Updated: Jul 2, 2019
There are many things you can do to control your blood sugar: exercising regularly, eating foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI), getting enough sleep, managing stress well, and taking your diabetes medication correctly. But anyone with Type 2 Diabetes knows that all this is easier said than done.
This week, I want to talk about healthy food for Type 2 Diabetics. Many of us might not know it yet, but we could be eating (or not eating) our way to diabetes.
Fun Fact: A recent study says that skipping breakfast just one day a week may raise the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 6%. Skipping breakfast four to five days a week elevates that risk to 55%. In principle, a regular and balanced breakfast is recommended for all people — with and without diabetes.
Time and again, I have Type 2 Diabetics ask me about special diets and alternative treatments. I am not a dietician or nutritionist, so I did some research on the topic, and here's what I have learnt.
Although the American Diabetes Association doesn’t recommend alternative treatments or specific diet plans for diabetes, some people with the disease have seen their blood sugar levels benefit from nutritional supplements and foods, like chromium picolinate, bitter melon, and cinnamon that may help lower your Hb A1C levels. Just be sure to consult your doctor before incorporating any of these into your diabetes diet.
Fermented dairy products like yogurt are always great choices due to their natural source of probiotics, which has a positive effect on intestinal health and is linked to improved glucose and insulin levels in the body.
Cheese is a good option to balance out a meal or snack by adding good sources of protein and a little fat. With minimal carbohydrates (just one gram per ounce), cheese won’t spike your blood glucose levels.
New research says that even though eggs are high in cholesterol, they don’t affect body cholesterol levels as much as we thought. Egg white has a lot of protein and eggs don’t have carbohydrates. When you have diabetes, you have problems with carbohydrates, not with protein, unless you have kidney disease. So, if you have high blood cholesterol or diabetes, it might be better to limit intake to just a couple of eggs per week.
Studies show that fructose from fruit, fruit juices, and other natural sources are less likely to increase risk factors related to Type 2 Diabetes compared with fructose found in sugar-sweetened beverages. So, go for the real stuff, eat whole fruits instead of fruit juice. Drink fresh fruit juice instead of carbonated or artificially sweetened beverages.
Consumed on it's own, cinnamon can be a great addition to your diabetes diet. A review in the journal "Annals of Family Medicine" noted that cinnamon may lower fasting glucose levels, and help reduce LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Cinnamon doesn't affect your A1C because it does not provide any carbohydrate or sugar calories to increase blood sugar, but it still gives you that sweet taste that can replace the sweetness of sugar.
Green tea contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can boost our metabolism and inhibit the enzyme "amylase", which turns carbohydrates into glucose. This, in turn, could decrease the breakdown and absorption of glucose into the blood, suggesting that green tea may help control glucose, lower the risk of heart disease, and promote weight loss.
A study published in the journal "Biological Trace Elements Research" suggests that chronic magnesium deficiency is associated with insulin resistance, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes. For all you know, it might even be worth getting your doctor's opinion on whether you should start taking magnesium supplements.
Chromium Picolinate Supplements
A study published in the journal "Diabetes" suggests that chromium picolinate might help people with type 2 diabetes improve their A1C readings, glucose tolerance, insulin production, and cholesterol.
Although these things have proven successful for some people, be mindful of the fact that they do not work for everyone. I strongly recommend that you consult your doctor before incorporating any of these changes into your diet and lifestyle, especially when it comes to alternative treatments.
Since nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA like regular drugs are, their quality and dosages are uncertain. Furthermore, research shows conflicting results on whether supplements are at all beneficial to humans, regardless of whether they have diabetes. That is why the American Diabetes Association doesn’t recommend them.
Last but not the least, I always get asked if I would recommend a particular diet for Type 2 Diabetics to facilitate weight loss. Keto and Paleo are most commonly asked about. So, here's what I think:
The Keto diet, also referred to as a low-carb, high-fat, high protein diet, may help some people with Type 2 Diabetes because it allows the body to maintain glucose levels at a low but healthy level. The lower intake of carbohydrates in the diet can help to eliminate large spikes in blood sugar, thus reducing the need for insulin. However, this diet isn't for you if you have kidney disease, because you want to limit your protein intake.
Studies suggest that people with Type 2 Diabetes who followed the Paleo diet were able to help lower their blood pressure, stabilise their blood sugar levels, and reduce their cholesterol by significant amounts. However, if you have kidney problems or are on certain medications, this diet may not be safe for you.
If you are interested in trying a Paleo or Keto diet, you should consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before beginning the program.
That's it for today. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.