Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how the body processes food for energy. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood glucose levels, or doesn’t properly use it. This causes higher than normal amounts of glucose in the body, which can lead to further health problems, such as cardiovascular disease or kidney failure.
Nutrition is a key factor in prevention and management for both prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Choosing a healthy dietary pattern of nutrient-rich foods is important for all types of diabetes.
What You Need More Of
A healthy diabetes dietary pattern isn’t much different than healthy eating for someone without the condition. A balanced meal plan with fruits and vegetables, protein, whole-grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy is healthy. However, people with diabetes should be mindful of staying at a healthy weight and within a target blood glucose range. If you have diabetes, you may benefit from including more of these three nutrients in your diet:
- Complex carbohydrates
Carbohydrates tend to have a bad reputation. Instead of cutting out carbs completely, incorporate more complex carbohydrates into your diet. Simple carbohydrates, such as refined sugars and processed foods, are quickly digested and send a boost of glucose into the blood. Complex carbohydrates are digested slowly, causing a more gradual rise in glucose level. This will also create a longer feeling of fullness to prevent overeating and give sustainable energy over time. To include more complex carbohydrates in your diet, eat plenty of legumes, whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat or nonfat dairy, and fruits and vegetables.
- Heart-healthy fats
Adults with diabetes are up to four times more likely to die from heart disease than anyone without the condition, according to the American Heart Association. Protecting your heart is important due to a greater risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Eating many types of heart-healthy fats can also help your brain function. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (or “bad” cholesterol) in the body, while monounsaturated fats increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein (or “good” cholesterol). Incorporate healthy fats into your diet by using oil instead of solid fat to cook and eating more fish, avocados, natural peanut/almond butter and nuts.
- Soluble fiber
A diet that contains soluble fiber can help with the control of blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber can help prevent the spike in blood glucose levels after eating. This type of fiber also binds to cholesterol in the intestine to remove the cholesterol from the body. Research shows adults with diabetes have benefited from increasing the amount of fiber in their diet.
Dietitians with UK Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center recommend following the American Heart Association’s Eating Plan, which suggests getting your fiber from a variety of food options. Most adults only get about 15 grams of fiber each day, but you should actually aim to eat between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day. Fiber should come from food instead of supplements.
What You Need Less Of
Being diagnosed with diabetes does not mean you have to cut out all the foods you enjoy. While indulging in the occasional treat is part of keeping balance, take caution to enjoy the following foods and drinks sparingly:
- Foods high in added sugars
- Foods high in salt
- Fried foods
- Refined grains
- Processed and red meat
- Processed snacks, such as chips and baked goods
For more information about programs and services available at UK Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, call 859-323-BBDC (2232) and select option 3 for diabetes education services.