Type 1 Diabetes Diet

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Early Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

Early symptoms of any type of diabetes are related to high blood and urine glucose levels and include:

  • Dehydration
  • Hunger
  • Increased urination, and
  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vaginal infections in women and yeast infections in both men and women

Type 1 diabetes diet definition and facts

  • In Type 1 diabetes the pancreas can do longer release insulin. The high blood sugar that results can lead to complications such as kidney, nerve, and eye damage, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Glycemic index and glycemic load are scientific terms used to measure he impact of a food on blood sugar. Foods with low glycemic load (index) raise blood sugar modestly, and thus are better choices for people with diabetes.
  • Meal timing is very important for people with type 1 diabetes. Meals must match insulin doses. Eating meals with a low glycemic load (index) makes meal timing easier. Low glycemic load meals raise blood sugar slowly and steadily, leaving plenty of time for the body (or the injected insulin dose) to respond. Skipping a meal or eating late puts a person at risk for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Foods to eat for a type 1 diabetic diet include complex carbohydrates such as
    • brown rice,
    • whole wheat,
    • quinoa,
    • oatmeal,
    • fruits,
    • vegetables,
    • beans, and
    • lentils.
  • Foods to avoid for a type 1 diabetes diet include
    • sodas (both diet and regular),
    • simple carbohydrates - processed/refined sugars (white bread, pastries, chips, cookies, pastas),
    • trans fats (anything with the word hydrogenated on the label), and high-fat animal products.
  • Fats don't have much of a direct effect on blood sugar but they can be useful in slowing the absorption of carbohydrates.
  • Protein provides steady energy with little effect on blood sugar. It keeps blood sugar stable, and can help with sugar cravings and feeling full after eating. Protein-packed foods to include on your menu are beans, legumes, eggs, seafood, dairy, peas, tofu, and lean meats and poultry.
  • Five type 1 diabetes "superfoods" to eat include fiber, sardines, vinegar, cinnamon, and berries.
  • The Mediterranean diet plan is often recommended for people with type 1 diabetes because it is full of nutrient-dense foods, including lots of fresh vegetables, some fruit, plant-fats such as olive oil and nuts, fish such as sardines, and occasional meat and dairy.
  • When dining out, ask questions about what a dish contains or how it's prepared, review menus online before you go, and let your friends and family know your dietary restrictions beforehand.

What is type 1 diabetes?

In Type 1 diabetes the pancreas can do longer release insulin. This is important because insulin is needed to move sugar (glucose) out of the blood and into muscle, brain, and other target cells where it is used for energy. The high blood sugar that results can lead to a number of complications such as kidney, nerve, and eye damage, as well as cardiovascular disease. Moreover, cells are not receiving the glucose they need for healthy functioning. The loss of insulin secretion is typically caused by auto-immune destruction of the insulin-producing islet beta cells in the pancreas. Because people with type 1 diabetes can no longer produce their own insulin, they must inject insulin. Keeping blood sugar steady, by matching carbohydrate intake with the appropriate insulin dose, can prevent long-term complications of type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, but it may be managed.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/10/2016

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