Many fresh fruits and healthy foods are excellent sources of nutrients for apparently healthy adults. Such seemingly nutritious foods can wreak havoc on your blood glucose levels if you have diabetes. The glycemic index (see Resources) distinguishes foods that are healthy for diabetics and foods you should not eat if you have diabetes.
When you eat foods with carbohydrates, your body converts the particles of food into glucose, which is absorbed into your blood. Your muscle, liver and fat cells cannot utilize the glucose in your blood when your pancreas cannot produce insulin, as is the case with type I diabetes, or when your cells are insensitive to insulin, as is the case with type II diabetes. Insulin controls your blood glucose levels to maintain the very delicate chemical balances in your body. Certain fruits and foods, especially when consumed alone, increase your blood glucose levels too fast. Prolonged, elevated blood glucose levels can lead to kidney disease, nerve damage, blindness, lower limb amputations and heart disease.
Follow a low-glycemic index, or low-GI diet, and participate in a regular exercise program five to seven days a week to help you control your blood sugar levels. Low-glycemic index fruits and foods have a GI of 45 or less and do not cause surges in your blood sugar. Avoid high-glycemic index foods or foods with a GI of 70 or more if you have diabetes. Foods with a moderate-glycemic index between 70 and 45 should be consumed sparingly and with low-GI or no GI foods. Unsalted nuts, lean meats and fish have very few grams of carbohydrates and are not assigned a GI.
If you have diabetes, you should avoid all fruits soaked in syrup. You should also refrain from fresh pineapple and fresh watermelon. Avoid dried fruits that have added sugars such as raisins and candied fruits.
White rice, baked potatoes, graham crackers, jelly beans and several kinds of rice and oat cereals should be avoided if you have diabetes. Keep away from pretzels, scones, white flour bagels, French fries and waffles as well. You should also limit your intake of foods high in cholesterol such as egg yolks and shrimp. As a diabetic, you are more likely to have high levels of bad cholesterol and are at greater risk for plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries.
- “ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal”; Glycemic Index: An Educational Tool for Health and Fitness Professionals; Stephen Wong, Ph.D., and Susan Chung, R.D.N.; November/December 2003
- “ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal”; Enhancing Insulin Action with Physical Activity to Prevent and Control Diabetes; Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D.; March/April 2008
- American Diabetes Association: Treating High Cholesterol in People with Diabetes