National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
A diabetes diet simply means eating the healthiest foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes. It also means having a healthy-eating plan that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. Key necessities are fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
If you have diabetes, your body cannot make or properly use insulin. This leads to high blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. Healthy eating helps keep your blood sugar in your target range. It is a critical part of managing your diabetes, because controlling your blood sugar can prevent the complications of diabetes.
Taking steps to prevent or control diabetes doesn’t mean living in deprivation; it means eating a tasty, balanced diet that will also boost your energy and improve your mood. You don’t have to give up sweets entirely or resign yourself to a lifetime of bland food. With these tips, you can still take pleasure from your meals without feeling hungry or deprived. A registered dietitian can help make an eating plan just for you. Your eating plan should consider your weight, medicines, lifestyle, and other health problems you have.
Healthy diabetic eating includes:
- Limiting foods that are high in sugar
- Eating smaller portions, spread out over the day
- Being careful about when and how many carbohydrates you eat
- Eating a variety of whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables every day
- Eating less fat
- Limiting your use of alcohol
- Using less salt
Whether you’re trying to prevent or control diabetes, your nutritional needs are virtually the same as everyone else, so no special foods are necessary. But you do need to pay attention to some of your food choices—most notably the carbohydrates you eat. While following a Mediterranean or other heart-healthy diet can help with this, the most important thing you can do is to lose a little weight.
Losing just 5% to 10% of your total weight can help you lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Losing weight and eating healthier can also have a profound effect on your mood, energy, and sense of wellbeing. Even if you’ve already developed diabetes, it’s not too late to make a positive change.
Belly fat is the biggest risk
Being overweight or obese is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. However, your risk is higher if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs. A lot of belly fat surrounds the abdominal organs and liver and is closely linked to insulin resistance. You are at an increased risk of developing diabetes if you are:
- A woman with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more
- A man with a waist circumference of 40 inches or more
Calories obtained from fructose (found in sugary beverages such as soda, energy and sports drinks, coffee drinks, and processed foods like doughnuts, muffins, cereal, candy and granola bars) are more likely to add weight around your abdomen. Cutting back on sugary foods can mean a slimmer waistline as well as a lower risk of diabetes.
By eating healthier, being more physically active and losing weight, you can reduce your symptoms or even reverse diabetes. The bottom line is that you have more control over your health than you may think.
Sources: NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Helpguide.org