Can Diabetes Be Controlled with Diet and Exercise?

tips for helping diabetes with the right diet and exercise programs

The Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that prevents the production of insulin necessary to control blood sugar levels and normally develops in early adolescence to adulthood.

Type 2 diabetes is where the body becomes insulin resistant or loses the ability to absorb insulin and develops later in life.

Things You Can Do to Help

some healthy foods to eat on the diabetic diabetes

Both types have been linked to a genetic component or predisposition to the diseases. Both can be controlled through insulin injections and can benefit from lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, diet, and exercise.

It is, however, important to note that since type 1 diabetes results in the total inability to produce insulin, diet and exercise can only be used to help control blood sugar levels but insulin treatment will still be necessary.

The treatment for type 2 diabetes on the other hand often begins with lifestyle changes and can be entirely controlled through diet and exercise.

In some cases, these lifestyle changes are sufficient to cure type 2 diabetes by increasing natural insulin production as well as absorption.

Check with Your Doctor First

a doctor checks a diabetes patient

With either type of diabetes, a medical practitioner or nutritionist may recommend the Diabetic Diet. This diet consists of eating foods that are lower on the glycemic index (low GI foods) which means they have fewer carbohydrates (sugars) that are absorbed into the body slower than other types of carbs.

Foods to Eat and Avoid

Low GI foods consists of whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes (beans and peas), low fat dairy and some types of raw fruits and vegetables.


Some fruits are very high in natural sugar that are easily and quickly absorbed by the body and therefore should be avoided entirely like grapes and berries. Fruit juice, canned fruit and dried fruit should also be avoided. Low GI fruits (with a value lower than 55) include apples, pears, peaches, plums and strawberries.


Canned and pickled vegetables should be avoided. Other veggies that are considered to have a high glycemic value include artichokes, asparagus and baby or sweet corn. Most other types of other vegetables are safe too eat as long as they are cooked correctly (avoid frying) and the amount of sugar and sodium (salt) are limited.

Avoid Sugary Foods

gummy bears

All other foods that are high in sugar and sodium should also be avoided. This includes all types of processed foods, snack foods and sweets. There are alternatives available for diabetics with a sweet tooth like chocolate made from carob seeds and herbal salts however even these should be eaten in moderation.

Whole Grains

Most whole grain foods are acceptable like wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, nuts and seeds. White rice, fast cooking pasta and all foods that contain processed, white flour should be avoided (a good alternative is rye bread or foods made with rice flour).


Roasted nuts and seeds that contain salt should also be avoided. It is important when buying products that claim to be wholegrain to check whether they are entirely wholegrain and do not also include processed flour.

Moderation is Key

Moderation is key in a diabetic diet to control blood sugar levels. Controlling diabetes through what you eat does involve a lot of counting and calculating sugar intake vs. the bodies ability to metabolize sugar. It is essential to check the ingredients on every food that you buy to check that each is low GI.

The Role Exercise Plays

a woman exercising

Exercise can also help control diabetes. Simply walking every day will require more energy resulting in the increased ability to breakdown and absorb sugar which naturally lowers blood sugar levels.

High intensity, fast-paced, cardiovascular exercise for extended periods of time are however not recommended. Yoga, Tai chi and other calming and relaxing exercise routines are advisable.

Exercise helps reduce weight which is important for diabetics. Weight is an important factor in controlling diabetes and can both contribute to the development of the disease or be a result of the disease. Higher weight may also increase the symptoms of diabetes like poor blood circulation and high blood pressure.

Finding the The Right Diet

For a lot of us, eating the right foods can really be a struggle. Especially if you’re used to eating unhealthy thins for most meals.

In those cases, you may want to use a diet plan or program that can help point you in the right direction. After you see what it’s like to eat healthy foods for a month or two, then you may be ready to stick to a healthy eating plan on your own.

Finding the right diet can be somewhat tricky for diabetics, but luckily there are plenty of programs out there with plans specially designed for diabetes.

Here are just a few you may want to consider if you have diabetes, and want to lose or control your weight:

nutrisystem d supplies

  • Nutrisystem D
  • BistroMD
  • Medifast
  • Diet to Go
  • Weight Watchers

The first four diets listed above are meal delivery programs, and Weight Watchers is a plan that involves buying your own groceries, but they show you which foods to eat if you want to lose weight.

For my money, I would go with Nutrisystem D (read more about it here), as it’s one of the most affordable plans around, and their program has been helping diabetics lose weight for years now.

Here are just a few factors that push Nutrisystem D to the top:

  • Very Affordable: Get started for around $300
  • Easy to Follow: Just eat the food and lose weight
  • Plans for Men and Women
  • The Food Tastes Great

My advice would be check it out and get a feel for whether or not it’s the right diet for you, and also check any of the other diets out too – they’re really solid choices!

Final Thoughts

It is absolutely essential to consult with your doctor before making any changes to the way you control your diabetes, and also before embarking on any type of exercise routine. You should also discuss any dietary and other lifestyle changes that you are considering making and never discontinue or lower insulin dosage without the express permission of a medical practitioner.


List of good foods for diabetics:


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