Type 2 Diabetes Food List

Type 2 Diabetes Food List – Overview

Type 2 diabetes, typically resulting from resistance to insulin and relative insulin deficiency, has emerged as  a major health problem worldwide. Drug therapy, proper exercise and healthy nutrition are equally important components for management of this condition. Here we will focus on the latter.

Choosing a proper meal plan for type 2 diabetics is often challenging. Apart from blood glucose control, one needs to pursue other objectives such as losing weight and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Finding products that meet all these requirements is sometimes hard.

In the list below you can find some unique options that will help you to diversify your diet , as well as common food items to see how compatible they are with type 2 diabetes.



There is no better way to start our list than vegetables. Nearly all of them are very low in carbohydrates, rich in fibers and vitamins.

1. Spinach –  23 calories per 100 gram.

It is high in fibre, folate, calcium and iron. As other leafy greens spinach is nutritious and low in calories. It will slow down the absorption of carbohydrates consumed from other sources.

2. Kale – 28 calories per 100 gram

This member of the cabbage family is an excellent source for vitamin C ( 4 times as much as spinach) and is loaded with substances called antioxidants, which help to reduce damage by free radicals.

3. Broccoli – 35 calories per 100 gram

Compared to other vegetables they are relatively rich in protein and like other vegetables provides a decent amount of dietary fiber. It can be consumed raw or cooked. Some studies show that steaming is the best way for the retention of precious nutrients like vitamin C and proteins.

4. Cauliflower – 23 calories per 100 gram

Offers the same benefits as broccoli and cabbage. This non-starchy vegetable contains a decent amount of potassium, vitamin C and folate.

5. Asparagus – 22 calories per 100 gram.

It is an exotic vegetable mainly grown and used in Asia but found in stores in many countries across the world. It shares the benefits of other plants listed above and has shown to improve insulin secretion and β-cell function in animal studies. The cons of this product is its high price.

6. Onions – 1 medium sized onion contains just 41 calories

Apart from having a reputation for making us cry, onions can replenish our store of vitamins C, B-6 and manganese. Some evidence supports their protective effects against some types of cancers.

7. Cucumber – 1 medium sized cucumber –  30 calories

They are extremely low in calories and contain more than 95% water. They can help us stay hydrated and receive dietary fiber.

8. Garlic –  4 calories per clove.

One clove of garlic weighs 3 grams on average and contains 2% of daily value of manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Research has shown that garlic can help in regulation of glucose and cholesterol levels.

9. Celery – 16 calories per 100 grams.

It mainly consists of water and contains vitamins A, C and K. Apigenin is a molecule found in celery. It has anti-inflammatory properties and its beneficial effects include improvement of hyperglycemia and hypercholesterolemia.

10. Cabbage – 25 calories per 100 grams.

It shares the same benefits as spinach and kale. Cabbage can be used as an ingredient in almost all salads and soups. It is known to aid in regulation of blood sugar levels.

Keep in mind that carbohydrates are divided into healthy carbs – also known as fiber, which is not absorbed by our gastrointestinal system but is essential for our digestive health and sugars which are absorbed and have an effect on blood glucose. Carbohydrate content of the vegetables is mostly fiber.


Since sweets are mostly under restriction for diabetics, fruits are arguably the best part of the diet to satisfy a sweet tooth. In fact, some fruits contain less amount of carbohydrates than vegetables.

1. Avocados – 160 calories per 100 gram.

This nutrient-dense fruit ( not a vegetable) is one of few of its kind that contains healthy, unsaturated fats. They are very low in sugar and hence, cause only mild increases in blood glucose levels. According to results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) “Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults”. Apart from that, avocatin B found in these fruits has shown to reduce insulin resistance in mice.

2. Strawberries – 32 calories per 100 gram.

We all love red, juicy, sweet strawberries, but what we might not know is that out of all berries they contain the least sugar and are perfectly suitable for diabetic diet. They contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants. These molecules give strawberries a bright red color and at the same time reduce cardiovascular risk factors and have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity.

3. Kiwi – 61 calories per 100 gram.

Their fuzzy brown peel might not look so delicious, but inside the delicious green fruit we can find plenty of vitamin C and potassium. Their glycemic index is low. Here are some recipes with kiwi for diabetics.
Green apples – 52 calories per 100 gram. there are a lot of sorts of this fruit, but green apples seem to be the best choice for diabetics. They are lower in sugar and provide a good source for fiber and vitamin C. Keep in mind that most of the antioxidants are found in apple peel. You can find more about the effects of apples on diabetes here.

