Managing Diabetes with Diet

Post by Adam Yaney-Keller

As of this year, 34.2 million people, or 10.5% of the total US population, struggle everyday with a diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes [0]. For those with this challenging disease, eating can be a frustrating and difficult routine, because creating a diet that manages blood sugar levels takes time and precision. At NutriFit, we have helped our clients with diabetes not only manage their daily meals, but accomplish their long-term, real health goals of living happier and healthier lives. How do we do it? Well, when building a nutrition program around diabetes, it’s important to keep in mind three things: timing, portions, and content.

Timing is crucial for managing diabetes with diet, because you need to regulate your blood sugar levels throughout the day and keeping your meals evenly spaced will help keep those levels steady. For proper control, space your meals out at regular intervals of about 4 – 6 hours apart [1] generally keeping a similar schedule each day, and try not to skip meals. Some people can be more flexible with this than others – for example if you take insulin with your meals [2], so it’s important to create a meal schedule that works for you.

Portioning out your meals, not only in terms of overall size but in the amount of carbohydrates per meal, is an adjustment for many people. However, its importance can’t be overstated in managing your diabetes. Your body converts carbohydrates to sugar, so controlling the amount of carbs on your plate will be critical. But this doesn’t have to mean cutting out all carbohydrates – it’s just about balancing out what you eat and when you eat it so your blood sugar levels stay stable. A general rule to follow is to fill about one quarter of your plate with healthy grains or starches – such as potatoes, whole grain rice, bread or pasta, and about one half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and salad greens. The last one quarter of your plate is designed for a lean meat such as chicken, turkey or fish. Portion controlling for weight loss will be critical to avoid complications from diabetes which include an increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke [3]. This is a life-long commitment, so figuring out a diet plan you can stick to and enjoy is critical.

Meal content simply means eating foods that will help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This means adding more of certain foods in your diet than maybe you would have had before, and getting rid of others. Limit foods with refined carbohydrates and added sugars, such as white breads, white rice, white flour pastas and especially high sugar drinks and desserts which will cause blood sugar to spike quickly. Add more foods that are high in fiber to your diet, as these not only make you feel full allowing for better weight control, but the fiber helps to minimize rise in blood sugar. This includes foods like oatmeal and beans, carrots, beets, broccoli, and dark-colored greens (think collard, mustard greens and Swiss-chard) and fruits like raspberries, apples (with peels), mangos and bananas. It’s important to remember to drink lots of water to avoid constipation when adding fiber to your diet.

There are a few other foods that have some proven benefits specifically for diabetes. Chia seeds have been shown to lower blood sugar and slow the rate at which food is absorbed, which can help control those levels [4] [5] [6]. Flaxseeds have been show to improve blood sugar control [7] and help diabetics with hemoglobin levels [8]. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are great ources of omega-3 fatty acids and can help reduce the increased risk diabetics may face for heart disease [9] [10]. Turmeric packs a strong one-two-punch as it can lower inflammation and blood sugar [11][12], but also improve kidney health, which is also very important for diabetics [13][14]. Finally, Greek yogurt has been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce heart disease risk [4] [5] [6] .

At NutriFit, we are prepared to help you build a diet that works for you and your health needs. If you struggle with diabetes, we have the experience and knowledge to help you start managing it with your diet. Eating does not have to be a stressful or long process of counting carbs, managing portions, and adding in foods to help manage diabetes. Get diabetic meals delivered straight to your home from NutriFit, so that you can get back to living your best, healthiest life.

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