Carolinas HealthCare System
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How Mediterranean-style Diets Help Control Type 2 Diabetes

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Developing and keeping healthy eating habits is one of the most important factors in managing and preventing Type 2 diabetes.

For adults with Type 2 diabetes, eating a Mediterranean diet consisting primarily of plant-based food – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts – along with healthy fats, fish and poultry, could help stabilize blood sugar, lower cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.

According to researchers who compared the effects of seven popular diets on adults with Type 2 diabetes, a Mediterranean diet led to significant weight loss when followed for at least six months.

Healthy Fats Matter

More than half the fat calories in a Mediterranean diet come from monounsaturated fats – primarily olive oil. The monounsaturated fat found in olive oil can help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats. Olive oil contains a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids – also found in fatty fish, another hallmark of a Mediterranean diet – lower triglycerides and decrease blood clotting. They improve the health of your blood vessels and help moderate blood pressure. Look for “extra virgin” and “virgin” olive oils. They contain the highest levels of the plant compounds that provide protective antioxidant effects.

Mediterranean diets: What you should know

If you have Type 2 diabetes, be sure to discuss your eating plan with your healthcare provider. Tell him or her that you’re interested in trying a Mediterranean-style diet. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Olive oil: Use for cooking and dressing dishes.
  • Vegetables: Eat at least two to three servings a day.
  • Fruits: Eat at least two to three servings a day.
  • Beans: Eat three or more servings a week.
  • Fish or seafood: Eat three or more servings a week. Fatty fish, such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, are good choices.
  • Nuts or seeds: Eat at least one serving a week.
  • Poultry: Eat sparingly instead of red meat or processed meats. Keep portion sizes small.
  • Tomato, garlic and onion: Cook with them at least twice a week.
  • Grains: Replace most refined grains with whole grains.
  • Take our free prediabetes risk assessment at