Best diets to lose weight if you have diabetes

For people with diabetes, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is essential. Maintaining a healthy weight can help promote healthy blood sugar levels and reduce the chances of additional complications, such as a stroke, or heart attack.

To maintain overall health and reduce the potential risk of complications, it is recommended that people with diabetes choose safe weight loss methods. Attempting to lose weight too quickly, or by using extreme methods can lead to side effects, such as low blood sugar levels, fatigue, and extreme hunger. Losing weight using safe and sustainable methods can reduce the risk of adverse effects and help people with diabetes maintain their weight loss over time.

A person with diabetes must consider several factors when deciding the best way to lose weight. This may include their age, general health, and how much weight they have to lose. It is best to talk to a healthcare professional before starting a new weight-loss plan. The most suitable diet for someone with diabetes is one they will stick to a long-term. The below diets involve making healthy long-term changes to help a person lose weight safely.

In this article, we will suggest diets that may be beneficial for individuals living with diabetes wanting to lose weight.

Trying to include certain foods in the diet, while limiting others, may help a person living with diabetes to better manage their condition. Additionally, it may also provide health benefits and help them achieve a healthy weight. Some people may worry that living with diabetes means they must avoid foods they enjoy. However, people may still be able to enjoy these foods, but in smaller portions or less often as part of a balanced diet.

The key to a healthy diet is variety and choosing different foods from each of the main food groups. People may then consider making healthier swaps, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables for refined carbs like white bread, poultry, and fish instead of red and processed meats for protein, and including healthier fats such as olive oil and avocado over fried foods.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a healthy eating plan will include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • lean meats and plant-based sources of protein
  • less added sugar
  • less processed foods

Click here to learn more about foods to eat with diabetes.

Some people may think dieting will just involve a quick fix, cutting out certain foods, or following rigid rules. However, many fad and weight loss diets can actually be detrimental to health. While some may provide short-term results, they are often difficult to sustain and can deprive a person of essential nutrients. Instead, a person should aim for a diet with a balanced and nutritious eating plan that they can follow long-term.

It is also advisable to discuss diets with a medical professional. For example, following a low-calorie diet may help some people to manage symptoms of diabetes. However, this type of diet may not be safe or suitable for everyone with type 2 diabetes, especially those who require insulin.

Click here to learn more about foods to avoid with diabetes.

The DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, diet is an eating plan that experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created to help people manage their blood pressure.

Important aspects of this diet include portion size, consuming a variety of healthy foods, and obtaining the proper balance of nutrients. It encourages a person to consume less sodium, while increasing their intake of magnesium, calcium, and potassium. While the diet aims to reduce blood pressure, it may also help those who want to lose weight, lower cholesterol, and manage diabetes.

A 2017 article notes that the DASH diet is an acceptable eating plan for those with diabetes. It also adds that the balanced dietary approach can improve insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, and obesity.

The Mediterranean diet involves food choices and cooking styles typical of some places in the Mediterranean region.

The diet typically includes:

  • plenty of vegetables
  • whole grains
  • fruits in moderation
  • nuts and seeds
  • herbs and spices
  • olive oil
  • fish
  • eggs

The authors of a 2017 review noted that the Mediterranean diet might be a useful approach to weight loss for people with diabetes.

They highlighted a 2-year study that involved 36 adults with obesity and type 2 diabetes. The participants ate either a low-carbohydrate diet, a Mediterranean diet, or a low-fat diet for 2 years.

The Mediterranean diet was the most favorable for changes in insulin and fasting glucose levels. Those following the Mediterranean diet also lost an average of 1.5 kilograms (kg), or 3.3 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet.

Low-carb diets are a popular weight loss plan that can be effective for improving certain aspects of health in people with diabetes. Typically, low-carb diets limit a person’s intake of carbohydrates and include higher amounts of protein and healthy fats.

Examples of foods that a person may restrict on a low-carb diet include:

  • potatoes
  • rice
  • white bread
  • cakes
  • sweets
  • bagels
  • pasta

People on a low-carb diet should eat plenty of vegetables and get lots of protein from fish, lean meats, and eggs. There are many different types of low-carb diets, while most involve reducing the total amount of carbs, some restrict total carb intake more than others.

For example, very low-carb diets (VLCDs) restrict carbs to less than 10% of total calories, or 20–50 grams (g), per day, while less restrictive low-carb diets may limit total carb intake to less than 26 %, or less than 130g, per day. While this diet may not be suitable for everyone, evidence suggests they can be beneficial.

