Diabetic Diets : Foods That Fight Diabetes

A diabetic diet is crucial in managing diabetes. Diabetes is a metabolic disease affecting the body’s ability to derive sugar from blood glucose. Classic symptoms include the three Ps: polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyphagia (increased hunger).

Two Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

There are two types of Diabetes Mellitus. Type 1 diabetes, also called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), is also known as juvenile onset diabetes mellitus, because the disease often develops during childhood. In this type of diabetes the pancreas is no longer producing insulin, a hormone crucial for metabolism, regulating blood sugar and promoting glycogen storage in the liver.

Type 1 diabetics should thus take a daily insulin shot to compensate for the need that the body is no longer able to provide.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common type, affecting over 90 percent of diabetics, is Type 2 diabetes, or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), also known as adult onset diabetes mellitus. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas still produces insulin. But the cells have become resistant to insulin. Thus glucose accumulates over time in the blood stream because cells do not take in the sugar for energy as they should. Type 2 diabetes is often referred to as “insulin resistant” diabetes.

For most Type 2 diabetics diet and exercise can prove effective. Some need oral medications and even occasional insulin injections to normalize blood glucose levels.

Foods that might help maintain optimal blood glucose levels for diabetics.

Carbohydrates

The body’s main source for energy is the glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates. But carbohydrates like white rice quickly increases blood glucose levels sharply. Thus diabetics should choose carbohydrates with high fiber content, because fiber slows down the release of glucose to the blood stream Sources of high-fiber carbohydrates include:

• Barley

• Oat cereals

• Beans

• Peas

• Lentils

Soluble fiber found in oatmeal may even help in lowering blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber in green vegetables and whole grains provides a feeling of fullness on fewer calories, countering the constant pangs of hunger in diabetics.

Fish for Diabetics

Diabetics often have high triglyceride and low HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish can lower triglycerides and raise HDL.

Peanuts for Diabetics

Regular consumption of food rich in monounsaturated fats like peanuts helps decrease bad cholesterol levels. A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found that eating peanuts may lower the risk for Type 2 diabetes in women.

Chromium

A deficiency of the trace mineral chromium has been linked to low glucose tolerance. Chromium assists insulin in its job in transferring glucose from the blood stream to the cells, which is important in metabolism. Chromium is found in the following food sources:

• Wheat bran

• Whole grains

• Chicken breast

• Mushrooms

• Blackstrap molasses

Chromium supplements may provide beneficial effects to blood glucose control. The regular multivitamin pill contains about 50 mcg of chromium. No more than 200 mcg a day of chromium supplementation is recommended. But before taking chromium supplements, don’t forget to consult a physician or a dietician.

Illlustration of blood glucose and insulin

Low Fat Diet for Diabetics

High fat diets—especially with saturated and hydrogenated fats—contribute to obesity, which is a major risk factor of heart disease, especially for Type 2 diabetes. Whereas monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—found in vegetable oils, nuts, fish and avocado—are good for the heart. They slow down the digestive process, thus stabilizing blood sugar levels. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats also reduce insulin resistance.

Diet for Diabetics

Diet plays a key role in optimizing blood sugar levels. It prevents or delays the complications associated with diabetes like diabetic retinopathy, kidney disease, hypertension and heart disease. To work out a diet plan one must consult a physician or dietician, as diet planning take into consideration factors like age and other preexisting health concerns. Those who take medications for other purposes should also be very careful before embarking on a diet plan.

Diet a Key to Fighting Diabetes

Most diabetics rely on insulin injections (for Type 1 diabetes) or medications (for Type 2 diabetes) to control blood sugar. Exercise is also recommended to compliment the medicines. But since the foods and drinks we ingest play the most crucial factor in blood glucose levels, diet is the key to controlling diabetes.

Often, the combination of the right foods maximize metabolism, which, in turn, optimizes the performances of medicines and nutrients. These elements work best in an interplay of roles.

Foods that fight diabetes, like almonds, apples, apricots and avocados, are abundant in nature. Since virtually everything we eat and drink end up in our blood stream, diabetics must find the foods that not only pack lesser punch in spiking, but also assist in lowering, blood sugar levels.

Photo of athletic woman checking glucose.

Foods that Fight Diabetes

From Almonds to Avocados

The following is a list of foods that fight diabetes either on its own terms, or symbiotically with other foods:

Almonds – are a rich source of dietary fiber, good fats and protein. These elements prolong the feeling of fullness, thus lessening hunger pangs and the need to eat again—which is common among diabetics. Natural (not salted, roasted or sugar-coated) almonds combined with mashed potatoes or (even) white bread actually reduces post-meal blood glucose spikes.

Eating 30 gm of almonds a day reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases good cholesterol (HDL). Almonds are also rich in calcium, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and arginine, which assists in blood flow.

Apples – do help keep the doctors away. Researchers discovered that people eating apple daily have the best blood glucose control. Apples are full of fructose, the fruit sugar that is one major source of carbohydrate energy. Fructose has a low glycemic index (GI), thus it doesn’t raise blood sugar that much. Apples are also rich in soluble fiber, which slows digestion, reducing hungry pangs, and blunt blood glucose swings.

Apples also help in weight loss, which is a major diabetic concern. A medium-sized apple has about 10 mg of vitamin C. Apples are also full of flavonoids, an antioxidant. Research have linked apples to the reduction of heart disease, diabetes, asthma and some types of cancer.

Apricots – are full of iron, vitamin C and potassium. The fructose in apricots are an alternative source for low GI sugars. Pectin, the soluble fiber abundant in apricots, helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. Their deep orange color gives away the presence of carotenoids—beta carotene in particular—which the body converts to vitamin A.

