There is no known cure for diabetes. We’re all greatly looking forward to the day when scientists uncover the secret, but until then someone living with diabetes can only look forward to their best prognosis by carefully managing their condition.
In addition to taking regular exercise, losing weight, and insulin therapy, eating well is one of the most effective ways to manage diabetes. If you are living with diabetes, then you should consult your primary care physician, endocrinologist, or dietitian for advice on how best to manage your condition through nutrition. A blog post, however beautifully written, can never substitute for a specialist’s advice!
With that in mind, here are some nutrition tips that many diabetics find helpful as they work toward achieving their best state of health!
Create a Healthy Eating Plan
A healthy eating plan will help a diabetic control their blood sugar, manage their weight, and reduce their risk factors for heart disease.
One crucial aspect of a healthy diet is to avoid consuming excess calories. Overeating will cause your blood sugar levels to rise, which can present serious health complications inside a body that isn’t able to efficiently utilize insulin including diabetic ketoacidosis and heart damage. Overeating without sufficient accompanying exercise will also cause weight gain, which makes the body less sensitive to insulin.
If you are currently overweight, then you only stand to benefit by following a healthier diet. People living with type 2 diabetes who lose as little as 2% of their body weight experienced significantly improved control over their blood sugar. Simply losing 10 or 15 pounds may also help you reduce your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels, and even improve your mood!
A healthy eating plan for diabetics always includes eating three regular meals a day. Skipping just one meal could dangerously raise or lower your blood sugar levels, as well as make certain diabetes medications less effective!
Eat the Right Foods
Your body functions best on a diet of healthy carbohydrates, foods that are rich in fiber, lean protein, and “good” fats. Healthy foods best approximate the natural diet that the human body adapted to digest over the course of thousands of years. And they’re not just wholesome – they’re also delicious when they’re fresh and prepared well!
Here are just some recommended healthy foods. Many fit two categories, such as sweet potatoes which are stellar both as a carb and as a source of fiber!
- Healthy carbs: oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, pumpkin, bananas, beets, carrots, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other low-fat dairy products.
- Fiber-rich foods: pears, strawberries, apples, raspberries, broccoli, artichokes, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, tomatoes, chia seeds, and almonds.
- Lean meats: beef sirloin, tenderloin and flank steak, low-fat ham and Canadian bacon, skinless chicken and turkey, and wild game including venison.
- Good fats: olive oil, avocado oil, avocados, whole eggs, nuts, herring, salmon, sardines, and anchovies.
Avoid the Wrong Foods
Unless your doctor or other health care professional says otherwise, it is still okay for someone living with diabetes to occasionally enjoy unhealthy foods. But as a general rule, the more frequently you are able to avoid the wrong foods, the easier it will become to manage your health!
Listing every food that is bad for you in 21st century America would take all day. Here are just some examples of foods diabetics should avoid or greatly reduce in their diets.
- Saturated fats: fatty meats, processed meats, butter, palm kernel oil, canola oil, ice cream, cakes, cookies, brownies, and virtually all fast food items.
- Trans fats: frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, refrigerated dough, stick margarine, fried foods, and baked goods. (Many foods which are high in saturated fat are also high in trans fat.)
- Cholesterol: ground beef, pork ribs and chops, salami, sausages, hot dogs, and full-fat dairy products including butter and certain cheeses. (Many otherwise healthful lean types of meat are high in cholesterol including kidney, liver, and tripe.)
- Sodium: Smoked meats, canned meats, frozen prepared foods, cold cuts, soy sauce, salted nuts, and canned foods with salt added. (While reducing salt intake is generally advisable, note that the human body does need a certain amount of sodium and iodine to function correctly.)
Use the Diabetes Plate Method
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) developed a great tool to help diabetics eat healthier diets. Following the Plate Method will help you select the right portions without bothersome counting or measuring!
Begin with a 9″ plate. Fill half of that plate with non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and cabbage. Fill one quarter with lean meats, and then fill the remaining quarter with healthy carbs. It’s just that simple!
The ADA also advises accompanying every healthful meal with a zero-calorie beverage. Although it is technically zero-calorie, diet soda potentially increases the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. And while diet soda poses few other proven health risks, many experts recommend ditching it altogether in favor of that most healthful beverage of all: water!
You will be amazed by how much easier managing your diabetes becomes once you start following the best diet. But everyone’s dietary needs are unique, which is why consulting a nutrition expert is beneficial no matter your health. If you’re ready to get more serious about managing your diabetes or any other health conditions you might have, then we welcome you to reach out to Calhoun Spine & Wellness’s very own registered dietitian today!