What Food Causes Diabetes? Foods To Avoid!

Parul Dube

December 11, 2022

Diabetes is a severe and long-term disorder in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin it produces effectively.

It can result in excessive glucose in the bloodstream, leading to health problems over time. Although it is a common condition, people do not understand the exact causes of diabetes. However, nutrition and diet can be contributing factors, especially in type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.

The foods and drinks you consume can affect your blood glucose levels. For instance, eating foods with high levels of added sugars and refined carbs can lead to unexpected blood sugar rises, resulting in diabetes.

Although you can’t alter your age, heredity, or ethnicity, you can modify your diet by being mindful of the kinds of food and drinks you consume. To make healthier choices, be aware of the foods that have a greater chance of causing diabetes.

Relationship Between Diabetes and Food

It can be challenging to understand the relationship between diabetes and food, especially if you’ve recently been diagnosed. Your body’s ability to use carbohydrates, protein, and fat for energy determines how the two are connected. 

The amount and type of food you consume will influence how much insulin is needed. For example, your body will immediately produce insulin when you eat carbohydrate-rich foods.

It will cause a temporary spike in your blood sugar (commonly known as a postprandial spike) before the effects of the insulin start working. People with type 1 diabetes, who can’t produce insulin on their own, may experience higher and longer-lasting spikes in their blood sugar.

A study shows that the blood sugar response to all foods is highly individual. Moreover, the exact timing of blood sugar spikes can vary from meal to meal and person to person. Therefore, living with diabetes, primarily type 1 diabetes, requires you to regularly check your blood sugar levels before and after you eat. The best way to measure post-meal patterns is by using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

The new, improved HealthifyPRO 2.0 version comes with a wearable CGM device that gives you a clear view, including graphs, of what happens with your blood glucose levels after meals without the need for finger pricking. It’s not just post-meal patterns, but CGM tracks your glucose levels 24/7 through a tiny sensor attached to your arm.

HealthifyMe doesn’t ask you to chase perfect blood glucose numbers but instead supports you in making consistent daily efforts to keep yourself healthy.

The Pro Plans provide real-time, data-driven decisions, actionable insights, and expert coach guidance to achieve sustainable and long-lasting results.

What Food Causes Diabetes?

Red Meat

Although most people see red meat as a causative factor for heart disease, studies also show that a daily serving of red meat causes a 19% increase in type 2 diabetes risk.

Doctors believe that the high iron content in red meat could damage insulin-producing cells. Red meat consumption, mainly processed red meat, can also trigger other health concerns related to type 2 diabetes. Therefore, swapping red meat for a healthier protein source, like skinless poultry, nuts, low-fat dairy, or whole grains, lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Processed Foods

Daily consumption of processed foods instead of fresh ones increases diabetes risk by 51%. The high levels of preservatives, sugar, flavourings, and sodium in processed foods may play a role in causing diabetes. So, it’s best to choose whole foods whenever possible. 

Saturated and Trans Fats

Saturated fat is typically present in animal-based products like butter and whole milk, while processed foods like fried snacks and baked goods contain trans fats.

Even if a nutrition label says 0 grams of trans fat, there are possibilities of residual trans fat of fewer than 0.5 grams. Both types of fat can increase bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, insulin resistance, and poor glucose tolerance. As a result, it makes you vulnerable to diabetes. Instead, try to eat food rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Added Sugar and Sodium

A diet high in added sugar or sodium is the primary cause of diabetes.

Added sugar causes blood sugar spikes, while higher sodium intake causes other health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease. These collectively trigger prediabetes, which eventually transmission to type 2 diabetes. 

Snacking on Dried Fruit 

Dried fruits may seem like a healthy snack, but overconsumption can cause blood sugar spikes. That is because dried fruits lose a lot of the fibrous content that promotes satiety and helps to regulate blood sugar.

So, when you’re eating dried fruits, it means you’re consuming a ton more sugar without the needed fibre. However, an occasional dried fruit snack is okay. Still, opting for fresh fruits with high water content and low GI is better. 

Simple Carbohydrate-rich Foods

Eating starchy vegetables with other carbohydrate-rich foods often impacts your blood sugar. For example, rice with sweet potatoes will significantly influence your post-meal glucose level.