4. Tomatoes – 18 calories per 100 gram.

There are lots of misconceptions around them. First of all they are fruits, not vegetables. And some people also consider they have “too much sugar” which in fact, is not true. Due to their low glycemic index and poor carb content, they seem to be a perfectly suitable option for diabetic diet.

5. Plums – 46 calories per 100 gram.

Vitamin A, K, B2, B3, B6, potassium, sorbitol, antioxidants – this is an incomplete list of molecules found in plums. Apart from their effectiveness in relieving constipation, they can help diabetics to better control blood sugar : they have potential to raise the levels of the hormone called adiponectin, that regulates blood sugar.

6. Apricots – 48 calories per 100 gram.

With the glycemic index around 35 they fall into low GI products. You can try both fresh and dried apricots. They are a decent source of vitamin A, as well as vitamin C, copper, manganese and potassium.

7. Grapefruit – 42 calories per 100 gram.

We can say that grapefruit is almost entirely packed with nutrients, minerals and vitamins. In its composition, we will find fiber, vitamins B, C, D, PP, A calcium and potassium, manganese, a set of organic acids and essential oils. And GI is very low -25.

8. Pineapple – 50 calories per 100 gram

Pineapple contains generous amounts of vitamin C and other beneficial nutrients. In core of pineapple is found a special proteolytic enzyme called – Bromelain, which promotes weight loss and has significant anti-inflammatory properties. This fruit belongs to medium GI fruit category with Glycemic index of 66.


Fruits still contain considerable amounts of sugar and can and should not be eaten in very large quantities. Depending how ripe they are, the glycemic index and carbohydrate amount will vary, e.g under ripe bananas have low sugar and high fiber content and GI is 40. In contrast, overripe bananas are vise versa – high in sugar content and low in fiber, with a glycemic index of around 65 . So diabetics should try to avoid eating large quantities of overripe bananas, as well as pineapples and watermelons. Also fruits in juice form, dried or processed are not as healthy as raw fresh fruits.

Dairy products

1. Cottage cheese – 98 calories per 100 gram

This product contains about 4 times more protein than carbs, hence it is a great snack for diabetics. Both regular-fat and low-fat options are suitable. Those who do not like it plain, can always combine it with various fruits and make a perfect breakfast to start the day.  Due to its high protein content, it can have blood sugar lowering effects

2. Yoghurt – 63 calories per 100 gram.

Low-fat or fat-free plain or Greek yogurt is a great choice for diabetics. It can contain as low as 7 grams of carbohydrates per 100g and is quite high in proteins, thus it is a common choice for people who try to lose weight. In addition, a huge study performed between 1980 and 2010, involving over 100,000 people showed that “Higher intake of yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of T2D, whereas other dairy foods and consumption of total dairy are not appreciably associated with incidence of T2D”.

3. Naturally low-sodium cheese – 398 calories per 100 gram

Cheese is rich in protein and contains little or no carbohydrates. On the other hand, it is high in fat and calories and amount consumed should be taken into consideration. Many diabetics suffer from hypertension as well., so another thing to keep in mind is sodium levels in cheese. E.g feta cheese contains 1000 mg of sodium per 100g, in contrast to 16 mg in mozzarella. Other low-sodium options include swiss cheese, goat cheese , brick cheese and ricotta.

4. Goat milk – 69 calories per 100 gram.

Cow milk is a perfectly safe product for diabetics and can serve as a healthy source of fat and proteins. The same is true for goat milk, but it also offers a number of additional benefits, including lower carbohydrate content. According to studies it is also richer in omega fatty acids and other nutrients.

Always check labels for added sugars in dairy products, especially in yoghurts.


Meat, eggs and seafood

Almost all meats contain zero carbohydrates and plenty of proteins. The main thing to look for is healthy fats. The way of cooking and added ingredients have a significant effect on whether or not the final product will be suitable for diabetic diet. In general eating even low levels of red meat like pork, lamb and beef may in fact increase the risk of diabetes, studies suggest. But there are some healthful meat options as well.

1. Very lean meat

According to the National Institute of Health only turkey and chicken breast count as very lean meats. They contain 1 gram of fat and up to 35 calories per serving.

2. Lean meat

Some but not all beef cuts, lean pork, veal, duck and goose fall into this category. Lean meat should contain no more than 3 grams of fat and 55 calories. Lean and very lean meat is a desirable source of protein for diabetics.

3. Medium fat meat

Pork chops, veal cutlets, roasted lamb, chuck steak, and T-bone steak, domestic duck or goose liver, heart, kidney are medium fat meats and should be consumed in moderation.

