When it comes to managing diabetes, it might feel like the food you eat is working against you. But a well-crafted plate could actually be your greatest ally.

From surprising superfoods to potential pitfalls, Raashi Khanna, DO, primary care provider with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, explains the best and worst diets for diabetes.

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So what exactly is the relationship between diet and diabetes?

Because of the impact it has on blood sugar levels, diet plays an essential role in managing diabetes. What we eat and how much we eat can influence how quickly blood sugar rises, making our dietary choices a powerful tool in controlling diabetes.

“When facing a diabetes diagnosis, it’s easy to assume you’re going to have to completely change your way of living,” says Dr. Khanna. “But that’s not always the case.”

A well-planned, balanced diet can help you regulate your blood sugar, manage your weight and reduce your risk of complications that come with diabetes.

> Related: 3 Foods to Eat (and 3 to Avoid) If You Have Diabetes

The 6 staples of a healthy diet.

Dr. Khanna bases a diabetes-friendly diet on eating nutritious meals at regular times. But what defines a healthy meal?

According to Dr. Khanna, a healthy meal incorporates the following foods:

  1. Fruits: berries, apples, oranges, peaches, apricots, plums, grapes, mangoes, papayas, pomegranates, kiwis and cherries.
  2. Vegetables: leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, mustard greens and cabbage, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, pepper, onions, cucumbers and Brussels sprouts.
  3. Legumes: beans and peas.
  4. Low-fat dairy products: milk and cheese.
  5. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines.
  6. ‘Good’ fats: avocados, nuts and olive oil.

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Is any one diet the best for diabetes?

In short – no.

While no one diet is necessarily best for diabetes, Dr. Khanna frequently recommends the Mediterranean diet. Centered on abundant fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts, this diet prioritizes extra virgin olive oil over butter and other alternatives.

Another focus is limiting the intake of dairy products, red meat, sweets, added sugars, sodium and highly processed foods. This can lead to improved blood sugar, reduced risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, and an increased ability to fight some cancers.

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Avoid these three foods if you have diabetes.

Managing diabetes often starts with managing blood pressure and cholesterol.

“Making changes to your diet and exercising can help improve your overall health,” says Dr. Khanna.

She recommends starting by removing some of these foods from your plate:

  1. Fried foods: usually packed with salt, they can make your blood pressure worse.
  2. Sugary treats like chocolates and cakes: these cause your blood sugar to spike quickly, without providing much protein or fiber.
  3. Processed snacks: loaded with preservatives and unhealthy fats, these can be bad for your cholesterol.

So don’t wait – form good eating habits now, and take control of your diabetes