An estimated 40% of American adults will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Diabetes is a complex, chronic disease that affects the way your body processes blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and can lead to serious health complications or death if not properly managed. Fortunately, the power to manage diabetes lies mostly with the individual. Eating a suitable diet, including the foods listed below, can help keep blood sugar levels in check and can even reduce the need for medication.
Diabetics should adhere to the basic principles of a healthy diet that are recommended for the general population. Managing blood sugar requires eating more foods rich in protein and fat while limiting carbohydrates and sugars, and this approach also helps to maintain healthy body weight. Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes have considerably lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels after losing 5-10% of their total body weight.
The glycemic index (G) provides a guide to foods that will help you control your blood sugar and lose weight, telling you how quickly a food turns into sugar after it enters your system. High GI foods (like white bread and sweets) are low in protein and fat and spike your blood sugar rapidly. Low GI foods are high in protein and fiber, so they take longer to digest and their sugars are slow to enter your bloodstream. While all low GI foods are healthy, they are not all created equally. The following foods are the best ones to add to your diet to keep your diabetes under control and increase your overall health.
How to Manage Diabetes
Snacking on a cup of strawberries is a good way to satisfy a sweet tooth without resorting to foods that spike blood sugar and impede weight loss. Strawberries are high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins while being low in carbohydrates and calories. Try frozen strawberries for added sweetness.
2. Whole wheat or whole grain bread
Although carbohydrates affect your blood sugar more than proteins and fats, they are necessary for a balanced diet. Complex carbohydrates like those found in whole wheat bread are high in fiber and are digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels in check. Replace refined, processed carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and white rice with complex carbohydrates to help you stay full longer.
3. Nuts and seeds
Nuts are loaded with healthy fats and protein. Snacking on an ounce of nuts is a great, nutritious way to fill up without spiking your blood sugar. Replace low GI snacks like chips with a handful of nuts and seeds,s and gain the additional benefit of magnesium and fiber.
4. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A and fiber. Sweet potatoes are a lower GI alternative, so you won’t get the blood sugar spike that accompanies white potatoes.
5. Salmon and lean meats
Meats are high in protein and provide a source of the mineral chromium, which helps your body metabolize carbohydrates. Salmon is an especially smart choice because it is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Be sure to choose grilled, broiled or baked meats over unhealthy battered or fried ones.
6. Green vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables like spinach, green beans, and broccoli are high in nutrients and fiber but low in carbohydrates. Adding more vegetables to your diet can also help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol. Eating green vegetables and other heart-healthy food is important because people with diabetes are typically more prone to heart disease.
A breakfast serving of oatmeal is starting your day on the right track. Oatmeal helps satisfy a craving for carbohydrates, but unlike processed white bread it is high in soluble fiber to keep you full for longer. Oatmeal can even help lower cholesterol. Be sure to stay away from sweetened and processed oatmeal. Instead, buy plain oats and add a small amount of sweetener (or sweeten with cinnamon).
A recent German study showed that diabetics who consumed cinnamon extract experienced moderate blood sugar reductions. Further studies will help doctors fully understand this effect of cinnamon, but the initial research is promising. Cinnamon also acts as a sugar-free sweetener, so sprinkling some in your oatmeal, smoothies or tea can reduce the need for added sugar.
There is no magic bullet for diabetes, but adding these foods to your balanced diet can help you mitigate the symptoms and health complications that often accompany type 2 diabetes.