Top Worst Foods for Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease of the metabolism so naturally, diet plays a significant role in the management and healing process of the disease. You didn’t get diabetes overnight so chances are this has been progressing for some time. While some foods can help lower your blood sugar, other foods can exacerbate the symptoms. Through personal experience and experiments on family members, I have been able to identify the top worst foods for diabetes.


While this may seem like a no-brainer, I’m not talking about natural sugar. I’m referring to “added” sugars. Added sugars, or those sugars that aren’t naturally occurring in foods (for example, fruits) are in just about everything. The most common culprits include candy, cookies, syrup and cereals. But you’ll find it in condiments, yogurt, bread, juice, packaged goods, and meats (just to name a few). For the most part, most of these food items lack nutritional value. Added sugars cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar and can contribute to significant weight gain, both of which can negatively impact your diabetes health.

FACT: Americans consume 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day, teens 34 teaspoons.

Sugar is not just sugar anymore. There are many different names of added sugars and you’ll have to be a detective and look for these on the ingredient list:

  • agave
  • apple juice concentrate
  • barley malt
  • brown sugar
  • cane sugar
  • fructose
  • glucose or dextrose
  • grape juice concentrate
  • high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • honey
  • malt syrup
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • orange juice concentrate
  • raw sugar or table sugar
  • sucrose or evaporated cane juice
  • turbinado

A good rule of thumb is recognizing the -ose suffix. When you find words that end in -ose, there’s a good chance it is sugar.

Sugars ending in -ose Include: Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Galactose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup, Glucose solids
Just because it doesn’t end in -ose, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t sugar. There are tons of other hidden sugar words. Pay attention to the labels and educate yourself.


  This includes stick margarine, shortening, fast food and processed baked goods.
  Having diabetes increases your risk of heart disease; because the vast majority of people with diabetes (more than 80 percent) die from heart disease, any food that increases cardiovascular risk will be especially problematic for those with diabetes.
  Trans fat intake is an extreme dietary risk factor for heart disease; even a small amount of trans fat intake increases risk.
  Tans fats also decrease insulin sensitivity and increase insulin resistance. That’s NOT what you want.
Trans fat will not be labeled so clearly on food labels and if eating out you probably won’t have access to the food labels. Just because the food label says zero trans fat, that’s not always the case. Sneaky marketing! What you’re looking for on food labels is: Hydrogenated Oil or Partially Hydrogenated Oils. This is code for trans fat and you should steer clear of this ingredient.


 (White Rice and White Flour Products)

Refined carbohydrates like white rice, white pasta, and white bread are missing the fiber from the original grain, so they raise blood glucose higher and faster than their intact, unprocessed counterparts.

Surprising to many, if we measured one cup each of white rice versus brown rice they would contain the SAME amount of carbohydrates. BUT brown rice, or any other whole grain, would slow down the glycemic response giving your blood sugar a moderate bump instead of a swift kick in the pants. Make sense?

More and more studies are proving that those with diets high in refined carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, and pasta were 2.5 times as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate foods such as intact whole grains and whole wheat bread. In addition to the accelerated increase in blood sugar, cooked starchy foods also contain AGEs, which promote aging and diabetes complications.


  Ugh, I cringed writing this because I know a lot of you will hate me for taking your bacon away. My husband whined for weeks when I eliminated bacon in our favorite Saturday brunch meal. But I just know you’ll thank me later (or at least your heart will ♥ ).
Bacon, along with other processed meats, fatty and marbled cuts of meat all carry a hefty amount of saturated fat and sodium. These foods initiate inflammation in the body which leads to various side effects.
  As mentioned before, those with diabetes are at an increased risk of heart disease. Eating high-fat meats puts them at an even greater risk than the average person.
  Instead of feasting on fatty bacon, hamburgers, bologna, hot dogs, or spare ribs, fill your plate with lean protein choices like skinless chicken and turkey, egg whites, fish and shellfish, or lean pork tenderloin.


High-calorie, high fat, high-sodium, and high-carb dishes can spike blood sugar and blood pressure dramatically and keep it high for a while. Among many others, take-out Chinese food has some of the worst nutritional values.

  Long term high blood sugar is dangerous. Some people experience no symptoms and will not recognize elevated blood sugar but it’s important to remember that diabetes is like termites in a house. The house looks fine on the outside, but there is more damage on the inside than we know.
Using Chinese food as an example, the biggest offenders include fried entrees such as orange chicken and sweet and sour dishes, which contain breading and are served swimming in a sugary sauce. Remember condiments can contain a ton of carbohydrates.
 One time I had a patient tell me that he was eating out and ordering vegetables and teriyaki chicken. No rice or noodles, but his blood sugar was spiking and he couldn’t figure it out. After reviewing his diet it was clear that the teriyaki sauce was the culprit. Be aware!
 If you enjoy Chinese food, prepare a modified recipe at home using steamed veggies and low-sodium, low-fat condiments and flavorings. Reducing sodium can help lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart attacks. Skip the white rice and noodles; have brown rice or wild rice instead.

Author: Katie

Hi! I'm Katie, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. This website it dedicated to those looking to heal their bodies from the inside out - and it all starts with balancing out your blood sugar. Let's heal disease together one plate at a time.

2 Replies to “Top Worst Foods for Diabetes”

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for the thorough and very well written article.
    My grandparents are diabetics and I always try to educate them about the importance of eating a proper food, related to the effects on this disease.
    The Trans Fats can have a very negative effect not only for the diabetics but also for every healthy person as well.
    They just do not absorb and stay in our blood.
    What foods are recommended for diabetics?

    1. It’s great that you try to educate your grandparents about diabetes and a healthier lifestyle. Education is power!

      Foods that are recommended for those with diabetes include whole grains and legumes, whole fruits and vegetables (no fruit juice), lean proteins and healthy plant-based fats/oils. It’s important to pay attention to portions to control blood sugar as well. Try and include 2 cups non-starchy vegetables (no potatoes, corn or peas) with lunch and dinner and always pair carbohydrates and protein together. I hope this is helpful and thank you for your positive feedback.

      Have a wonderful day!

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