7 Day Mediterranean Diabetes Diet Plan (Downloadable PDF)
By Mediterranean Living
Updated April 21, 2023
About 422 million people are living with diabetes worldwide, and 37 million of them are Americans. 1 in 5 people with diabetes in America don’t even know they have it. Neither do 4 in 5 of the 96 million Americans with prediabetes, a condition that can easily progress to diabetes. Diet is a critical part of managing diabetes and avoiding its legion of possible complications. A healthy and sustainable diabetes diet plan is more important than ever.
Table of Contents
- Understanding the link between diabetes and diet
- How does the Mediterranean diet work for people with diabetes?
- Components of the Mediterranean diet that are helpful for people with diabetes
- Can the Mediterranean diet reverse diabetes?
- Crafting a Mediterranean diabetes diet plan
- Mediterranean Diet Plan for People with Diabetes
Diabetes and diet have had a long and complicated relationship. Once, doctors thought the solution to losing sugar in urine—as people with uncontrolled diabetes do—was best treated with large amounts of sugar, carbs, and beer. Later, some experts prescribed a starvation diet, while others thought the best diet was beans, beans, and beans.
Thankfully, that has been debunked.
Now, it has been established that there’s no diabetes diet. “There’s no single magic diet for diabetes,” according to the American Diabetes Association. Following a thorough review of over 600 studies on diabetes and food, the experts concluded that everyone’s body responds differently to foods and diets.
Thus, they don’t prescribe a single diet for everyone with diabetes, but rather, they share guidelines to help you make healthy choices.
The Mediterranean diet is a timeless way of eating that’s been proven to support healthy living for generations. Based on the traditions of Ancient Greece and neighboring countries, it embraces a holistic, natural approach to meals. Beyond meals, the Mediterranean diet also includes how you eat it, who you eat with, and how physically active you are.
For six years in a row, seasoned health and nutrition experts have voted the Mediterranean diet as the Best Diet Overall. It has also been voted as the best diet for bone and joint health, the best diet for healthy eating, and the best plant-based diet.
The Mediterranean diet was also voted one of the best diets for people with diabetes, second only to the Dietary Actions to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Research shows the Mediterranean can help people with diabetes improve blood sugar control, maintain a healthy weight, and improve their heart health, among other benefits.
However, everyone is different. It’s best to keep track of the way you feel after meals with a food journal and discuss your diabetes diet plan with your care team to decide what’s best for you.
Here’s more about the Mediterranean diet for people with diabetes, including its health benefits, tips for success and a sample 7-day diabetes diet plan. (Spoiler alert: it’s delicious)
Understanding the link between diabetes and diet
Diabetes and diet are inseparably linked by insulin– a hormone that manages your body’s glucose. Glucose is your body’s preferred energy source, and insulin helps get it out of the blood into your cells. But in diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or fails to respond to the insulin it produced (also called insulin resistance).
As a result, your blood glucose levels rise and eventually, some of it is excreted in your urine. Meanwhile, you feel insatiably hungry because your cells aren’t getting the glucose. Together, this creates three of the most common diabetes symptoms:
- Peeing a lot with sugar in your urine
- Feeling hungry even after eating
- Getting very thirsty
Apart from making you pee frequently, a high blood glucose level –also called hyperglycemia—is harmful to your body. It can destroy your blood vessels leading to widespread damage in organs such as your eyes, kidney, penis, and nerves. Over time that can cause blindness, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction and permanent nerve damage. This is why a sustainable and healthy diabetes diet plan is so important.
Your doctor will prescribe medication and place you on a meal plan to keep your blood glucose within the normal range. The ideal diet should be made specifically for you based on your needs, health, and available food.
For instance, although two people with diabetes follow the Mediterranean diet, their exact meals may differ.
Your doctor may offer you more low-calorie options like vegetables and place you on a calorie deficit form of the Mediterranean diet if they want to help you lose weight.
If you have any allergies or sensitivities to foods like tomatoes, nuts or yogurt, your doctor may design a plan that follows the Mediterranean diet but avoids the foods that irritate you.
It’s also possible to follow versions of the diet such as a lower carbohydrate Mediterranean diet, a Pesco-mediteranean diet, or a Green Mediterranean diet depending on your goals and your care team’s guidance.