For example, a 2021 review suggests that low-carb dietary approaches can be a safe and effective method to help those with type 2 diabetes manage their weight and blood sugar levels.

Additionally, while more research is still necessary, a 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis indicates that in addition to weight loss, those with type 2 diabetes who adhere to a low-carb diet may experience a remission of symptoms without adverse consequences.

Click here to learn more about low-carb diets for diabetes.

The Paleolithic or “paleo” diet attempts to replicate the diet that people ate thousands of years ago when they had to hunt for food. Staples of a paleolithic diet include fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and fish.

Although dietitians do not consider the paleo dietary pattern a low-carb way of eating, it cuts out grains, processed foods, and minimizes the intake levels of many high-carb and sugary foods, which can be beneficial for managing blood sugar.

Many of the foods included in the paleo diet are similar to those in a low-carb diet, as a paleo diet prohibits the consumption of most grains.

A 2021 study suggests that a high degree of adherence to a paleo diet may have beneficial effects on fat mass, body weight, waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, and triglycerides. While more research is still necessary, this could indicate that closely following this type of eating pattern could be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes.

Vegetarian and vegan diets eliminate meat and focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. People following a vegan diet eliminate all animal products, including dairy and eggs. A vegetarian or vegan diet may help people with diabetes achieve their weight loss goals.

A 2017 review highlighted the possible benefits of eating a plant-based diet in people with diabetes. In one study, 99 people of varying ages ate either a vegan diet or an ADA diet that included whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and meat.

After 22 weeks, the participants on the vegan diet lost an average of 6.5 kg (14.3 pounds), while those on the ADA diet lost 3.1 kg (6.8 pounds). Also, 43% of the participants on the vegan diet decreased their diabetic medications, compared to 26% on the ADA diet.

like a 2021 review also notes that a vegan diet could be a beneficial eating model for people with diabetes. However, it notes that following this dietary pattern could lead to potential adverse effects due to the exclusion of some nutrients.

As such, it may be good for people to consider a diet that encourages plant-based options, but not follow an overly restrictive diet that cuts out all animal products, which could lead to nutritional deficiencies.

While a person can help control diabetes using diet, there is no one special eating plan exclusively for people with diabetes. However, people can apply dietary tips to help with their weight loss journey. These can include:

  • choosing better carbs
  • eat less salt
  • eating less red and processed meat
  • eating more fruit and veg
  • choosing health fats
  • reduce added sugar
  • choosing sensible snacks
  • limiting alcohol
  • choose sensible foods and portion sizes
  • Reduce consumption of sweetened beverages

In addition to diet, people can also include other strategies to maintain a healthy weight, such as regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and drinking plenty of water.

Maintaining a healthy weight can make a big difference to those managing diabetes. Many diets can help a person with diabetes lose weight safely. However, not all diets are right for everyone — the best diet for weight loss is usually the one a person finds easiest to stick to over time. Before making any significant dietary changes, always speak to a healthcare professional.

Sources:

Campbell, AP (2017). DASH eating plan: An eating pattern for diabetes management. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5439361/

Challa, HJ, et al. (2021). DASH Diet To Stop Hypertension. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482514/

Diabetes diet, eating, & physical activity. (2016). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity

Eating with diabetes. (n.d.). https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes

Food and keeping active. (2020). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-2-diabetes/food-and-keeping-active/

Goldenberg, JZ, et al. (2021). Efficacy and safety of low and very low carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes remission: systematic review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished randomized trial data. https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.m4743

Jardine, MA, et al. (2021). Perspective: Plant-based eating pattern for type 2 diabetes prevention and treatment: Efficacy, mechanisms, and practical considerations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8634508/

Joshi, S., et al. (2018). Pros & cons of some popular extreme weight-loss diets. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6366252/

Mårtensson, A., et al. (2021). Using a paleo ratio to assess adherence to paleolithic dietary recommendations in a randomized controlled trial of individuals with type 2 diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8002510/

McMacken, M., et al. (2017). A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466941/

Mottalib, A., et al. (2017). Weight management in patients with type 1 diabetes and obesity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569154/

Pollakova, D., et al. (2021). The impact of vegan diet in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes: A systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8235036/

Recipes & nutrition. (n.d.). https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition

Wheatley, SD, et al. (2021). Low carbohydrate dietary approaches for people with type 2 diabetes—A narrative review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8319397/

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