What Foods to Eat to Reverse Diabetes

  • Medical Editor: Erica Oberg, ND, MPH
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    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: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Ask the experts

I've just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and it was a big wake-up call. I want to avoid medications and try to handle this with lifestyle changes. What can I do to reverse this? Is there a diabetes diet?

Doctor’s Response

Not all people with diabetes need drug therapy. A healthy eating plan and exercise alone can be enough if the person makes significant lifestyle changes. This health condition can be prevented by following a low glycemic load diet (basically, a diet low in sugars), staying physically active, and getting regular medical screenings.

If you have this type of diabetes the foods you eat should have a low glycemic load (index) (foods higher in fiber, protein or fats) like vegetables and good quality protein such as fish, chicken, beans, and lentils. From that base, other types of nutritious foods like fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and nuts should be added.

Foods with a high glycemic index (foods that raise blood sugar too quickly) are foods to avoid, such as processed foods, high in carbohydrates, sugars, or animal fat. Examples of foods to avoid include:

  • Deserts
  • Sweets
  • Pastries
  • Breads
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Pasta

A good rule of thumb is to avoid white foods (except for cauliflower!).

Can exercise help manage type 2 diabetes?

Exercise is very important if you have this health condition. Exercise makes cells more insulin sensitive, pulling glucose out of the blood. This brings down blood sugar, and more importantly, gives you better energy because the glucose is being transferred to the cells. Any type of exercise will do this, but extra benefit is gained when the activity helps build muscle, such as weight training or using resistance bands. The benefits of exercise on blood sugar last about 48-72 hours, so it is important for you to be physically active almost every day.

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REFERENCES:

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Nettleton JA. et al. "Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)."Diabetes Care. 2009 Apr;32(4):688-94.

NIH. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP).< http://www.niddk.nih.gov/about-niddk/research-areas/diabetes/diabetes-prevention-program-dpp/Pages/default.aspx>

Ross R. "Does exercise without weight loss improve insulin sensitivity?" Diabetes Care. 2003 Mar;26(3):944-5. Review.

Suez, J. et al. "Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota." Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6.

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Reviewed on 5/11/2018