A proper diet can control blood glucose, but many people don’t know which diet to choose. What is the best diet to lower blood sugar levels?
What’s the best diet to lower blood sugar? The number of diets to choose from is overwhelming. Maybe your blood sugar levels are high. You might even have recently learned from your doctor that you are prediabetic. If you are prediabetic, you’re not alone—approximately 90 million adults in the U.S. are prediabetic. And another 30 million have diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is manageable, even reversible. In addition to getting enough exercise, diet is the most important factor in keeping blood sugar levels at healthy levels. But how to choose what diet to follow? The diet industry is estimated at a staggering $60 billion per year.
Let’s examine some of the most popular diets. We’ll evaluate how effective each diet is for managing blood sugar….
What’s the Best Diet to Lower Blood Sugar Levels?
Low Fat Diets
- Pritikin: Though this diet may not be the household name it was in the 1980s and ‘90s, the Pritikin diet is still the bellwether for low fat diets. The Pritikin website audaciously considers the diet, “the healthiest diet on earth.” But is it? The diet only limits total fat intake to 10% of daily calories. As this post on dietary fats suggests, eating healthy dietary fat can have many benefits. The Pritikin diet is high fiber, which is good if you’re managing blood sugar. But the danger of low fat diets is this: they are hard to maintain for a long time. And when people eat very little fat, carbs tend to fill the void. That’s not good for managing blood sugar if the carbs include many grains. So, Pritikin is not the best diet to lower blood sugar.
- Potato Diet (aka McDougall’s starch diet): This oddity of a diet has several different versions. The true potato diet is a mono diet. This means sticking to one food for a certain period of time. This blog references how one potato farmer dropped his blood sugar levels by eating nothing but white potatoes. He tried the spud-only diet because of the negative press potatoes received. The potato farmer claims to have lowered his blood glucose by 10 points in only 60 days. The obvious drawback to this diet: the impossibility of sustaining it. Other pro-starch diets like McDougall’s encourage high consumption of grains. Forget the Potato Diet if you want to control blood sugar!
- Cabbage Soup Diet: Another mono diet, this is for quick weight loss. Advocates claim weight loss of 10 pounds is very doable in just 7-10 days. Cabbage is a very healthy vegetable. But you could also lose 10 pounds in a week if you severely limit your calories eating nothing but cookies. Speaking of which, there’s also the cookie diet. Yes, that’s a real thing. But that idea is so preposterous, it won’t be considered one of the best diets to lower blood sugar levels. Sorry.
Low Carb Diets
- Atkins: It’s amazing this diet remains highly popular. Bacon, eggs, cheese and butter for breakfast? Yes! As long as you skip the toast. This high-fat, low-carb diet helps the body manage blood sugar by putting the body in a state of ‘ketosis.’ Ketosis utilizes the body’s fat stores for energy. The downfall of the Atkins diet? It fails to emphasize dietary fiber. And for most people, the diet is unsustainable. People love their carbs. With the exception of fruits and vegetables, most sources of fiber are from grains. Grains are carbohydrates, a no-no on the Atkins diet. Atkins is a certainly a contender for best diet to lower blood sugar levels. It’s important to eat free-range/grass-fed sources of meat and eggs and dairy if you’re on the Atkins diet. It’s also critical to get enough fiber.
- Paleo: Paleo diets are also very effective at managing blood sugar. But it strictly eliminates all grains from the diet. The true purpose of the Paleo diet is to eat foods that do not cause inflammation. Eating too many carbs may promote inflammation in the diet. Can you easily say no to rice, pasta, breads and other high-carb foods? Then Paleo might not be hard for you to stick to. True Paleo also means being conscious of the quality of the foods you eat, especially the meats and other dietary fats. Want to know if a food is true Paleo? Ask yourself if the food you’re about to eat was around tens of thousands of years ago. If it wasn’t (gluten free cookies, for example), then it’s not Paleo. The downfall of this diet: it’s too rigid for some people to stick to it. So, although it is certainly on top of the list for best diet to lower blood sugar, it’s may not be sustainable for many people.
- South Beach: This diet has endured for well over a decade, too, much like Atkins. South Beach is seemingly more sensible and less strict than other low-carb diets. The major difference between South Beach and Atkins: you can have your carbs, and eat them, too. As long as the carbs aren’t high on the glycemic index (GI). The GI scale measures how quickly a certain food raises blood sugar. Like other low-carb diets, white rice would be a no-no on South Beach. But slower-burning grains like wild rice would be ok. The downside: a true South Beach diet is done in 3 phases. The most restrictive and challenging is at the very beginning. The South Beach diet is also effective at managing blood sugar. The foods encouraged to eat on South Beach are similar to the Mediterranean Diet/Lifestyle. If one can get by the first couple phases, there’s greater chance for long-term success. If you want to eat more carbs, South Beach may be the best diet for you to control blood sugar levels.
Low Calorie/Portion Control
The list of diets in the low-calorie or portion control categories are too numerous to mention. And unless one is medically called for, low-cal diets are not effective for managing blood sugar. They may temporarily help one to lose weight and perhaps lower blood glucose readings. But ultimately, these diets are much too restrictive for the average person to sustain. One of the only low calorie eating plans that can be excellent for sustained blood sugar management is intermittent fasting.
Conclusion: The Best Diet to Lower Blood Sugar Levels?
The best diet to lower blood sugar combines the sensible tenets of all the low-carb diets: eat lots of smart fats; eat nutrient-dense foods like green vegetables and berries; limit quick-burning grains like white rice and low-fiber breads; eat a handful-sized portion of protein that comes from humanely-raised grass-fed sources; make sure most of your cabs comes from low-starch vegetables; and finally, be strict about limiting carbs. But not so strict you end up giving up eating low-carb altogether and succumb to sugar cravings.