Closely monitoring diet is a crucial part of controlling diabetes -- and keeping medical costs down. Uncontrolled diabetes can land sufferers in the hospital with kidney failure, heart attack, or stroke. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be reversed with lifestyle choices and dietary changes, meaning no more pricey medication. The American Diabetes Association warns that highly processed foods are more likely to have high glycemic loads that raise blood glucose levels, as are foods with a lot of refined sugar and not enough fiber. Here are 15 such foods -- some of which might seem healthy -- that diabetics would do well to avoid.
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Despite sounding healthy, wheat bread can contain refined flour and have about the same high glycemic index as white bread, according to research published in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care. Read the label closely to make sure whole grain or whole wheat flour is at the top of the list of ingredients instead of enriched or white flour.
Many breakfast cereals have a high sugar content, and even some that are advertised as healthy have more sugar and less fiber than diabetics should consume. Look for added sugar and fiber content on the label.
It should go without saying that cake, cupcakes, cookies, scones, and muffins are generally poor sources of nutrition. They also register high on the glycemic index. Diabetics should eat them only rarely and in very small quantities.
Another food that's high on the glycemic index is white rice. Harvard researchers have found that the more white rice people eat, the higher their risk for developing diabetes. Brown rice is somewhat lower on the glycemic scale, but whenever possible, pick grains like quinoa, farro, bulgur wheat, or barley instead.
People in a hurry often reach for energy and protein bars, but most contain high fructose corn syrup and have sugar content similar to candy bars. The Joslin Diabetes Center suggests choosing bars with 90 to 260 calories, at least 3 grams of fiber, and a balance of other nutrients.
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While the rolled oats and other whole grains often found in granola can be good sources of fiber, packaged granolas tend to be sweetened with sugar or honey. Nutritionist Laurie R. Simon says diabetics should look for packaged foods that contain no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
Vitamin water doesn't taste like water because it isn't. Most brands have about as much sugar in a bottle as a can of regular Coke. As an alternative to soft drinks, squeeze some lemon or lime into a glass of seltzer.
Fresh or frozen fruit in limited quantities is a good source of fiber, but when fruit is dried, the sugar content is concentrated. Consider sticking to serving sizes of a tablespoon or less.
Yogurt, particularly with mix-in fruit on the bottom, is high in sugar and saturated fat. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases warns that diabetics are at increased risk of heart disease and should watch their intake of saturated fat as well as their glucose levels. Non-fat Greek yogurt (which has more protein and less sugar) is a better choice.
Potatoes are fine to eat in moderation with diabetes when consumed with protein. Fast-food fries, however, are full of trans fats, which raise the risk of heart disease. Opt for oven-baked fries sprinkled with olive oil and seasonings instead.
Not all fats are bad. Simon, the registered dietitian, says monounsaturated oils found in nuts, olives, and avocados help lower bad cholesterol. But many crackers are sources of trans fats and usually are made from white flour, as well. Try a different snack.