General Dietary Guidelines
Lifestyle changes of diet and exercise are extremely important for people who have pre-diabetes, or who are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle interventions can be very effective in preventing or postponing the progression to diabetes. These interventions are especially important for overweight people. Even moderate weight loss can help reduce diabetes risk.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes eat high-fiber (14g fiber for every 1,000 calories) and whole-grain foods. High intake of fiber, especially from whole grain cereals and breads, can help reduce type 2 diabetes risk.
Patients who are diagnosed with diabetes need to be aware of their heart health nutrition and, in particular, controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. [Specific information on diet plans such as the salt-restricting Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Mediterranean Diet (which is rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and monounsaturated fats) can be found in In-Depth Report #43: Heart-healthy diet.]
For people who have diabetes, the treatment goals for a diabetes diet are:
- Achieve near normal blood glucose levels. People with type 1 diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes who are taking insulin or oral medication must coordinate calorie intake with medication or insulin administration, exercise, and other variables to control blood glucose levels.
- Protect the heart and aim for healthy lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels and control of blood pressure.
- Achieve reasonable weight. Overweight patients with type 2 diabetes who are not taking medication should aim for a diet that controls both weight and glucose. A reasonable weight is usually defined as what is achievable and sustainable, and helps achieve normal blood glucose levels. Children, pregnant women, and people recovering from illness should be sure to maintain adequate calories for health.
Overall Guidelines. There is no such thing as a single diabetes diet. Patients should meet with a professional dietitian to plan an individualized diet within the general guidelines that takes into consideration their own health needs.
Review Date: 05/05/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.