Avoiding diabetes with a healthy diet

12 Jul

In part 1, Diet tips for diabetics and the rest of us, I discussed how diabetes has affected the health of my patients and the mechanism by which diabetes occurs.

diet tips for diabetics menu

In part 2 I discuss how to reduce your chances of contracting diabetes with a proper diet (those with a genetic predisposition should be especially vigilant). Eating in this way – avoiding processed foods and favoring freshly prepared whole foods – is also recomended to avoid heart disease and certain cancers.

Those who are already diabetic will note that many of these tips have been offered by your doctor or dietician and I hope you’re following them.  Those who aren’t diabetic should adopt at least some of these ideas, as this is what’s meant by healthy eating – not diet soda, reduced fat cookies, low fat snack cakes or low fat chips. As a rule of thumb, meals and snacks that come from a box or a bag should be avoided. Foods cooked fresh with lots of vegetables and whole grains should be at the forefront of your diet.

Eat foods high in fiber

Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body can’t digest. The type of fiber known as soluble fiber is absorbed into your bloodstream and helps to carry fats out of your blood. As a result, it decreases the risk of heart disease and helps control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber which should be featured at every meal include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, lentils, whole wheat flour, whole oats and wheat bran.

Eat healthy carbs

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs are absorbed into your bloodstream very quickly and complex carbs take longer to break down.

Examples of simple carbs include candy, white sugar, pancake syrup, and soda. But simple carbs also include fruit and milk (these last two may or may not be appropriate for managing your diabetes-check with your dietician). The difference with fruit and milk is that they also contain elements that are good for your body like fiber and calcium, while the former contain nothing at all beneficial for your body-they’re known as “empty” calories.

Complex carbs are sometimes called starches. They include bread, pasta, potatoes, and corn to name a few. These take longer to break down in your body, putting less stress on your glucose and insulin levels. They also contain nutrients that impart healthful benefits.

During digestion the sugars in simple carbs and the starches in complex carbs all break down into one thing: blood glucose. The end result of eating these foods is the same – energy from sugar. But the important difference is the speed at which the glucose enters your bloodstream – slower is better. Focus on the healthiest carbohydrates, simple and complex, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and low-fat dairy products.

Eat more fish

The best way to boost your omega 3 fatty acid levels (aka “fish oils”)  is by simply eating more fish. Cod, tuna and halibut have less total fat, less saturated fat and less cholesterol than beef or poultry. Salmon, mackerel and herring, while higher in fat than other fish, are loaded with omega 3’s which help to lower other blood fats and triglycerides.

Don’t opt for a fish sandwich or fish sticks from a fast food restaurant, as these are usually fried and loaded with breading, batter, and other bad things. Always opt for fresh fish broiled or grilled with a minimum of added oils. Sashimi is your best option.

Not all fats are bad

There are significant differences in how fats act in your body. For instance:

  • One chocolate chip cookie contains 78 calories, 41 of those from fat (2.3 grams saturated), 9.3 grams of carbohydrate, and little else that benefits your body.
  • One handful of almonds (24) contains 163 calories, 126 of them from fats (1.1 grams saturated), 6.1 grams of carbohydrates, no cholesterol, no sodium, and 3.5 grams of fiber.

Which would you choose?

The almonds are the better choice, even though they’re higher in calories. The nut’s sugars are released slowly into the body, the saturated fats are low and the fiber keeps your circulatory system happy. When foods are low in fiber, you don’t get that “filled up” feeling, which is why you eat lots of them in one sitting-who eats just one cookie? High fiber foods fill you up, so you tend to eat less of them. Other foods with good fats include avacados, pecans, walnuts, and olives.

Your new menu

Here’s a sample menu for you to follow, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic, recognized worldwide as a leader in healthcare and health research. If you adopt these ideas and make them part of your everyday menu, you’ll have more energy, your weight will drop closer to your ideal weight, and you’ll be more likely to avoid diabetes and heart disease.

  • Breakfast. Whole-wheat pancakes or waffles, one piece of fruit, 1 cup of low-fat milk.
  • Lunch. Chicken kabob, 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, 1/2 cup of juice.
  • Dinner. Whole wheat pasta primavera prepared with broccoli, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash and Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of low-fat milk.
  • Snacks. Six homemade crispy corn tortilla chips, 1/2 cup fresh vegetables with a seasoned garlic sauce.

more info from Mayo Clinic

Eat this way and I’ll probably never see you for diabetic foot care. If you have diabetes, I highly recommend a diet of this sort to maintain your blood glucose levels in a safe range.

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