4. Eggs – 1 large egg is 72 calories.

Eggs are full of nutrients and offer a number of health benefits. Studies have shown their effectiveness in cholesterol management ( they increase HDL/”good cholesterol”) and blood glucose control. Restricting carbohydrates at breakfast and substituting it with egg omelet might be beneficial according to this research. Keep in mind that both yolk and white contain essential nutrients, make sure to eat both.

5. Salmon – 206 calories per 100 gram.  and 6) Tuna -130 calories per 100 gram.

Fatty fish are in general, one of the healthiest products one can consume. These are excellent sources of protein and omega fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation. In general You can prepare a salmon or tuna-salad and mix them with other healthy nutrients.

7. Lobster – 143 calories per 100 gram.

Eating lobster requires work and effort, thus it is hard to overindulge and controlling food portions is easier. In general, sea products are very low in carbs and do not contain unhealthy fat and are safe to eat for diabetics. The same is true for clams, crabs, mussels, oysters and shrimp


Whole grains

1. Bulgur wheat – 83 calories per 100 gram.

This ancient grain is the main ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes. It is made from wheat kernels and can be used in soups, as well in bakeries. Apart from weight management and reduced cardiovascular risks, improved blood glucose management is among its health benefits. This may be attributed to its high fiber content or other nutrients found in bulgur wheat.

2. Barley, Farro, Quinoa – Are amongst the earliest crops cultivated by mankind. Whole barley is more nutritious than “pearl barley” and offers micronutrients like magnesium, potassium and zinc. All three are extremely rich in fiber and therefore beneficial to diabetics.

3. Whole grain and whole wheat bread

As the name suggests they both contain fully intact grains. They are absorbed slowly and therefore cause smaller spikes in blood glucose levels.

4. Oatmeal – 71 calories per 100 gram.

It is a common breakfast mea. Oatmeal can help to regulate blood sugar and feel full longer. It has low GI and high fiber content as do other whole grains. You should check labels for added sugars while shopping.

Dressings, spreads and oils

1. Peanut butter – 588 calories per 100 gram.

We have already discussed peanut butter in terms of diabetic diet. Its high fiber content reduces the absorption of carbohydrates from other sources and can reduce blood sugar spikes when consumed with food containing high sugar levels. Main drawback is its high calorage.

2. Almond butter – 614 calories per 100 gram it can be a suitable option

for people who are allergic to peanuts.

3. Olive oil –  119 calories per table spoon

Oleic acid found in olive oil, has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels and improve glycemic management. It is an extremely beneficial product for our cardiovascular system. Other molecules in olive oil – Polyphenols act as antioxidants, reduce inflammation and keep our blood vessels intact. Just make sure that product you buy is pure olive oil, sometimes it is mixed with cheaper soy or corn oils.

4. Vinegar – 3 calories per tablespoon.

Some studies have shown that consumption of small amounts of apple cider vinegar can benefit your postprandial glucose levels. Furthermore, other study suggests it can reduce blood sugar spikes caused by other consumed carbs by up to 20%.


Snacks and desserts

1. Popcorn – 557 calories per 100 gram.

We have already discussed popcorn in the scope of diabetes here. Consuming moderate amounts of homemade popcorn ( not premade or sweetened ) is safe for diabetics.

2. Nuts – (Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, pecans)

They are nutritious and delicious, but very high in calories. Wide variety of studies have already demonstrated their anti-inflammatory and blood-sugar lowering actions. So there is no doubt that nuts can be a healthy snack for a balanced diet. Be cautious with hazelnuts, they are champions when it comes to calorie count consisting of 183 calories per only 1 nut, having more than 5 a day may not be a good idea since it can make you gain extra pounds which we don’t need in diabetes.

3. Fruit popsicles – with no added sugar

4. Chia seeds – 486 calories per 100 gram

Did you know that chia means “strength” in ancient Mayan. They do look tiny but in fact they are one of most nutritious foods in the world and are known for their energy-boosting properties, besides being full of fiber and healthy fats, protein and various antioxidants, they are even backed up by animal and human researches stating an evidence that it can raise insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar levels after meals. Therefor, starting a day with chia pudding is defiantly a great idea for diabetics.

5. Sugar-free gelatin containing desserts

7. Sesame seeds – 565 calories per 100 gram

Despite being quite rich in calories, its composition is something everyone can benefit from especially those with diabetes, it’s rich source of protein – building block for all tissues, low in carbs,  60% of its carbohydrates are in form of fiber, which slows down absorption of sugar,  according to researches sesame seeds are known to reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Besides all this seeds contains pinoresinol- type of polyphenol which lowers blood sugar levels by inhibiting maltase – enzyme responsible for sugar breakdown. all these makes it a perfect snack for diabetics.


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See Also

Type 1 Diabetes