Type 2 Diabetes: How to Fuel Your Body 

In the United States, 37 million people have some form of diabetes, and as many as 95% of those people have Type 2 diabetes. In East Tennessee, the statistics are more scary: one in three adults will become diabetic in their lifetime.

The Difference Between Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes

Not all diabetics are the same! It is important to know the difference between the types of diabetes so you can better control your sugar levels. People with Type 1 diabetes can’t get a sugar called glucose into their cells properly because they don’t have enough insulin in their bodies. Insulin is needed to carry glucose into the cells, and, without it, glucose stays in the blood and builds up. That is why Type 1 diabetes is sometimes referred to as “high blood sugar.” Type 1 diabetes is far less common than Type 2 diabetes; only 5-10% of American diabetics are Type 1.

Play WJHL video interviewWJHL Interview: Dr. Samuel Plücker

Type 2 diabetes is much more common. There are about 20 million more Americans with Type 2 diabetes than Type 1. People with Type 2 diabetes are insulin resistant. This means that the more sugar you eat, the more insulin your body has to produce to deal with the sugar. Over time, it has to produce more and more insulin because your body becomes resistant to it.

So, What’s Next?

When you have just been told that you are diabetic, it probably comes with the need to change your diet to better control sugar levels. Eating foods without ingredients that trigger episodes of high blood sugar is one way to help prevent and control Type 2 diabetes. It’s easy to go to the grocery store and buy products “designed for people with diabetes” or “diabetic friendly.” However, I always tell my patients in my family medicine office at Holston Medical Group that they need to take the time to read the ingredients list and not just focus on what they see on the front of the package – or even the nutrition label.

woman grocery shopping and reading a label
Make sure you read the ingredients list while shopping – this is even more important than the nutrition label. Many items that are labeled “diabetic friendly” are for Type 1 diabetics and can actually make Type 2 diabetes worse.

Many “diabetic friendly” foods are for Type 1 diabetics and can actually make Type 2 diabetes worse.  For example, a sugar called fructose, commonly sourced from corn, can get into cells without insulin. So, fructose can be helpful for people with Type 1 diabetes. On the flip side, fructose can harm people with Type 2 diabetes because they already have too much glucose in their bodies.

Understanding how the body uses sugar differently helps my patients with Type 2 diabetes realize why they can’t shop for and eat the same foods as people with Type 1 diabetes.

What Should People with Type 2 Diabetes Eat?

There are three main types of fuel that your body needs: carbohydrates (unprocessed sugars), fats, and proteins. Simple, unprocessed foods are the best way to get those fuels.

You can get closer to reaching your health goals just by enjoying:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Fresh meat
  • Water, instead of sugary drinks like soda or lemonade
Quad photo - fruits, vegetables, fresh meat and glass of water
Get closer to reaching your health goals by sticking to these foods: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh meat and water to drink.


How to Shop with Type 2 Diabetes

When at the grocery store, choosing the right food means shopping the  
”outside aisles” where you can find fresher foods. The “inside aisles” are where you’ll find processed foods you should stay away from.

Ingredients to avoid include:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Processed sugar
  • Processed grains

If you have to buy processed food, read the ingredients on the back of the container instead of the front of the box or nutrition label because that information doesn’t always tell you exactly what is in your food. Brands are required to list ingredients in order of quantity, so the more there is of something in the food, the higher it will be on the ingredient list. If the first or second ingredient is “high fructose corn syrup,” “corn syrup,” “corn starch,” or “sugar,” stay away! Also, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

grocery store aisles
The inner aisles usually contain processed foods, while the outer aisles have fresher foods that are healthier choices.

People with Type 2 diabetes should remember that they don’t just have a high sugar problem; it can cause problems for your entire body. Type 2 diabetes can impact your heart, blood, eyes, and kidneys. That’s why it is so important to make good choices about the food you eat.

If you have questions about the best foods to eat after you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes – or if you want to prevent it – talk with your trusted primary care provider at HMG. We’re here through it all for you and want to make sure that you understand everything about your health.

To learn more about diabetes and which foods are important and which to avoid, call HMG to schedule an appointment today.