What Is a Prediabetic Diet?

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At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

While prediabetes isn't as severe as diabetes, both conditions are affected by the food you eat. This makes your diet a very important factor when managing either condition.

Affecting around 30.3 million people in the United States alone, prediabetes is a fairly common health issue. You may know it by its more serious names: impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).

Your glucose tolerance is affected when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. Insulin helps to break glucose down in your body and insufficient amounts of insulin can cause sugar to build-up to levels that are high, but not quite high enough to be classified as diabetes. 

On the bright side, prediabetes doesn't mean you are guaranteed to be diagnosed with diabetes. Prediabetes can be managed and even reversed with certain lifestyle and diet changes.

Glucose gets all the heat for being a leading cause of prediabetes and diabetes. However, this by no means suggests that you should cut this nutrient from your diet entirely.

Glucose provides your body with energy, but to maintain your overall well-being it's important to be consumed in moderation.

If you are on a prediabetic diet, here is a list of recommended foods, foods that should be enjoyed in moderation, and foods you should avoid.

What Can You Eat?

While there are many food you can enjoy on a prediabetic diet, it's important to be aware of the items you should avoid.

What You Need to Know

To manage prediabetes, a balanced diet containing complex carbohydrates, proteins, and other necessary nutrients is advisable. It's best to consume fruit, alcohol, and complex carbs in moderation and to eliminate simple carbs and candies completely.

What to Eat
  • Beans

  • Tofu

  • Fish

  • Oatmeal

  • Low-carb alcohol

  • Low-sugar fruit

  • White/lean meat

What Not to Eat
  • Syrups

  • Sugary drinks

  • White bread/white rice

  • Candy

  • Chips

Foods You Can Eat on a Prediabetic Diet

Below is a list of foods that you can safely consume on a prediabetic diet.

Healthy Proteins

In addition to building muscle mass and promoting metabolism, protein is an energy-producing macronutrient.

Through a process known as gluconeogenesis, protein is broken down by the body into glucose and used for energy.

Because protein is absorbed less efficiently than carbohydrates, you will typically be left feeling more full for a longer period of time, reducing your chances of snacking, especially on unhealthy options. Protein also preserves lean body mass during weight loss. This is especially important as obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes.

Protein also slows down the rate that carbohydrates enter your bloodstream, ensuring that blood glucose levels are kept steady.

The American Diabetes Association recommends the following plant-based proteins:

Vegetarian options such as meatless chicken, beef, etc are also recommended as a protein source.

Poultry Sources

Chicken and turkey are excellent sources of protein. However, to reduce cholesterol and saturated fats, you're better off eating your poultry without the skin.

Beef

Lean meats are great to include in a prediabetic diet. Red meat and processed meats may not be the best options for your condition, as they are high in saturated fat and sodium. These include ham and bacon.

However, the leanest options of these meats such as flank, rib, and T-bone steak could be safe for eating.

Likewise, lean pork options such as ham or tenderloin or roast lamb and lamb chops can be a part of your diet.

Fish

Fish is a great source of protein and is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

We already know how great protein is for muscle building and providing energy. Fatty acids could be great for heart health as they can lower the heart rate. This is an important feature for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Fish is also rich in vitamin D. Now while it is yet to be confirmed, there are suggestions that there is an increased risk of developing diabetes if you have vitamin D deficient prediabetes. Studies have linked consuming vitamin D with a decrease in the progression to diabetes, however, this claim hasn’t been widely accepted.

Either way, fish makes for a delicious and healthy addition to your diet.

Fiber

Fiber is a fantastic addition to the prediabetic diet. High fiber meals help to reduce the glycemic index of food.

The glycemic index is a system that allocates how much a carbohydrate-containing food increases blood sugar. Fiber contributes to reducing blood sugar levels.

In addition, fiber helps to lower cholesterol levels.

Foods You Can Eat in Moderation

Let's discuss some of the foods that you can enjoy, in moderation, if you've been diagnosed with pre-diabetes.

Fruit

Receiving a prediabetes diagnosis doesn't have to feel like a life sentence to the bland side of life. You can enjoy fruits in moderation.

Lower-sugar fruits like grapefruit, avocado, kiwi, and watermelon are suitable options, as they do not encourage dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels.

Alcohol

The good news is, you can enjoy alcohol even if you have prediabetes. The not-so-good news is that excessive alcohol consumption can cause insulin resistance and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction.

This dysfunction can affect the production of insulin in the body. Insulin resistance and β-cell dysfunction can lead to diabetes, which is why moderation is the name of the game when it comes to enjoying alcohol.

Low-carb alcohol like dry wine is relatively safe in moderation.

Complex Carbohydrates

There's still a place in your diet for carbohydrates, but only the right kinds.

Complex carbohydrates contain more nutrients, are higher in fiber, and digest slowly, which keeps you fuller for longer. You can find them in whole grains such as wild rice, oatmeal, whole-grain barley, bulgur, etc.

