Food Insecurity & Diabetes

The Impact of Food Insecurity

Eating nutritious foods—a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meat, fish, and low-fat dairy options—is an essential part of managing diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association® (ADA) recommends that people with diabetes consume a high-quality diet that limits added sugars and fats to help achieve their treatment goals. 

But for many Americans, having enough food on the table or accessing healthy food options isn’t easy. Healthy foods are expensive, which limits food choices and forces many people to make difficult decisions about whether to prioritize paying for groceries, medications, utilities, transportation, or other basic expenses.

Lower quality, less costly foods lack essential nutrients and tend to be loaded with added sugars, salt, and saturated fat—not exactly the best recipe for managing diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other diabetes comorbidities.

Food Insecurity Linked to Poor Diabetes Control 

Food insecurity and a low-quality diet impacts diabetes outcomes, prompting calls for clinicians and patients to openly talk about individuals’ access to nutritious, high-quality foods. 

Being food insecure—having trouble accessing enough food—is tied to higher A1C levels. In addition, having a poor diet (not eating enough healthy foods), even if someone was food secure, is significantly associated with an elevated A1C. 

Benefits of Eating Healthy Foods

A healthy diet not only helps people manage their blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, it can also help with:

  • Losing or maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Managing blood pressure 
  • Reaching target blood lipid (cholesterol) levels
  • Preventing or slowing the development of diabetes complications
  • Having more energy and maintaining general good health

Resources to Help

If you have trouble paying for groceries, especially as food costs keep rising, talk with your care team. There may be local resources to help. 

The ADA’s Community Connection is a free tool to help you find diabetes and nutrition resources in your area like medical care, mental health care, nutrition education, food assistance programs, and much more.

Take a Stand Against Food Insecurity

The ADA is committed to increasing access to nutritious, healthy food for all communities, especially those who are most impacted by food insecurity. Find out how you can take action and join the ADA to demand Health Equity Now for all

Written by Amanda Crowe

If you found this article helpful in your diabetes journey, please consider supporting the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The ADA is the leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. With your financial support, we can advance our mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Learn more about how you can support the ADA.