If you suffer from diabetes, going on a diabetic diet is one of the best ways to control your blood sugar levels. It’s a plan that’s low in starchy carbs and sugars; and high in lean proteins, fiber, and non-starchy vegetables. Eating these types of foods stabilizes blood sugar levels, helping you control your disease. But the diabetic diet is not just for diabetics. Rather, it is the best eating plan for almost everyone!
How the Diabetic Diet helps diabetes
When you eat a large quantity of food at one meal or a large number of carbs or fats, your blood glucose levels rise to unhealthy levels. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), causing many serious health problems. A diabetic diet helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which will protect your health.
If more people followed a diabetic diet, it could end the diabetes epidemic.
The Diabetes Epidemic
Few countries are untouched by diabetes, and that includes the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes. There are 8.1 million people who may be undiagnosed and unaware they have this often deadly disease.
Meanwhile, the American Diabetes Association reports 84.1 million Americans had prediabetes as of 2015. Without going on a diabetic diet and making other lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes will likely progress to type 2 diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s ability to use or produce insulin is impaired. Either the pancreas cannot make insulin, or the cells cannot absorb it (insulin resistance), resulting in consistently elevated blood glucose levels.
When you consume sugars and other carbs, your body converts it into glucose and sends it into the bloodstream. This causes blood sugar levels to rise. Your cells cannot absorb glucose without the hormone insulin. So the pancreas releases the exact amount of insulin necessary to handle the glucose in your bloodstream.
Insulin opens the doors of the cells, allowing glucose to enter. Blood sugar levels fall, and everything is the way it should be.
But when a diabetic eats carbs, the process is very different. Because the pancreas can’t produce an adequate amount of insulin or the cells won’t accept it, blood glucose levels rise. Elevated glucose levels and insulin now circulate in the bloodstream. Insulin tells your body to store fat and not to burn fat. This causes weight gain. Over time, elevated glucose levels create serious health problems.
Types of Diabetes
There are 2 main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is usually caused by an autoimmunity issue in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas cannot make insulin or can make only a small amount. Approximately 10% of diabetics have type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas cannot produce a sufficient amount of insulin, or the cells cannot use it correctly. It is usually caused by a combination of factors, including a poor-quality diet, being overweight, and having a family history of diabetes. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, and it can usually be reversed with a diabetic diet.
Benefits of controlling blood sugar with a diabetic diet
The most important aspect of treating diabetes is controlling blood sugar levels. One of the best ways to do this is with a diabetic diet, which will prevent dangerous blood sugar spikes.
Common causes of blood sugar spikes
Below are some of the most common causes of blood sugar spikes.
You may not think sleep has anything to do with blood sugar control, but studies have shown just the opposite.
One study showed lack of sleep interferes with the body’s ability to break down glucose. Doctors believe this is because the nervous system slows way down when you sleep, and your brain uses less blood sugar.
Exercise (too much or too little)
Exercise is good for diabetes. Indeed, many studies have shown exercise increases insulin sensitivity, reducing blood sugar levels. But there can be a downside. Too much or too little exercise can affect these levels.
Doctors have long known that leading a sedentary lifestyle can cause blood glucose levels to rise. Indeed, this is one reason they usually recommend physical activity as a treatment for diabetes. However, intense activities — such as running a marathon or lifting weights — can also raise your blood sugar.
If you have diabetes, check with your doctor to see what modifications to your treatment plan you might need to make to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Stress triggers your fight-or-flight response, which makes your body release cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. These hormones cause a spike in blood sugar levels. This is normal and essential to give you the energy to deal with the threat.
For those without diabetes, the spike in blood sugar levels is quickly followed by an increase in insulin secretion. This ensures their blood sugar levels return to normal fairly quickly. Because diabetics cannot use insulin that well, their blood sugar levels can remain high for quite a while after a stressful or fearful event.
To counteract stress, plan on de-stressing as much as possible. Meditate. Take up yoga. Go for long, leisurely walks. It will soothe your body, and your mind — and regulate your blood sugar levels!
And last, but certainly not least is diet. One of the best things you can do to control your blood sugar level is to watch what you eat.
Eating too many starchy carbs and sugars, even if the sugar is in fruit, can cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. A diabetic diet will help stabilize those levels by helping you choose the correct foods to eat. There are also supplements that have been shown to promote better blood sugar control.
After all, the goal always has to be blood sugar control.
What happens if blood sugar levels aren’t controlled?
The best blood sugar levels are ones kept within a healthy range, neither too high nor too low. If blood sugar levels are not controlled and are allowed to spike, terrible health effects can occur.
Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar falls too low. Early symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
Without treatment, hypoglycemia could become serious and even fatal.
Hyperglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels are too high. This can happen if you eat a high-carb food or meal or skip your glucose-lowering meds. You may also experience hyperglycemia if you are under stress or have not been sleeping well.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- Blurred vision
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Trouble concentrating
If blood glucose levels rise too high, a diabetic coma and even death could occur.
Health complications of diabetes
Chronically elevated blood sugar levels may lead to diabetes, a disease that causes or contributes to many dangerous conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder problems
Diabetic Diet: For better blood sugar control, eliminate these foods from your diet
Though some may say all foods are okay in moderation, certain foods have been shown to be especially bad for blood sugar control. It is best to try to eliminate or severely reduce these foods from your diet.
Many studies have shown the dangerous effects sugar has on health. It causes or contributes to obesity, heart disease, cancers — and diabetes.
Research shows sugar consumption rapidly spikes blood sugar levels. This is particularly true if you drink your sugars in soft drinks, fruit juices, etc. This includes milk, by the way. People think milk is healthy, but it is high in sugar. (The “ose” in lactose means sugar.)
Replacing them with artificial sweeteners is not a good idea, either. Studies show they may still affect blood sugar and harm health. If you need to sweeten your drink or a recipe, use a natural sweetener. Stevia, Erythritol, and Xylitol are great natural sweeteners that have not been shown to affect blood sugar. They also have no side effects.
Bread. Pasta. Rice. These and other starchy carbs are broken down into glucose (sugar) quickly, so they also cause a spike in blood sugar. You can slow this process down by eating starchy carbs with high-fiber foods or protein. However, for better blood sugar control, you should still try to reduce or eliminate starchy carbs from your diet.
Heavily processed foods
Heavily processed foods are created in a laboratory and filled with preservatives and other chemicals. They do not resemble the plant or animal sources from which they originate. They are ready to eat right out of the bag or package. Heavily processed foods include cookies, microwave dinners, and potato chips.
Regularly eating processed foods is damaging to your health and raises blood sugar levels. The chemicals in these foods may cause this effect, but the sugar content also probably has the biggest effect. After all, over 75% of processed foods contain added sugars, which we know affect blood sugar levels.
Add these foods to your Diabetic Diet to better control blood sugar levels
Here are some food groups that you’ll want to add to your diabetic diet. They will stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Fibrous foods are one of the best blood-sugar stabilizers. Fiber slows down glucose absorption, regulating blood sugar levels. To get the best blood sugar-lowering benefits of fiber, aim for a minimum of 30 grams of fiber per day.
Some of the best high-fiber foods include carrots, almonds, and broccoli.
Foods high in chromium
Chromium is a nutrient that humans require in small amounts. Its role in the metabolic system is to regulate blood sugar and help insulin move glucose into cells. So, it’s not surprising that eating foods high in chromium has been shown to naturally balance blood sugar levels. It also improves insulin sensitivity.
Some of the best high-chromium foods include broccoli and grass-fed beef.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 biochemical processes. Regulating blood glucose levels is one of them. The American Diabetes Association conducted a study to see how magnesium affected diabetes. They found that increasing magnesium intake could reduce the risk of diabetes. Other studies have shown magnesium to be beneficial for blood sugar control.
Some great magnesium-rich foods include spinach and almonds.
Make these supplements part of your diabetic diet
These supplements have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels.
Chromium picolinate: May improve insulin sensitivity.
Alpha-lipoic acid: May lower fasting blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance.
Bitter melon extract: May help reduce blood glucose levels.
Cinnamon: May reduce lower blood sugar levels.
A diabetic diet is a SANE Diet
The diabetic diet is a SANE diet, and the foods you’ll eat on this plan are delicious and filling. And they will regulate your blood sugar levels.
The basic SANE food groups are non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole food fats, and low-fructose fruits.
Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a third of your plate with nutrient-dense proteins, and the rest of your plate with whole food fats. Try to eat those three food groups together at each meal, as they fill you up fast and keep you full longer. This prevents you from overeating. Plus, the non-starchy vegetables ensure slow glucose absorption, keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
You can also enjoy 0-3 servings of low-fructose fruits per day.
Here’s a sampling of the foods you can enjoy in each group:
10+ servings per day
- Bell pepper
3-5 servings per day (30-50 grams per meal)
- Egg whites
- Cottage cheese
- Grass-fed beef
- Nonfat Greek yogurt
3-5 servings per day
- Flax seeds
0-3 servings per day
- Acai berries
On a SANE diet, you won’t go hungry, and your blood sugar levels will be stable. How’s that for a diabetic diet? Are you ready for some SANEity?
Next step: Start your Diabetic Diet with SANE
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