Eating Right to Avoid Diabetes

diabetic coupleAccording to The American Diabetes Association’s latest statistics, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes. These numbers are based on 18.8 million who have been diagnosed and estimates of over 7 million that are undiagnosed. In 2010, 1.9 million cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people age 20 and older. Perhaps the most alarming of all statistics is the number of those deemed to be prediabetic based on both fasting glucose and A1C levels in clinical practice: 79 million.

Diabetes is a rapidly growing epidemic which in large part can be prevented and managed through lifestyle. The primary influence on the potential for prevention is nutrition. The foods that you regularly consume in your diet have a direct effect on a number of aspects of your health, and perhaps the most instant impact can be seen in your blood sugar levels. As mentioned earlier in this issue, consuming high amounts of sugars and refined carbohydrates will spike blood sugar levels that over time will lead to insulin resistance and make you more prone towards diabetes.

Portion Distortion

The first way to eat well with respect to preventing diabetes is to decrease your portions. This can be simpler than you think when
you use a couple of basic tips and tools:

1) Use small plates. When preparing your meals, use small plates or salad plates to decrease your portion size. In the 1960’s, the dinner plate measured an average of 8.5 inches. By comparison, today’s dinner plate measures an average of 12 inches! That’s nearly a 30% increase in size. In fact, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the standar restaurant dinner plate has increased from 10 inches to 12 inches since 1970. Our dinner plates have increased in size by 20% just since 1970. Purchase a set of new small plates to portion your meals out accordingly.

2) Read labels and pay attention to serving sizes. This is a common mistake that most people make. When preparing food, examine the labels for nutritional content and be sure to check serving size. Here are some brief guidelines from the FDA:

The first place to start when you look at the Nutrition Facts label is the serving size and the number of servings in the package. The size of the serving on the food package influences the number of calories and all the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label. Pay attention to the serving size, especially how many servings there are in the food package. Then ask yourself, "How many servings am I consuming"? (e.g., 1/2 serving, 1 serving, or more)

Cut Back on Carbs

Notice we’re not saying to totally eliminate carbohydrates from your diet – simply reduce them. Carbohydrates play an important role in your nutrition and provide a number of vital nutrients such as fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Choosing healthy carbs such as those found in fruits, vegetables and legumes is the key, while at the same time limiting those from sugar, bread, pasta, white rice, and white potatoes. In fact, fiber intake actually helps stabilize blood sugar levels keeping them more even keel and avoiding the spikes and crashes that make your body more resistant to insulin over time.

Whole grains often come up in the conversation on carbohydrate intake with many recommending a diet high in whole grains as healthy for diabetes prevention; however, a distinction should be made between what truly constitutes “whole grains” and what you find on the shelves. The foods that you see in the supermarket, even those labeled as “whole grain,” are often so broken down and processed by the time they reach
your shopping cart that they can spike your blood sugar as much or more than actual sugar! For example, the Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical scale used to indicate how fast and how high a particular food can raise our blood glucose (blood sugar) level. On the glycemic index, 30g of wheat bread (equivalent to 2 slices) has a glycemic index of 71 (high). By comparison, a Snickers bar has a GI of only 40 (low). We are not saying to swap Snickers bars for bread in your diet! We’re simply using this point to illustrate that the foods you may think as being “whole grain” and healthy can dramatically affect your blood sugar levels. When choosing whole grain carbs, opt for choices that include quinoa and wild/brown rice versus the breads and pastas.

To get the most nutrient bang-for-your-buck with carbohydrate consumption, eat plenty of greens, and root vegetables like those found in our recipe for Salmon & Roasted Vegetable Salad. Also be sure to eat adequate amounts of healthy fat and protein with each meal. Consuming protein and fat with carbs helps slow digestion and prevent spikes and swings in your blood sugar levels. Eat healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and cold-water fish. For protein, include chicken, beef, turkey and vegetable sources such as legumes.

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