictly limit carbs, even those that are typically considered healthy, such as beans, whole grains, milk, and many types of fruits and vegetables. On the keto diet, you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day. To put that in perspective, one medium apple has 25 grams of carbs.

How does it work? Normally, your body fuels itself from sugar, or glucose, that it gets from carbs. After a few days of the keto diet, your body runs out of glucose. So, it starts burning body fat instead. This is called nutritional ketosis. It creates fatty acid substances called ketones, which your body can use for energy. 【9】

Low-Carb Diet

A low-carb diet is a diet that is high in protein, high fat, and most vegetables, and strictly restricts the intake of carbohydrates (such as high-sugar fruits, rice, white flour, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and potato).

An extreme example of a low-carb diet, the ketogenic diet (keto diet) was established as a medical diet. This diet has been used for decades, and some scholars now believe that a low-carb diet can reduce weight and improve health indicators. The great thing about it is that you don’t need to calculate your total energy intake (calories) or use special weight loss products to lose weight.

Day 1

Breakfast: a boiled egg, a steamed corn, a cup of milk

Lunch: spaghetti with tomato and shrimp

Dinner: diced chicken with green pepper, a small purple potato

Day 2

Breakfast: a cucumber, a boiled egg, a cup of millet congee

Lunch: sole fish with tomato, a small steamed taro

Dinner: shrimp with scrambled eggs, fried spinach, a small amount of multigrain rice

Day 3

Breakfast: egg salad with tuna, a cup of milk

Lunch: spaghetti with tomato and beef, fried Broccoli

Dinner: fried codfish, braised baby cabbage in broth, a small amount of multigrain rice

Day 4

Breakfast: a boiled egg, cabbage with sweet and sour sauce, a steamed carrot

Lunch: stir-fried eggs and tomatoes, pan-fried chicken breast, a small amount of multigrain rice

Dinner: spaghetti with diced chicken and mushrooms, spinach & bean curd soup

Day 5

Breakfast: a boiled egg, a tomato, a small sweet potato

Lunch: fried eggs with bitter melon, chicken meatball, a small amount of multigrain rice

Dinner: spaghetti with green pepper and beef, mushroom soup

Day 6

Breakfast: a boiled egg, pan-fried asparagus, a small purple potato

Lunch: spaghetti with spinach and basil pesto, cold tofu with shallot

Dinner: fried shrimp meat with pea, a small amount of multigrain rice

Day 7

Breakfast: egg and vegetable salad, a small sweet potato

Lunch: fried beef steak, broccoli, a small amount of multigrain rice

Dinner: lemon kale salad, a slice of steak, a small amount of multigrain rice


Do I Need to Count Calories When Managing Type 2 Diabetes?

Yes, the amount of food you eat is closely related to blood sugar control. If you eat more food than recommended in your meal plan, your blood sugar will rise, thereby causing type 2 diabetes more serious.

Can I drink alcohol if I have type 2 diabetes?

People with type 2 diabetes can drink alcohol in moderation, but pay attention to the following:

  • It is necessary to choose red wine first, while white wine and beer are not recommended as the first choice;
  • Monitor your own blood sugar after drinking alcohol, and take the basic bottom line of not being drunk;
  • Diabetic patients should not drink alcohol with an empty stomach, which can easily lead to hypoglycemia;
  • Due to the sympathetic excitement in the early stage of drinking, the blood sugar of the patient may increase. With the gradual increase in the amount of drinking, the possibility of hypoglycemia will gradually increase. Therefore, it is necessary to control the total amount of alcohol intake to avoid large fluctuations in blood sugar.

Alcohol contains ethanol, which may lead to hypoglycemia. Especially in diabetic patients treated with insulin, it is more prone to hypoglycemia and can be life-threatening in severe cases.

Can I drink a diet soda with type 2 diabetes?

No, diabetic patients should not drink low-sugar beverages, which will affect blood sugar. 

What are the benefits of weight loss if you’re overweight?

Losing weight can not only improve physical health but also improve self-confidence in social communication. Specifically, it can bring the following benefits:

  • Increase activity endurance, and significantly reduce fatigue after engaging in sports activities after weight loss;
  • Improve memory. Studies show that losing weight can make the brain more active;
  • Reduce the risk of cancer. Obesity can cause inflammation in the body tissue and increase the risk of cancer;
  • Reduce the symptoms of mild arthritis, especially the health status of weight-bearing joints such as knee joint, reduce the risk of knee arthritis;
  • Reduce the number of medicines for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. After appropriate weight loss, oral medicines can be significantly reduced;
  • Improve sleep quality. Weight loss can help reduce visceral compression and help respiratory function.

Does following a type 2 diabetes diet mean I won’t need to take insulin?

No, diabetic patients need diet control and pay attention to the process. It is recommended to use insulin as soon as possible, and strive to control blood sugar as soon as possible to reduce damage to blood vessels.

Can I eat sugar substitutes with type 2 diabetes?

Yes, diabetic patients could eat sugar substitutes. At the same time, you should also pay attention to lifestyle interventions so as to control blood sugar and prevent complications. 

How may a fiber-rich diet lower the risk for type 2 diabetes?

Adding a large amount of diverse dietary fiber to the diet can improve insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes by changing the structure of intestinal flora. In this way, it can delay and improve the progression and complications of type 2 diabetes to a certain extent.


Diabetic patients have a high incidence rate and many complications, so it is very important to do a good job in the care of diabetic patients. Developing a healthy diet is the most basic measure in the treatment of diabetes, and it is an essential measure to prevent and control diabetes at any stage of the course of type 2 diabetes. Mild cases can receive good results with diet therapy as the main method. For moderate and severe patients, physical therapy and drug therapy must also be used rationally on the basis of diet therapy.

Only if the diet is well controlled, oral drugs or islet pancreas can exert a good effect. Otherwise, blindly relying on the so-called new medicines and ignoring diet therapy will hardly achieve good clinical results. That is why we provide you with the best diet guideline.