How does the Mediterranean diet work for people with diabetes?
The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based way of eating that originates from the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea such as Greece, and neighboring countries like Italy, Spain, and Turkey.
Scientists observed that this eating style provided many benefits to those following it. And further study has established that this diet supports a healthy lifestyle and reduces the risk of many diet-related conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet pyramid is a pictorial representation of the diet that guides meal choices. Resting on the base of physical activity and communal meals, the pyramid shows how often you should eat certain food types.
The first tier shows foods you can eat every day, and these are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, herbs and spices, olive oil, and other healthy oils like avocado.
Foods on the second tier are to be eaten twice a week. And in this group, you have fish and seafood.
The third tier contains food to be eaten in moderate portions daily to weekly. For instance, Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
The top of the pyramid is for food you can do without or eat sparingly. These include sweets, pastries, red meat, and saturated fat.
Here are some of the ways following the Mediterranean diet can help people with diabetes:
Helps you improve blood sugar control
Your body doesn’t function properly when your blood sugar is too high (or too low). The Mediterranean diet helps to keep blood sugar levels within the normal range. And this effect is seen in people with normal blood sugar and people with diabetes.
An extensive review of recent research showed that people who followed the Mediterranean diet had better blood sugar control, lower insulin levels, and less insulin resistance.
They also found that it could help reduce glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) which is used to measure blood sugar control over time. Studies suggest this is due to the helpful phytochemicals like flavonoids and polyunsaturated fats found in extra virgin olive oil, as well as several fruits and vegetables in this diet.
Helps you get full and stay full much longer
The Mediterranean diet is plant-based, and heavily favors foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grain. All those foods are rich sources of fiber–an indigestible compound that helps you stay full.
When you follow the Mediterranean diet, you are more likely to get enough fiber than if you choose to eat chips and soda all day.
Encourages mindful, communal eating
Also, because the Mediterranean diet encourages eating in a communal setting or devoting a time and place for meals, you are more likely to eat mindfully. Doing this helps you notice when you are full instead of wolfing down food or distracted eating, which make you more likely to overeat.
This can also help strengthen your relationships with your family and loved ones, which is also a key part of well-being
Helps you control your weight
Your doctors will work to help you control your weight if you are overweight and living with diabetes.
Check out these Mediterranean Diet Weight Loss Recipes for more!
Even a slight reduction of weight (of say 5%) can help your body manage insulin and reduce insulin resistance.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to help reduce obesity and related conditions. It was found to be better than low data diet for long term weight loss. And researchers think the composition of the diet—not just the calories—is responsible for its effectiveness.
Helps reduce inflammation
People with diabetes tend to have lower levels of antioxidants in their blood. Low antioxidants can encourage inflammation in your body, disrupting systems and encouraging disease.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds such as quercetin, ascorbic acid, oleuropein, tyrosol and cartenoids.
Extra virgin olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and a rich source of antioxidants, and it also contains poly saturated fatty acids, which reduce inflammation.
Supports beneficial gut bacteria
Your intestines (aka your gut) is home to about 100 trillion bacteria, which influence the way your body works. Some gut bacteria are helpful and secrete compounds that reduce inflammation and boost immunity.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which supports helpful gut bacteria. And its effects can be seen in as little as four days.
Reduces risk of other diseases
A panel of experts judged the Mediterranean diet the best for joint and bone health. It helps to keep your bones and joint healthy, which can reduce bone or joint disease.
Also, studies show that this diet protects the heart by helping to keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels low. People who follow this diet also have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers.
Altogether, this protective effect can greatly improve quality of life for people with diabetes. Because more ailments often mean more symptoms and a higher risk of dying too soon.
Components of the Mediterranean diet that are helpful for people with diabetes
The Mediterranean diet helps people with diabetes in the following ways:
Focuses on plant-based foods
Whole grains and plant oils, especially olive oil, are arguably the most important components of the Mediterranean diet. The emphasis on plant-based foods ensures that you eat foods abundant in macro and micronutrients, including dietary fiber.
