If you have prediabetes, your doctor will probably recommend lifestyle changes to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. You may have to adjust your diet as part of those changes, and it's possible that reducing your carb intake can help you lose weight to prevent the onset of the disease.
What Is Prediabetes?
According to the Mayo Clinic, prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than recommended, but not yet high enough to reach the threshold for Type 2 diabetes. If you have prediabetes, you can prevent your condition from progressing to Type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes like changing your diet, getting regular exercise, losing weight if needed and working to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Are age 45 or older
- Are overweight
- Are not physically active, or live a mostly sedentary lifestyle
- Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Have high blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher
- Have low levels of HDL cholesterol (35 mg/dL or lower)
- Have high levels of triglycerides (250 mg/dL or higher)
Additional risk factors for women include:
Diabetes vs. Prediabetes
In healthy individuals, the pancreas makes a hormone called insulin that works to turn glucose into energy. In some cases your body doesn't make enough insulin or use insulin effectively, leading to high glucose levels in the blood that characterize diabetes.
- A normal fasting blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L)
- A prediabetic fasting blood sugar level is from 100 to 125 mg/dL
- A diabetic blood sugar level is 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests
According to the ADA, many people with prediabetes have no symptoms. Others will experience symptoms associated with diabetes, such as:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Extreme thirst
- Strong hunger
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Cuts or bruises healing more slowly than usual
- Tingling, pain or numbness in your extremities (particularly your hands and feet)
Carbs Per Day for Prediabetes
If you have prediabetes, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations by losing 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight to prevent the onset of diabetes. The best way to lose weight is to eat a healthy diet and follow a safe, effective workout routine. The UC Davis Health website recommends working with your doctor to figure out what your daily carb intake should be.
A good rule of thumb is to limit your intake of refined carbs and opt for complex carbs instead. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta and sugary breakfast cereals have been processed to remove fiber and other nutrients. Processed sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar, are also categorized as refined carbohydrates. Instead of eating refined carbs, look for sources of complex carbs like whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain bread, quinoa, lentils, beans and oats.
Exercise for Prediabetes
If you have prediabetes, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week and losing 7 percent of your body weight can help prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. There's not a specific type of exercise that will decrease your likelihood of developing diabetes, so just try workouts you enjoy.
An October 2016 study in the journal Diabetologia suggests that moderate-intensity exercise can be very effective for people with prediabetes. Researchers assigned groups of people with prediabetes to one of four different groups. One group followed a program similar to the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), following a combined diet and exercise program.
The three other groups did not diet but were assigned various amounts of exercise per week. One group performed a low amount or moderate-intensity exercise, walking briskly for an average of 7.3 miles each week. The second exercise group performed a high amount of moderate-intensity exercise, walking briskly for 11.3 miles per week. The third exercise group performed a high amount of vigorous-intensity exercise, equivalent to jogging 11.7 miles weekly.
The data showed that the group that walked 11.3 miles per week achieved 80 percent of the results of the DPP group in terms of improving their glucose tolerance — without changing their diet. "These observations suggest that a high amount of moderate-intensity exercise may be a very effective intervention for preventing progression to diabetes in at-risk individuals," the researchers concluded.
According to the study, you may not need to adopt a rigorous HIIT workout routine to fight prediabetes. Taking regular brisk walks throughout the week can be very effective.
What’s a Good Diabetic Diet?
The Mayo Clinic says that, if your prediabetes does develop into Type 2 diabetes, a healthy eating plan can help you control your blood sugar levels. An ideal diabetic diet will be rich in nutrients, low in refined carbohydrates and low in fat and calories.
There's no one-size-fits-all diet for diabetes, but your doctor may be able to refer you to a dietitian who can work with you to create a personalized meal plan. Ask your doctor about the minimum carbohydrate intake for diabetics. In general, people with diabetes should eat three meals a day at regular times. Great food options include heart-healthy fish, leafy greens, avocado, lentils, beans, nuts and fresh fruit.
If you have diabetes, you should avoid eating fried foods, saturated fats, trans fats, foods high in cholesterol and foods that contain a lot of sodium.
- Mayo Clinic: "Prediabetes"
- Cedars-Sinai Hospital: "Prediabetes: A Tool for Change"
- Harvard Health: "What Is Prediabetes and Why Does It Matter?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes"
- Diabetologia: "Effects of Exercise Training Alone vs. a Combined Exercise and Nutritional Lifestyle Intervention on Glucose Homeostasis in Prediabetic Individuals: A Randomised Controlled Trial"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Diabetes Prevention Program"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes Diet: Create Your Healthy-Eating Plan"
- American Diabetes Association: "All About Prediabetes"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Prediabetes: Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes"
- UC Davis Health: "Healthy Eating for Pre-Diabetes"