- Prediabetes is a medical condition that occurs when blood sugar is consistently higher than average but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
- Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and protein can help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Diet changes and healthy lifestyle choices can reverse prediabetes and decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for your doctor to classify it as type 2 diabetes. It is a warning sign that you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you do not make some food and lifestyle modifications.
Fortunately, making certain changes can help you bring your blood sugar levels down to a healthy range and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This article explores what prediabetes is, and some of the best foods you can eat if you have it.
What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a sign that your body is starting to have difficulty regulating your blood sugar levels. There are two common reasons why you might develop prediabetes:
- Insulin resistance - your body’s resistance to the insulin hormone.
- Insufficient insulin - your insulin production is severely impaired.
Insulin resistance occurs when your body’s cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, making it harder for glucose to enter your cells to be used or stored for energy. This leads to higher than normal blood sugar levels, which can cause prediabetes.
Another cause of prediabetes is when your pancreas is not producing enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that guides sugar from your blood into your cells. Your pancreas releases insulin in response to consuming food. Without enough insulin production, your blood sugar levels will rise.
Having high blood sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes, and if not addressed can contribute to organ and tissue damage.
Symptoms of Prediabetes
Prediabetes is a condition you may not know you have. Oftentimes, prediabetes does not cause symptoms.
However, some people with prediabetes may experience symptoms related to having high blood sugar. These may include:
- Increased thirst.
- Frequent urination.
- Fatigue or weakness.
- Blurred vision.
- Slow-healing wounds or cuts.
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
- Unexplained weight loss.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to let your doctor know. Other medical conditions can also cause these symptoms and seeing your doctor can get you an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
List of Foods for Prediabetes
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, making changes to your food choices is an important step in managing your condition and reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that plenty of delicious and nutritious foods can help you maintain stable blood sugar levels and support your overall health. You can also still enjoy your favorite foods. You may just need to decrease your serving size and how often you eat them.
A Nourish dietitian can help you develop a plan that meets your needs and preferences.
Fruits and vegetables
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is an essential part of a balanced diet and is vital for people with prediabetes.
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients, making them an excellent choice for managing your blood sugar. Fruits and veggies are also high in fiber, which can help you feel satisfied after eating and prevent blood sugar spikes.
When possible, it is best to reach for whole, fresh, or frozen produce instead of canned, dried, and juiced varieties, as these often contain added sugar and can cause a blood glucose spike.
Here are some examples of fruits and veggies you can incorporate more into your meals:
Aim to get a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet each day to meet your nutritional needs.
Whole grains are a good source of fiber and other nutrients, including B vitamins, complex carbohydrates, and minerals. Unlike processed grains, whole grains digest more slowly and prevent a sudden increase in your blood sugar.
Some good options for whole grains include:
- Whole wheat bread.
- Brown rice.
When shopping, look for whole grain versions of your favorite breads, pastas, and cereal products. Try experimenting with whole grain recipes like quinoa salads and stir-fried brown rice.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They are also low on the glycemic index, meaning they will not make your blood sugar levels rise out of range.
Try adding them to some of your meals and snacks throughout the day. Eating them will help you feel full and prevent mindless snacking.
Some examples of nuts and seeds that are good for prediabetes include:
- Chia seeds.
- Flax seeds.
- Pumpkin seeds.
Proteins are essential for proper immune functioning and muscle repair and growth. Adding proteins to your meals can regulate your blood sugar levels and help you feel full and satisfied between meals.
Some proteins to consume if you have prediabetes include:
- Dairy products.
Choose a variety of protein sources throughout your week to fulfill your body’s nutritional needs.
Other Tips for Prediabetes
In addition to incorporating specific foods into your diet, a variety of other lifestyle factors can help you manage your prediabetes and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Following these tips can help you create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle that supports stable blood sugar levels and your overall health.
Don’t skip breakfast
Eating breakfast is especially important if you have prediabetes. A balanced breakfast can help manage your appetite and cravings throughout the rest of the day and can help your body avoid becoming insulin resistant.
Some good breakfast options include:
- Oatmeal cooked with low-fat milk.
- Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts.
- An omelet with vegetables and whole grain toast.
When preparing your breakfast, choose options low in added sugars and high in fiber and protein to help you feel satisfied and regulate your blood sugar.
Limit added sugars
Foods and drinks high in added sugars can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and contribute to insulin resistance. Instead of reaching for sugary treats, try incorporating naturally sweet foods into your diet, such as fruits or starchy vegetables.
When you do consume foods with added sugars, be mindful of your portion size and how frequently you eat them. Reading nutrition labels can help you identify which foods are high in sugar. Limiting these foods can help you support stable blood sugar levels.
Work with a dietitian
A registered dietitian from Nourish can help you develop an individualized nutrition plan that takes into account your personal needs, preferences, and health goals.
They can also help you understand how different foods and nutrients affect your blood sugar levels and provide guidance on portion sizes and overall dietary balance.
After working with a diabetes nutritionist, you can feel confident that you are making the best choices for your health and are taking proactive steps to reverse your prediabetes.
Risk Factors of Prediabetes
Several risk factors can increase your chance of developing prediabetes. Some of the most common factors include:
- Having overweight or obesity.
- Being physically inactive.
- Having a family history of diabetes.
- Being over age 35.
- Having a personal history of gestational diabetes.
- Having high blood pressure.
- Being African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander.
If you have one or more of these risk factors, it is important to get regular blood sugar screening to check for prediabetes. A healthy lifestyle and diet choices can help decrease your risk of developing prediabetes.
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