Plant foods in the Mediterranean diet pyramid include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. These foods provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, essential vitamins, phytochemicals, and plant oils that are abundant in monounsaturated fats. A plant-based diet helps you get the right amount of nutrients and keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Flexible and easy to follow
Although it’s called a diet, this is more of a long term eating pattern. Unlike the typical diet, it doesn’t restrict you or prescribe what you should eat. You can follow this diet your own way as long as you understand the beneficial aspects such as using healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, eating lots of vegetables and limiting foods low in health benefits.
Limits red meat and sweets
Studies show that eating red and processed meat regularly may increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes. The Mediterranean diet pyramid reflects a diet that is low in red and processed meals. Fish, seafood and legumes are the main sources of protein. Research suggests that a diet low in red and processed meat may reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease and complications of diabetes.
Dairy is an important source of protein and calcium. The Mediterranean diet encourages dairy consumption in small quantities, usually for its richness in calcium. Including dairy in your diet may also reduce your diabetes risk and help you have a wider range of delicious meals.
Encourages herbs and spices for flavor
Herbs and spices used in the Mediterranean diet not only add taste to meals, but also provide antioxidants that help to control inflammation. The Mediterranean diet encourages the liberal use of herbs and spices instead of salt, sugar or artificial flavoring.
Encourages physical activity
The first level of the Mediterranean diet pyramid encourages you to engage in physical activity. Physical activity helps you burn fat and maintain a steady weight. It also helps your heart health, reduces disease risks, and increases odds of living long. You can choose to walk, cycle, swim or dance. Any activity that get your heart rate up and is safe is fine. Experts recommend about 150 minutes of physical activity a week or 30 minutes, five times a week. And two days of muscle strengthening activity.
Can the Mediterranean diet reverse diabetes?
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and sustain diabetes homeostasis. However, there’s insufficient research to support whether it can reverse any type of diabetes, although some research suggests that it lowers the risk of prediabetes progressing into diabetes.
Crafting a Mediterranean diabetes diet plan
A Mediterranean diet for people with diabetes isn’t different from the general one. Your exact diet will depend on your care team’s advice, which may vary depending on your health, weight, food sensitivities and the food available.
Here’s a sample Mediterranean diet diabetes diet plan showcasing some delicious meals you can enjoy.
Mediterranean Diet Plan for People with Diabetes
This Mediterranean diabetes diet plan is available as a PDF file, and I suggest printing it out and placing it in a visible location to serve as a helpful reminder of the healthy foods you should be eating. By incorporating these nutritious options into your meals, you can better manage your diabetes symptoms and improve your overall health.
Tips for people with diabetes following the Mediterranean diet
- Don’t skip meals: Your care team will work to help you get the right amount of nutrients while keeping your blood sugar normal. Skipping meals can make your blood sugar go dangerously low, which can cause you to faint or even go into coma.
- Treat legumes like carbohydrates: Although legumes like beans, peanuts, and chickpeas are rich in protein, they also contain a large amount of carbohydrates.
- Remember to consider this when choosing foods from different groups.
- Monitor your blood sugar: Monitoring and recording your blood sugar can help your care team determine if your diet is working well. Recording your blood sugar gives them vital information that helps with your care.
- Consider low-carb model: Some research suggests that low-carb diets are better for blood sugar control and ease symptoms of diabetes. Consider picking low-carb options instead of high carb where possible. For Instance, an eggplant meal instead of a whole wheat dish, or more vegetables and fewer fruits in your smoothies.
- Consider avoiding unnecessary foods: although the Mediterranean diet allows all foods, all of them aren’t equally nutritious. Consider avoiding processed foods, red meats, sweets and saturated fat where possible.
The bottom line
The Mediterranean diet is the best diet overall and one of the best for diabetes. There’s no specific diabetes diet, but experts usually recommend a diet that is varied, plant-based and focused on fresh food. Your care team will help select the best one for you.
People with diabetes can benefit from the Mediterranean way of eating. They can enjoy the wide range of meals, physical exercise and more thoughtful eating with the resultant health benefits. Although this diet limits some food types, it still leaves enough on the menu to guarantee a delicious experience.
I have tried twice and have not received the seven day diabetic sample Mediterranean diet – could you assist me with this please?