Diabetes is a dangerous disease that if poorly controlled can lead to a cascade of complications. It is well known that the incidence of diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. While type 1 diabetes is largely unpreventable the opposite is true of type 2 diabetes. The good news is that studies have shown lifestyle modifications such as modest weight loss, 150 minutes of weekly exercise and eating a healthy diet can significantly help prevent the disease.
Armed with the right information, you have the power of prevention at your fingertips. So what are the best nutrition strategies to protect you?
1. Go for the fiber. High fiber foods will help fill you up faster with fewer calories and also stabilize blood sugars. Aim for 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat. That’s 21 grams of fiber for women consuming 1,500 calories and 28 grams for men consuming 2,000 calories. Whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts and seeds are the best sources of fiber.
2. Focus on less fat. Eating less fat means fewer calories which can speed up weight loss, but the source of fat is also important. Limit your intake of processed red meats such as bacon, sausage, pastrami, salami, etc. Focus on the good fats in wild salmon and plant based fats in extra virgin olive oil, avocados and nuts and seeds. Avoid foods containing trans fats found in store bought cakes, cookies, snack foods and deep fried foods.
3. Be mindful of carbs. Carbohydrates fuel our brain and cells with energy, but it’s important to eat them in moderation and pay attention to carb quality. Refined carbs like white bread, white rice, white pasta, high sugar cereals, beverages and sweets produce rapid highs and lows in blood sugar. This increases insulin resistance and can leave you feeling low in energy. Instead focus on high quality carbs from whole grains and legumes.
4. Eat a nutrient rich diet. Instead of eating foods low in nutritional quality, make every bite count with foods that are full of nutrients such as:
- Magnesium – Eating foods rich in magnesium may improve insulin sensitivity and work to keep blood sugar from building up. Eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods like dark green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy and whole grains.
- Chromium – The body can’t metabolize glucose without insulin and insulin can’t function without this trace mineral. Chromium is typically present in small amounts in most all foods including whole grains, wheat germ, romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes, beef (be sure to use lean varieties and limit processed red meat), eggs and oysters.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D may play a role in blood glucose control and insulin action. The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight and supplements. You should have your level checked annually and adults should aim for 800-1,000 International Units for overall disease prevention.
- Antioxidants – Eating foods rich in antioxidants can reduce the damage of disease producing free radicals and inflammation. Include more plant based foods from whole grains, fruits, deeply colored vegetables, beans, and unsalted or lightly salted nuts and seeds.
5. Consider cinnamon. Cinnamon contains compounds that appear to fend off stress and help the body use insulin better. Adding cinnamon to the diet together with exercise and weight loss may be beneficial for people with pre-diabetes. Try adding cinnamon to cooked oatmeal, sprinkle it on natural peanut butter with toast or add it to black bean chili.
Stacey Trogdon, RD, CDE
CHER Diabetes Center
Stacey Trogdon, RD, CDE, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She received her degree in dietetics from Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA and completed her dietetic internship at University of Washington in Seattle. Stacey has been practicing as a dietitian for over 10 years in both inpatient and out-patient settings. She specializes in diabetes, nutrition therapy for medical conditions and sports nutrition. Stacey is a member of the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists practice group of the American Dietetic Association. Stacey is also a freelance writer with articles published in Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine and InHealthNW. She has also practiced as a corporate wellness dietitian promoting wellness and disease prevention in Bellevue, Washington.