Guest post by Valerie Johnston
You’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – now what? Your doctor probably told you to cut down on sugary foods and lose some weight. Maybe he or she gave you a pamphlet with a lot of confusing facts about carbohydrates and proteins and fats, oh my! Relax. Making healthy eating choices with type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be rocket science. A healthy diet for diabetics is pretty much a healthy diet for everyone, with a few exceptions.
First of all, your body uses insulin to get sugar from your bloodstream to your cells, and the fact that you have type 2 diabetes means that either your body isn’t making enough insulin, or more likely it’s been making so much insulin over the years in response to massive blood sugar spikes caused by poor diet that the cells have become insulin resistant. In any case, your body is no longer able to efficiently metabolize large amounts of blood sugar, leading to potentially dangerous hyperglycemia. The solution? Cut down the blood sugar.
By eating small meals throughout the day, you will keep your blood glucose levels on an even keel, making it much easier for your body to manage without supplemental insulin, which is the ultimate goal of a diabetic diet.
Foods Diabetics Should Avoid
Foods to avoid are those containing processed sugar and those with a high glycemic index such as starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes), white bread and simple carbohydrates. These can be converted into blood glucose much more quickly, causing blood sugar levels to spike. Stick to complex carbohydrates such as whole grain foods and vegetables, which take longer to break down.
Because diabetics are at higher risk for heart attack and stroke, it’s important to avoid foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Stick to lean meats, poultry and fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acid. Good fats are those found in avocados, nuts and olive oil, which can actually help reduce cholesterol levels. Switch to low fat or fat free dairy products, and butter substitutes enhanced with olive oil.
Fruits are always healthy, right? Not necessarily. Diabetics should avoid fruits that are high in sugar, such as raisins, pineapple, watermelon, apricots, grapes and yes, even oranges to some extent. Berries of all sorts are loaded with antioxidants and low in sugar, and grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C.
Starches are a no-no, aren’t they? Healthy starches like whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, crackers, tortillas and long grain rice are rich in nutrients and take longer to break down than their processed cousins. Eat the healthy starches, but avoid potato chips, candy bars and packaged snacks like the plague.
The Plate Method of Portioning
A healthy rule of thumb for a diabetic diet is to portion your plate off into quarters. Fill two quarters of the plate with healthy, non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with a lean meat or protein such as eggs, nuts or cheese, and the other quarter with a healthy starch. Add a glass of skim milk and a low sugar fruit for dessert and you have a perfectly proportioned healthy meal for diabetics and non-diabetics alike!
If caught early enough, type 2 diabetes is quite often able to be managed by diet alone, and sometimes even reversed. Understanding the composition of different types of foods and the way they are broken down ultimately to end up as blood glucose will help you make healthy decisions about what you eat and when you eat it. Adding some regular exercise will also help to regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. Who knows, by forcing you to adopt a healthy diet and exercise regimen, diabetes may well have saved your life!
About the author: Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.