Diabetes is on the rise, yet most cases are preventable with healthy lifestyle changes. Some can even be reversed. Taking steps to prevent and control diabetes doesn’t mean living in deprivation. While eating right is important, you don’t have to give up sweets entirely or resign yourself to a lifetime of bland “health food”.
With these tips, you can still enjoy your favourite foods and take pleasure from your meals without feeling hungry or deprived. You can have the occasional sweet treat but watch your portion size and how often you have them as it can affect your weight which will affect your diabetes.
Taking control of diabetes
Have you recently been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes? Or has your doctor warned you that you’re at risk? It can be scary to hear that your health’s on the line, especially if you feel helpless to do anything about it.
Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar: your doctor’s telling you how important it is to lose weight and transform your eating habits, but you’re already discouraged. After all, you’ve tried dieting in the past without success. And counting calories, measuring portion sizes, and following complicated food charts sounds like way too much work.
Small changes equal big results
Whether you’re trying to prevent or control diabetes, there is some good news. You can make a big difference with healthy lifestyle changes. The most important thing you can do for your health is to lose weight—and you don’t have to lose all your extra kilos to reap the benefits. Experts say that losing just 5% to 10% of your total weight can help you lower your blood sugar considerably, as well as lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s not too late to make a positive change, even if you’ve already developed diabetes. The bottom line is that you have more control over your health than you think.
Not all body fat is created equal
The biggest risk factor for developing diabetes is being overweight, but not all body fat is created equal. Your risk is higher if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen—the so-called “spare tire”—as opposed to your hips and thighs. So why are “apple” shaped people more at risk than “pears”?
“Pears” store most of their fat close below the skin. “Apples” store their weight around their middle, much of it deep within the belly surrounding their abdominal organs and liver. This type of deep fat is closely linked to insulin resistance and diabetes. In fact, many studies show that waist size is a better predictor of diabetes risk than BMI (body mass index).
What you need to know about diabetes and diet
Eating right is vital if you’re trying to prevent or control diabetes. While exercise is also important, what you eat has the biggest impact when it comes to weight loss. But what does eating right for diabetes mean? You may be surprised to hear that your nutritional needs are virtually the same everyone else: no special foods or complicated diets are necessary.
A diabetes diet is simply a healthy eating plan that is high in nutrients, low in fat, and moderate in calories. It is a healthy diet for anyone! The only difference is that you need to pay more attention to some of your food choices—most notably the carbohydrates you eat.
Myths and facts about diabetes and diet
MYTH: You must avoid sugar at all costs.
Fact: The good news is that you can enjoy your favourite treats as long as you plan properly. Dessert doesn’t have to be off limits, as long as it’s a part of a healthy meal plan or combined with exercise.
MYTH: A high-protein diet is best.
Fact: Studies have shown that eating too much protein, especially animal protein, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes. A healthy diet includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Our bodies need all three to function properly. The key is a balanced diet.
MYTH: You have to cut way down on carbs.
Fact: Again, the key is to eat a balanced diet. The serving size and the type of carbohydrates you eat are especially important. Focus on whole grain carbs since they are a good source of fibre and they are digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more even.
MYTH: You’ll no longer be able to eat normally. You need special diabetic meals.
Fact: The principles of healthy eating are the same—whether or not you’re trying to prevent or control diabetes. Expensive diabetic foods generally offer no special benefit. You can easily eat with your family and friends if you eat in moderation.
Diabetes and diet tip 1: Choose high-fibre, slow-release carbs
Carbohydrates have a big impact on your blood sugar levels—more so than fats and proteins—but you don’t have to avoid them. You just need to be smart about what types of carbs you eat.
In general, it’s best to limit highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice, as well as soda, candy, and snack foods. Focus instead on high-fibre complex carbohydrates—also known as slow-release carbs. Slow-release carbs help keep blood sugar levels even because they are digested more slowly, thus preventing your body from producing too much insulin. They also provide lasting energy and help you stay full longer.
Choosing carbs that are packed with fibre (and don’t spike your blood sugar)
Try these high-fiber options: White rice, Brown rice or wild rice, White potatoes (including fries and mashed potatoes), Sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, cauliflower mash, Regular pasta, Whole-wheat pasta, White bread, Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, Sugary breakfast cereal, High-fiber breakfast cereal (Raisin Bran, etc.), Instant oatmeal, Steel-cut oats or rolled oats, Croissant or pastry, Bran muffin
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