A man looks up at thought bubbles above his head showing different foods that are part of diabetes-friendly nutrition plans.

Is There One Best Diet for Type 2 Diabetes?

After you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor may recommend changing your eating habits or starting a new diet. The word "diet" may carry some negative connotations. But according to Merriam-Webster, it simply means "food and drink regularly provided or consumed" or "habitual nourishment."1

There is no 1-size-fits-all diet or eating plan for people with type 2 diabetes. Everybody's needs are different and unique. So there's not a simple answer to what the "best" diet is. But some types of nutrition plans are better than others.

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How should I approach nutrition with diabetes?

It can feel impossible to navigate the various nutrition plans that exist. When the topic arises, it seems that every person has a different opinion on what diet or eating plan is best to follow.

We nutritionists cannot say for sure that there is a single best diet for type 2 diabetes. But with a focus on nutrient density, there are a few popular nutrition plans that could benefit blood glucose control and overall health.2

Bread, broccoli, orange, leafy greens, egg, cheese, strawberry.

Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)

DASH was developed in clinical trials conducted by the National Institutes of Health to help lower blood pressure. The nutrition plan encourages you to focus on:3

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy

Some fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds are also included in the DASH diet. Following the DASH diet includes avoiding food that are high in sugar, salt, and fat.3

Bell pepper, carrot, lettuce, grape, apple.

Plant-based lifestyle

A plant-based nutrition plan eliminates all or most animal products. It typically omits meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.

This diet is very similar to a vegan diet. But a plant-based diet emphasizes eating whole foods, like:

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Fresh fruits
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

What makes this diet a great option is it avoids most processed and packaged foods. These foods are typically high in empty calories, sugar, salt, saturated fats, and carbohydrates.

Tomato, leafy greens, pita bread, hummus, olives, fish.

Mediterranean diet

A Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional cuisine and eating plans of cultures that live along the Mediterranean Sea, such as in Greece, Italy, and France.

The life expectancy of people in these areas is higher than average. Experts believe the food they eat is linked to that. The Mediterranean diet is rich in:4

  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Healthy fats like olives, olive oil, avocado, and nuts

For protein, focus on fish, chicken, and plant-based proteins like tofu instead of red meat.4

How to start a nutrition plan that works for you

Transitioning to a new nutrition plan is not an easy task. You may not know what to eat at first, or how much to eat. Luckily, there are people who can help you figure all of this out!

You can start by talking to your primary care doctor. They may be able to help you directly with nutrition advice, or they may refer you to another professional, such as a:

These specialists can support you in transitioning to an eating plan that is personally suited to your nutritional needs.

Focus on nutrients versus restrictions

As you can see from the 3 eating plans mentioned, there are some common themes. Each encourages eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based and lean proteins, and healthy fats. And all encourage eliminating or reducing red meat, saturated fats, foods high in salt and sugar, and processed foods.

Start by focusing on what nutrients you can add to your daily routine. These diets – and their nutrition guidelines – are a great place to start if you are interested in eating healthier.

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