Diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes, is one of the United States’ greatest public health concerns. As of 2020, nearly ten percent of Americans have diabetes, with almost a third of the population being pre-diabetic. Diabetes leads to a host of health concerns beyond blood sugar maintenance and weight issues, but it can be managed.
A key piece of diabetic health is a balanced, nutritious diet that avoids the peaks and valleys created by our sugar-laden standard diet. Here’s what foods you need to include (and avoid) so that you can live your healthiest life.
Foods to Include for Diabetic Health
To minimize diabetes health risks, there are some key foods you need to include in your diet. Not sure what you should eat more of? These foods are a great start!
Get Regular With Fiber
What is fiber? Simply put, dietary fiber includes the parts of your food that your body can’t absorb or digest. Fiber helps keep your digestive system regular while also playing a key role in the digestion and absorption of sugar.
Some high-fiber foods you should include in your diet are:
- Whole grains
- Legumes and nuts
- Vegetables and fruits
By including this dietary fiber, you’ll help control your blood sugar levels.
You Don’t Have to Cut Healthy Carbs
When examining a diabetic diet, it’s easy to see carbs as an enemy. However, not all carbs are created equal. Simple carbs are the ones we most often consider “bad”, while complex carbs can be healthy for you. Some excellent sources of complex carbs include:
- Pasta, bread, and flours made from whole wheat or grains
- Brown rice, barley, or quinoa
By including these in your diet, you can still get your bread or pasta fix without the extra spike in your blood sugar.
“Good” Fats Aren’t the Enemy
Fats have gotten a bad rap over the years. The sugar industry spared no expense in making sure people avoided any mention of fat like the plague. While it’s true that certain types of fat are bad for your health, mono and polyunsaturated fats can actually improve satiety and help you.
Avocados, nuts, and various types of natural oils can be great sources of these healthy fats. These good fats may also help lower your cholesterol.
Fish Are Diabetic-Friendly Foods
It should go without saying that fried fish won’t do much for your health, but grilled fish makes a great addition to anyone’s diet. Rich in Omega-3s, fish like tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon can offer a tasty alternative to chicken or other meats on your dinner plate.
Foods to Avoid for Diabetic Health
Central to diabetic neuropathy prevention and other diabetes health management issues is avoiding foods that exacerbate your condition. Not sure what foods you should pass on? Keep these basics in mind.
Mind Your Sugars
Simple carbs and refined sugars are not your friends as a diabetic. This means that you should try to limit your consumption of sweets, sugar-filled sodas, and processed foods. You should also take care to examine the ingredients list of each food item you purchase, as many innocuous foods can hide high amounts of sugar.
Don’t Get Salty
Diabetes and cardiovascular health issues often go hand-in-hand, so avoiding excess sodium should be a no-brainer. Again, you should make checking your labels part of your routine, as many common foods on grocery store shelves far exceed the doctor-recommended 2300mg maximum limit of sodium intake per day.
Not All Fats Are Bad (But These Ones Are)
Saturated and trans fats are the ones you must avoid at all costs. These fats can clog and harden your arteries, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and other complications. Butter, beef, shortening, sausage, and bacon are all common sources of both saturated and trans fats.
You should also know that, despite its health halo, coconut oil is a type of saturated fat, and therefore must be consumed in moderation.
Other Food-Based Tips to Manage Your Diabetes
Knowing what foods to avoid and indulge in is only part of your diabetes health pack. There are other ways you can use your diet to manage your condition, including:
Everything in Moderation
Look, we understand. Sometimes, you really want that pizza or that piece of cheesecake. We’re not saying that you can never enjoy the foods you like again. Being diabetic doesn’t mean never getting to have fun with your food. It just means that you need to eat less of those bad-for-you foods that taste so good.
If you do decide to indulge, make sure you plan around that indulgence so that you don’t spike your blood sugar or blood pressure too high. If you’re currently taking insulin, make sure you dose yourself appropriately before and/or after the meal.
Don’t Forget Your Pyramid
We all learn about the food pyramid in elementary school, only to promptly forget about it when we enter the ‘real world’. However, eating from all of the appropriate food groups is key to maintaining diabetic health. Follow the nutritional guidelines of the food pyramid as best you can, and you’ll see improvement in your condition.
Get Comfortable With Home Cooking
We’ve spoken at length about hidden salts and sugars in foods you buy from the grocery store. The more processed food you purchase, the more hidden elements you have to contend with. Worse still, when you eat out, you may not be able to find full nutritional information.
By cooking at home, you save yourself a lot of guesswork regarding the sugar content of your food. You’ll also learn a new skill, to boot!
You Don’t Have to Manage Diabetes Alone
Managing diabetic health is all about controlling your diet. By including healthier foods and avoiding processed ones, you’re well on your way to keeping your blood sugar under control. You don’t have to give up everything you love to eat, but you must practice more mindfulness regarding your food.
However, if you’re still lost on meal ideas to control your diabetes, check out the Nutrition section of our blog for some inspiration!