Foods to Eliminate

In certain instances, some foods are better off left out of your diet.

One of such foods is simple carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are sugars that are absorbed very quickly into the body, promoting the chances of increased blood sugar levels. They include processed foods such as syrups and sugary drinks which have added sugars and very little nutritional value.

White bread, candy, coffee drinks, chips, white rice, etc, should be taken out of your diet when managing prediabetes.

Pros and Cons

Below is a list of pros and cons you should be aware before beginning a prediabetci diet.

Pros
  • Prevents diabetes

  • Reverse insulin resistance

  • May improve weight loss

  • Permits cravings like alcohol

Cons
  • Does not specify food quantities

  • Safety concerns of long-term low-carb diets

Pros

  • Can prevent the progression of diabetes: By cutting off simple and refined sugars, this diet helps to avoid blood-sugar spikes which can lead to increased levels of sugar in the blood. This can help to slow down the clock on the progression of diabetes in the body. 
  • May help in reversing insulin resistance: With the prediabetes diet helping to lower blood sugar levels, insulin will then have a chance to move more easily into cells, helping to lower insulin resistance.
  • Has been shown to improve weight loss: The prediabetes diet encourages healthy eating by avoiding processed foods and recommending nutrients like proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. These foods can help to encourage weight gain and reduce the risk of obesity.
  • Makes allowances for cravings like alcohol: This diet encourages its observance by permitting cravings like healthy alcohol options every once in a while.

Cons

  • Does not list food quantities: While the prediabetes diet specifies a protein, complex carbohydrate, and fiber-rich diet, it doesn't dictate exact specifications to serve as a guide when dishing out portions. Specifications are necessary to help keep blood sugar levels in check.
  • Safety concerns of low-carb diets: Low-carb diets have been associated with many adverse effects. With the prediabetes diet prescribing an eating plan low in carbohydrates, it may pose a health risk for people looking to eat healthier.

Is The Prediabetic Diet A Healthy Choice For You?

If your blood sugar is moving towards high and dangerous levels, a prediabetic diet is a healthy way to rein it to less threatening levels. 

However, because a prediabetic diet is naturally rich in nutrients and low in sugar, it may be an ideal eating plan for anyone looking to make healthier diet choices.

Health Benefits

A prediabetic diet gets all the praise as a means to reverse or delay the progression of diabetes. This is due to its ability to lower blood sugar levels.

This diet may also help to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. Also, when combined with exercise, you get the deluxe benefits of reduced cholesterol, weight loss as well as increased energy levels for the day.

Health Risks

For all its good, there may be some danger lurking in the prediabetes diet. As a strictly low-carb diet, there is yet to be a consensus on the safety of engaging in this meal plan for a long period of time. This could lead to conditions like ketosis, where the body burns fat for energy due to insufficient carbohydrates. This can lead to bad breath, keto-flu, and loss of energy.

Likewise, long-term carb restriction may lead to osteoporosis, kidney damage, and other adverse effects.

Other Ways to Manage Prediabetes

In addition to your diet, other factors can increase the risk of developing prediabetes.

These include influences like obesity, an inactive lifestyle, and being over the age of 45. Likewise, genetics, giving birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds and above, or being Hispanic, Asian, or African/Native American, could increase your chances of developing prediabetes.

To help manage and possibly reverse pre-diabetes encouraged by these risk factors, the following methods can be observed:

Lifestyle Changes

Programs targeting obesity are a major way to manage prediabetes and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Curbing obesity may require a mix of the right diet, exercise, and proper stress-management habits. These interventions can have long-term benefits for your well-being.

In a study that began in 1986 and ended in 1992, participants were placed in lifestyle intervention groups that covered diet and exercise. A follow-up with the subjects 14 years after the study ended revealed that group-based lifestyle interventions can prevent or delay diabetes for up to 14 years after active intervention.

Medication

Prediabetes may be managed with drugs that can reduce blood sugar levels and the risk of type 2 diabetes. These medications are typically employed where there is a higher risk of diabetes, or if lifestyle changes haven't been able to stabilize blood-sugar levels.

Metformin is the only prediabetes medication currently approved by the ADA, it has reported positive outcomes like BMI reduction and an improved cholesterol profile.

Bariatric Surgery 

This consists of procedures that make changes to the digestive system. This is to allow for effective weight loss.

Bariatric surgeries work in different ways to either restrict caloric intake by reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold, or the body's ability to absorb nutrients. Sometimes, it may be a combination of both.

This surgery may involve a gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy or an adjustable gastric band.

A Word From Verywell

A prediabetes diagnosis can be scary until you remember that healthy lifestyle changes can help to manage and even reverse this condition. A balanced diet made up of complex carbohydrates, proteins, low-sugar vitamins and can greatly help with reigning pre-diabetes in.

Avoiding simple carbs that can cause spikes in blood sugar levels is also important when dealing with pre-diabetes.

You’ll also be doing wonders for your well-being by consistently observing a healthy diet and incorporating lifestyle changes.

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Article Sources
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