According to the Mayo Clinic, the diabetes diet is simply a way of eating a variety of foods in moderate amounts, while adhering to a regular mealtime schedule. The Mayo Clinic endorses a healthy-eating plan for those with diabetes that’s rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories with an emphasis on fruit, vegetables and whole grains. They state that this type of diet is the best for almost everyone.
The purpose behind the diabetes diet is to help control the blood sugar (glucose) level and manage the body weight. This is what is recommended for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes but obviously everyone can benefit from this lifestyle because when you take in too many calories from sugar or fat your body will store the extra calories as body fat and your blood sugar will rise to unhealthy levels.
With high blood glucose levels that persist overtime, your body will suffer nerve damage, kidney damage, heart damage and eye damage. By keeping the calories low, your body has an easier time of keeping your blood sugar at the normal level as well as all the other markers of good health such as cholesterol levels.
The recommended healthy carbohydrates suggested by the Mayo Clinic are naturally occurring ones such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy products. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that manufactured foods with loads of sugar and corn syrup are not healthy.
Dietary fiber from the plant foods that you take in can help reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as keep your blood sugar under control. The foods best for fiber are; veggies, fruit, nuts, legumes (peas, beans and lentils) whole wheat and whole grains. White rice is not a whole grain. Brown rice is.
The best proteins include heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and bluefish. These fish are great alternatives to higher fat meats such as beef and pork because they are lower in fat and because they are a great source of omega-three fatty acids which promote heart health by lowering the blood triglyceride level.
However, you want to have these fish baked or poached rather than fried or in batter and you also want to avoid fish that are high in mercury such as swordfish and king mackerel.
The good fats are usually plant or fish based. Foods that have the good fats are the fish just mentioned and avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, olives and peanuts.
However, you still want to go light on the amounts, because any type of fat —whether it is good for you are not — has the same amount of calories. Fats and oils all have 9 calories per gram which translates into about 45 calories per teaspoon. That’s a lot!
Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease because it accelerates the development of clogged and hardened arteries, therefore, foods containing saturated fats found in high fat dairy foods and animal proteins such as sausages, bacon and processed meat should be avoided.
Trans fats found in processed snacks, commercial baked goods, shortening and stick margarine also should be avoided. Cholesterol found in high-fat dairy foods and high fat animal proteins such as egg yolks, shellfish, liver and organ meats should be kept to a minimum. Sodium which raises the blood pressure is also a nutrient to keep at a low level. Many of these processed “foods” contain huge amounts of sodium. Simply eat natural foods.
The glycemic index is a handy tool to use to select whether a food is a good choice. The higher the glycemic index on a food, the higher it will raise your blood glucose level. Complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber such as whole grains (brown rice) whole grain bread or natural cereals have lower glycemic index than do simple carbohydrates such as sugar and processed foods such as white rice and white bread or sugary cereals.
One word of caution with using the glycemic index is that you still must consider the fat content of the food you are examining, because high fat foods will have lower glycemic index simply because it takes more time to digest them.
It is important if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes to work with your doctor and nutritionist to set up a personally designed eating program that will help you lower your blood sugar and manage it and your body weight. You also should plan for daily physical activity in order to optimize your health.
The information in this article comes from the guidelines put forth from the Mayo Clinic and is sound general information, but you should always consult your own health care provider in order to maximize your own personal health care options.
Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (808) 212-8119, www.janerileyfitness.com.