A visual representation of a food pyramid for diabetes, serving as a helpful food guide for diabetics.

12 Foods You Should Not Eat If You Are Diabetic


Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition that affects people of all ages. The main problem with this disease is having too much glucose in the blood. As the years go by, it can damage your internal organs, including the kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and eyes.

Type II diabetes has a relatively stable production of insulin. However, the cells do not respond to its action. Differently put, when insulin tries to enter glucose from the blood into the cells, the process fails. We diagnose type II diabetes more in overweight individuals over the age of 40.

In this article, we will list 12 foods that have a high glycemic index and could potentially lead to hyperglycemia. But first, let us define the glycemic index.

What is the Glycemic Index (GI)?

Carbohydrates are vital components of a healthy diet and can be found in various foods, such as bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. These macronutrients get broken down into simple sugars and enter the bloodstream. However, not all carbs are equal in terms of their effect on blood sugar levels.

The glycemic index is a system that was developed by Dr. David Jenkins, a Canadian professor, in the early 1980s. The GI ranks foods by contrasting their ability to raise blood sugar levels after the absorption of 50 grams of pure glucose.

Foods belong to one of these three GI ratings:

  • Low – 55 or below
  • Medium – 56-69
  • High – 70 or above

Foods with a low GI value are ideal for diabetic individuals since they get digested and absorbed slowly, leading to a gradual increase in blood sugar levels. Conversely, foods with a high GI value should be consumed in moderation, as they get digested rapidly and cause a sharp rise and fall in blood sugar.

The top 12 foods to avoid as a diabetic

1.      Processed meats

Processed meats, such as bacon, ham, salami, and beef jerky, contain harmful chemicals. Several studies linked these meats to debilitating diseases. Additionally, they worsen the metabolic state of diabetics.

To make healthier choices, replace processed meats with leaner and more natural sources of protein, such as:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Tuna
  • Hard-boiled eggs

2.      Full-fat dairy

These products primarily consist of saturated fats, which are unhealthy fats that could increase the risk of heart disease.

Moreover, due to their higher fat content, dairy products are often more calorically dense and can worsen diabetes.

Opt for low-fat dairy alternatives to better control your blood sugar levels.

3.      Baked Goods

Packaged pastries, cookies, and cakes typically consist of refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and unhealthy fats (e.g., trans fats). These processed goods also contain various chemical additives, such as preservatives, coloring agents, and flavorings.

What’s more, the carbohydrates in these foods are usually refined and simple, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Choose healthier options, such as hummus, vegetables, almonds, or apple slices.

4.      White Carbohydrates

White carbohydrates found in white bread, rice, and pasta lack substantial nutritional value. They can cause blood sugar spikes, weight gain, and increased levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (commonly known as "bad" cholesterol).

Instead, opt for whole grain alternatives, including brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain pastas.

5.      Sweetened Cereals

Breakfast cereals tend to be processed foods that contain high amounts of sugar.

Breakfast cereals have a high glycemic index that can lead to sudden spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.

6.      Sweetened Condiments

Sweetened condiments, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, and salad dressings, are your secret enemy as a diabetic individual. These condiments can supercharge your blood sugar levels without even noticing.

7.      Dried Fruits

Dried fruits are a tasty snack and a source of dietary fiber, but they are also loaded with sugar. For example, a small box of raisins contains 25 grams of sugar in just 43 grams, whereas 50 grams of dates contain 25 grams of sugar.

For diabetic individuals, you should consume dried fruits in moderation to avoid uncontrolled hyperglycemia.

8.      French Fries

French fries are deep-fried in oil that contains unhealthy saturated fats, making them high in fat and calories. Regular consumption of French fries can lead to serious health risks, including cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Additionally, French fries may contain excessive amounts of salt, contributing to elevated blood pressure levels.

If you are already diabetic, including French fries in your daily diet can precipitate dire consequences.

9.      Higher-Fat Cuts

Beef or pork ribs, prime rib, rib-eye steak, and beef brisket all have high-fat levels. Since diabetes already increases your risk of heart disease, you’d want to steer clear of any other foods that may also boost your risk. There are also some studies that found a connection between higher-fat cuts and cancer.

Choose leaner meats, such as chicken breast, turkey breast, sirloin, and pork tenderloin.

10.  Sugary foods

We all occasionally crave sugary foods like chocolate, cake, or candy. However, foods high in added sugars generally lack protein and fiber, leading to rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar levels. Regular consumption of sugary foods can contribute to poor glycemic control.

11.  Sodas

Diabetic individuals should avoid sugary beverages since they contain an insanely high amount of sugar. At the same time, they provide little to no nutritional value. They can also cause a sudden surge in blood sugar levels.

12.  Alcoholic beverages

Alcohol can cause unpredictable blood sugar fluctuations, interfere with medications, contribute to weight gain, impair judgment, deplete nutrients, and increase the risk of hypoglycemia. Diabetics should be cautious when consuming alcohol. Ideally, they should avoid it altogether.

Takeaway message

Diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to severe complications in the long term. Without controlling your sugar levels, the excess glucose can wreak havoc on your organs silently but consistently.

Hopefully, this article managed to highlight the most common foods that may harm diabetic individuals.

If you have any questions or want to share other food elements, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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