What to Eat to Reverse Prediabetes
Prediabetes doesn’t have to become type 2 diabetes. You can reverse prediabetes and your blood sugar levels to get them back to normal ranges, reducing your overall risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes. With lifestyle changes (such as healthy diet and exercise) people with prediabetes may be able to lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58% (or 71% if you’re over the age of 60) (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2022).
Eating a healthy diet that includes whole foods, lean protein, healthy fats, lots of fruits and vegetables and good low-GI carbohydrates like grains and legumes will help to reduce your prediabetic risk factor.
Which foods affect blood sugar levels?
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrate sources include (but not limited to): bread, rice, pasta, potato, cereal, legumes and all fruit. See more carbohydrate food sources here.
When you eat foods containing carbohydrates and added sugars (e.g. lollies, chocolate, soft drinks), they are broken down to smaller sugars (glucose) used for energy in the body. The reason you may have prediabetes, where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, is due to insulin (a hormone that transports the sugar from the blood to the body cells) not working properly, so the sugar
builds up in the blood to higher-than-normal levels.
So, WHAT should I eat?
Different carbohydrates are broken down in your body at different speeds. People with prediabetes are encouraged to choose ‘low glycaemic index’ (low GI) foods, as these foods break down slowly into glucose (sugar), which causes a much smaller rise in your blood
sugar levels compared to ‘high glycaemic index’ (high GI) foods.
(Health ACT, 2022)
As you can see in this graph, when consuming a high GI food such as white bread vs. a low GI food such as multigrain bread, your blood sugar levels don’t peak as high. When you consume many high GI foods, causing many spikes in blood sugar levels over the day,
this can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. The best sources of low-GI carbohydrates to consume include:
- Wholegrain goods such as multigrain bread and rolls, wholemeal pasta and rolled
- Fresh or tinned fruit.
- Starchy vegetables such as corn, sweet potato, potato or taro.
- Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and other beans (both canned and dried varieties).
- Low-fat dairy products such as milk and no-added sugar yoghurt.
The following high sugar/high GI foods should be avoided as they can cause unwanted weight gain and high blood sugar levels:
- Soft drinks (choose diet or sugar-free versions)
- Cordial (choose sugar-free versions)
- Lollies and chocolate
- Ice blocks and ice cream
- Fruit juice (limit to ½ cup per day)
Carbohydrates are usually not eaten alone. See here how to build a balanced healthy meal. Our Baked Beans on Toast recipe provides good quality carbohydrates.
HOW MUCH should I eat?
Generally, the carbohydrate portion should fill 25% of your plate. This is a guide to give you an understanding of a portion size.
You want to make sure you’re getting an even amount of carbohydrates spread throughout the day so your body is able to break it down for energy. For example, you want to avoid a situation where you might not have any carbohydrates say for breakfast, and then a large portion with lunch. This will send your blood sugar levels high.
See below what 1 serve of carbohydrates looks like. Depending on your personal circumstances (for example your weight, height, activity level, age etc.), you should be be aiming for 2-3 carbohydrate serves (from fruit or grains) in main meals, and 0-2
for snacks (from fruit or grains).
In terms of how much added sugar you should eat and drink, the best tip is to look at a nutrition label. On a nutrition label, you want to ideally aim for less than 5g/100g. See below our example of a can of Coca Cola.
WHEN should I eat?
You should eat carbohydrates with all main meals and in smaller amounts for snacks (between meals), usually eating every 2-4 hours, or depending on how hungry you feel. As you can see, both the amount of carbohydrates and the quality of carbohydrates you eat
effect can prevent you from progressing to type 2 diabetes. Just by making a few small changes to your diet, you can reverse
prediabetes back to normal, healthy blood sugar levels.
Note: These are general guidelines. To get personalised recommendations, seek advice from your GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
- A practical guide to pre-diabetes in Canberra – health.act.gov.au (2022).
Available at: https://health.act.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-09/IGT%20Pre- diabetes%20booklet.pdf (Accessed: November 8, 2022).
- Diabetes prevention program (DPP) (2022) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/about-niddk/research-areas/diabetes/diabetes-prevention-program-dpp/ (Accessed: November 8, 2022).