The Diabetes Diet: Create Your Healthy-Eating Plan
Your Diabetes Diet is simply a healthy-eating plan that will help you control your blood sugar. Here’s help getting started by learning what foods to include and what foods to avoid on your path to good health. A diabetes diet simply translates into eating a variety of nutritious foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes.
Rather than a restrictive diet, a diabetes diet is a healthy-eating plan that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in trans-fats and refined foods, with an emphasis on green and colorful vegetables, quality proteins, and whole grains. In fact, a diabetes diet is the best eating plan for most everyone.
A Condition, Not A Disease!
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, your doctor will likely recommend that you see a dietitian or health coach to guide you on dietary changes that can help you control your blood sugar (glucose) level, manage your weight, and improve your health. A high quality diet of fresh foods, along with regular exercise, is the key to improving and reversing type 2 diabetes.
When you eat excess refined carbohydrates, your body responds by creating an undesirable rise in blood glucose. If blood glucose isn’t kept in check, it can lead to serious problems, such as a dangerously high blood glucose level (hyperglycemia) and chronic complications, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage.
Making healthy food choices and tracking your eating habits can help you manage your blood glucose level and keep it within a safe range. For most people with type 2 diabetes, losing pounds also can make it easier to control blood glucose and offers a host of other health benefits. If you need to lose weight, a diabetes diet provides a well-organized, nutritious way to reach your goal safely.
Quality is much more important than quantity. Make your calories count with these nutritious foods:
- Healthy carbohydrates. During digestion, sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood glucose. Focus on the healthiest carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and high quality meat and dairy products.
- Fiber-rich foods. Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber can decrease the risk of heart disease and help control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa.
- Heart-healthy fish. Eat wild-caught heart-healthy fish at least twice a week. Cod, tuna and halibut, are an excellent choice, as are fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats promote heart health by lowering blood fats called triglycerides. However, avoid fried fish that contain trans-fats and fish with high levels of mercury, such as cuttle fish, swordfish and king mackerel.
- Good fats. Foods containing naturally saturated and monounsaturated fats — such as avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, coconut, olives, and olive oils — can help balance your blood sugar, help you feel satisfied, reduce sugar cravings, and help you lose weight.
Additives to Avoid
There are a number of Additives that lead to a diabetic condition, weight gain, high blood pressure, and a number of other chronic conditions that we see today. Most are found in Refined and Processed Foods, which given the number of Additives, should really no longer be considered “food” at all. Once you begin buying and preparing fresh vegetables, legumes, grains, meats and health-promoting dairy products, it will become easy to eliminate most of the Additives listed below most of the time.
- Hydrogenated Oils and Trans fats. These types of fats are polyunsaturated vegetable oils that have been artificially saturated through the process of hydrogenation, and are found in just about all processed snacks, baked goods, shortening and stick margarine. They should be avoided completely.
- All Polyunsaturated Vegetable and Seed Oils. It is now learned that the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable and seed oils encourage the formation of blood clots by increasing platelet stickiness. They include common vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola, are absolutely the worst oils to use in cooking. These omega-6 oils are highly susceptible to heat damage because of their double bonds. Frying and cooking destroys the antioxidants in these oils and as a result oxidizes the oil. While for decades these oils were promoted as being “heart healthy” over naturally saturated fats like those found in meats, dairy products, coconuts and palms, studies have now revealed the benefits of naturally saturated fats like coconut oil. Please read the articles "What Oils are the Safest to Cook With?" and "Coconut Oil Benefits: When Fat is Good For You" for a deeper explanation of these fats and how they affect your health.
- Table salt. Another benefit of replacing processed foods with fresh foods is the enormous reduction in refined table salt and sodium that you are consuming. Please read the article “Why Sea Salt?” and find a good quality sea salt to season your whole foods.
- All Artificial Sweeteners. This includes aspartame, marketed under the brand names NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure, as well as sucralose, which is marketed under the name of Splenda. Numerous studies have revealed serious health effects caused by both of these sweeteners. Please read “Stevia- A Safe Alternative To Artificial Sweeteners” to read more about the dangers of consuming these chemical additives and learn about stevia, an all natural zero calorie sweetener that has been used safely for centuries.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup. Many studies have now shown that its not fats that are making people fat, but that corn syrup and other highly refined carbohydrates such as white flour, white rice and sugar put people at risk of obesity and diabetes. A study gathered information on food composition and consumption over the years 1909 to 1997. Data from these findings were compared to the rates of disease from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When researchers evaluated the results they found that the drop in fiber consumption and heavy consumption of corn syrup found in most processed foods were at the root of the problem, not the number of proteins, fats or carbohydrates.
Putting It All Together: Creating a Plan For Better Health
The steps below are essential to creating a diabetes diet that keeps your blood glucose level within a normal range and improving your overall health. They are general guidelines to adopting a healthy lifestyle. Start one step at a time. Read our A Healthier Lifestyle! for a list of healthy substitutions to commonly refined foods, start reading labels, and become an educated shopper. Visit your local Farmers' Market, and check out our wonderful collection of healthy recipes at Healthy Recipes.
Increase the amount of quality protein and fats in your diet and reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates, sucrose, and fructose. and This is the most important step in controlling your glucose levels and improving your metabolism.
Learn the difference between quality (natural, unrefined) complex carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates break down into glucose, they have the greatest impact on your blood glucose level. It’s important to make sure you avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars, and be aware of the amount of complex carbohydrates that you are consuming daily, especially if you take diabetes medications or insulin.
Use the Glycemic Index. It is a useful tool in selecting healthy foods, especially carbohydrates. Foods with a high glycemic index are associated with greater increases in blood sugar than are foods with a low glycemic index. High protein foods and those that contain healthy fats usually have lower glycemic index values and are the best choices in learning to to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
And Exercise Daily!
The amazing thing about exercise is that it exerts its effects very quickly. Sure, you will definitely reap long-term benefits, and exercise is well known to impact chronic diseases, but you'll also get acute, nearly instantaneous benefits as well. This should be excellent motivation to those of you who are procrastinating on your exercise program, as you don't have to exercise for a year or six months to experience benefits! New research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that one single session of moderate exercise can improve the way your body regulates glucose.
For more information on how to naturally reverse or prevent your diabetes, read my published article "What You Can Do To Reverse Diabetes 2".