Read more: Foods rich in Carbohydrates that you must eat

While too much carbohydrate doesn’t directly raise your risk of diabetes, it encourages weight gain or obesity and blood sugar spikes, which could increase your diabetes risk. Therefore, be aware of overall carbohydrate content and practice moderation. 

Sugary Cereals

A majority of people find flavoured breakfast cereal a convenient and filling option. However, cereals are often highly processed and abundant in refined grains and sugar.

Therefore, consuming them first thing in the morning can increase the risk of many health concerns, including type 2 diabetes. Alternatively, you can eat oatmeal or a salad bowl with greek yoghurt for a quick breakfast.

The HealthifyMe Note

There’s no universal diabetes-causing food since everyone shows different food preferences, dietary restrictions, and life schedules. However, there are some foods you should limit. Consuming foods with added sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat can make you overweight, obese, or insulin resistant, leading to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Drinks that Can Cause Diabetes

Regarding lifestyle diseases, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. Sometimes even one drink can make the difference between good and bad health. For example, sweetened beverages or fruity drinks quickly spike your blood sugar, so do watch out!

Here are some drinks to avoid when trying to prevent diabetes:

Sweet Alcohol 

Although alcohol affects people very differently, alcoholic drinks that are overly sweet have more capacity to increase blood sugar levels. For example, too much beer and sweet dessert wines will put you at increased risk for blood sugar fluctuations. 

Sweetened Sodas or Teas

A study shows that people who drank more than three sugar-sweetened beverages per week are 46% more likely to develop prediabetes than those who didn’t.

Sugar-sweetened drinks like packed fruit juices and sweetened bottled tea only contain simple carbohydrates, which can increase your blood sugar levels. They get rapidly absorbed in your blood, causing a spike in blood glucose levels. As always, it’s better to eat whole fruits than drink them. 

Sports Drinks

Don’t drink sports drinks unless you’re an endurance athlete. Sports drinks are high in carbohydrates, and some may even contain caffeine in high amounts.

Endurance athletes can have sports or energy drinks for salt and nutrient replacement. If you’re not exercising strenuously, skip sports drinks.

Regular Soda or Diet Soda

Regular soda and diet soda drinks contain high amounts of carbohydrates, calories, sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavouring agents, and preservatives.

Around ten spoons of sugar hit your system from drinking only a glass of soda. They cause weight gain and insulin resistance, triggering type 2 diabetes. 

Read more: Is Your Diet Soda Safe for Diabetes?

Managing Diabetes – The HealthifyMe Way

A study shows that special emphasis on diet helps reduce the symptoms and prevent the appearance of complications. For this purpose, your nutritionist suggests modifying your nutritional habits and food preparations to avoid the onset of diabetes and its complications. Young adults would benefit from improving diet quality by shifting toward a more plant-centred diet.

Research also reveals that increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetable oils leads to a 60% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. 

If you’re looking for data-driven, technology-based, real-time guidance, subscribing to HealthifyPro might be an ideal way to tackle diabetes.

For example, do you know how many calories or carbs are in the salad or smoothie you had today? With real-time tracking devices like CGM and Smart Scale, HealthifyPro measures and tracks your glucose levels, calories, hydration, sleep, body fat, and muscle mass. It gives a direct view into how your dietary and lifestyle choices affect your blood glucose levels. 

Your Pro coaches, powered by the AI nutritionist RIA, work with you one-on-one to design a suitable diet and fitness plan for you. The app syncs across multiple devices and creates periodic reports so you can see the big picture of your health. If achieving long-lasting results is your goal, HealthifyMe is the right app. 


While no single food is strictly off-limits, foods with added sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat should be avoided as much as possible or, if and when consumed, control the frequency and portion sizes. When it comes to selecting a beverage, choose water whenever possible.

If you’re at risk for developing diabetes, consult a nutritionist who can review diet strategies and help create an individualised eating plan. You can also upgrade to HealthifyPro, where the Pro Nutritionist goes over what to eat and when and how much to eat since both can impact blood sugar levels.

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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One response to “What Food Causes Diabetes? Foods To Avoid!”

  1. Nice information for us diabetic to know more information that help us to know the do’s and don’t on the food we eat and drink. Thank you so much.

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