A word of caution against dried apricots: apricots are treated with sulfur dioxide, before they are dried, as color and nutrient preservative. Sulfites may trigger an asthma attack or allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

Avocados – are loaded with monounsaturated fats, which is good for the heart, and which also doesn’t promote insulin resistance, unlike other fats. Research have shown that this type of fat stabilizes blood glucose levels. Adding avocado to any carbohydrate rich food like white bread slows digestion, thus controlling blood glucose.

Avocados are rich in LDL-lowering sterols, vitamins E and C, magnesium, folate and potassium. One way of reducing kilojoule intake is substituting avocado as a spread for butter or margarine.

Almonds, apples, apricots and avocados are indeed good for diabetic control

The Key to Fighting Diabetes through Diet

The key to fighting diabetes through diet is a well-informed mindset. Knowing the right nutrients makes choice for the right foods, or their combinations, much easier. Foods rich in fibers, monounsaturated fats,vitamins  and minerals – like almonds, apples, apricots and avocados - that assist in lowering blood glucose and bad cholesterol work better together to optimize blood glucose control.

Bananas, barley, beans, berries, broccoli and brussels sprouts are rich in nutrients that help fight diabetes. Even with exercise and medications, diabetics need to regulate their diet to control blood glucose levels. Like garlic, ginger, grapes, kiwi fruit and grape fruit, these foods also help fight hypertension.

Foods that Fight Diabetes

From Bananas to Buckwheat

The following is a list of foods whose names begin with the letter B, which, like dried fruit, eggplant, fennel, fenugreek, fish and seafood, fight diabetes:

Bananas – are rich in potassium (needed for nerve function, muscle control and blood pressure maintenance), vitamins C and B6, and folate. They are an excellent source of bad cholesterol lowering soluble fibers. Since diabetics need more energy for exercise, bananas come in handy as they are good energy boosters. A serving of one small banana packs an equivalent of 304 kilojoules of energy.

Barley – like other whole grains, is rich in B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Barley contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber, also found in oats, that lower bad cholesterol. Barley can be added to dishes like risotto or pilaf (with vegetables or meat, chicken or fish) for barley’s benefits to lower the overall glycemic index of the dishes. Barley is a good source of carbohydrates.

Beans – are an excellent source of fiber, folate, beta-carotene and  vitamin C, providing benefits with less kilojoule. Aside from assisting many nutrients in lowering blood sugar, beans are found to lower blood pressure, lower the risks for stroke, kidney failure and heart disease—which are the prime complications of diabetes.

Beetroot – Fresh beetroot is low in kilojoules, besides being a good source of beneficial fiber, potassium and protein. Its green tops are rich in calcium , iron and vitamin C. It has more folate than most vegetables. Beetroot extract is found to have inhibitory effects on viruses associated with cancerous tumors. A word of caution: beetroot can make urine and stools pink-red. But it’s harmless. In fact, the pink-red pigment comes from betalains, which are antioxidants.

Berries – are rich in fructose, the more benign form of sugar. They are full of soluble and insoluble fibers, which slow digestion, thus regulating blood glucose levels. They are rich in anthocyanins, compounds that assist in lowering blood sugar levels by boosting insulin production. Blueberries contain a high level of ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), an antioxidant. Like every other fruit, berries are rich in Vitamin C.

Bread (grainy, rye and sourdough) – People who consume more whole grains have a much lower risk of diabetes. Whole grains, found abundantly in wheat bread, rye bread and sourdough bread, help improve cell sensitivity to insulin, the hormone responsible for managing blood glucose. Whole grain consumption cuts the risk of heart disease from 15 to 30 percent. Whole grains are rich in fibers and cholesterol-reducing plant sterols. They also assist in  weight loss,which is crucial in fighting diabetes.

Broccoli – is the super-food source of chromium, a trace mineral that assists insulin in transferring glucose from the blood to the cells. It is very rich in vitamin C, which is an important vitamin in the fight against diabetes. High levels of vitamin C in the blood reduces glycated hemoglobin, a long-term indicator of high blood glucose.

Brussels Sprouts – are rich in antioxidants. They are also an abundant source of zeaxanthin and lutein, nutrients that delay the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Buckwheat – is a good source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, fiber and protein. Buckwheat fiber slows digestion, thereby controlling blood glucose swings. Buckwheat is a good source of rutin, a flavonoid that helps fight cancer, lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, strengthen blood vessels, and slowing the progression of diabetic complications like renal disease.

Foods that fight diabetes are abundant in nature, like cabbages, cauliflower, carrots, chili and custard apple. Most of what we eat and drink convert to blood glucose. Exercise and medications assist in lowering blood sugar to optimal levels. Diet remains as the most important element in the fight against diabetes.

Dietary Secret that Fights Diabetes

Diet, in the fight against diabetes, doesn’t only mean the drastic lowering of quantity, especially with carbohydrates, our body’s main source for energy, which also is the main culprit in spiking blood sugar. More importantly, diet should mean the inclusion of food nutrients that not only regulate digestion, like fibers, but also assist in fighting diabetes, like chromium, which is vital for insulin to transfer glucose to the cells as energy.

Foods that Fight Diabetes

From Cabbage to Custard Apple

The following is a list of foods that fight diabetes either on its own terms, or symbiotically with other foods (continued from Bananas to Buckwheat):

• Cabbages – are very low in kilojoules and high in fiber, which translates to weight loss, a crucial factor in the fight against diabetes. Cabbages are a rich source of vitamin C, which reduces the risk of developing diabetes. Red cabbage is rich in anthocyanins, a natural pigment that boost insulin production. Fermented cabbage, also known as sauerkraut, have higher levels of anticancer compounds, due to fermentation. A word of caution: sauerkrauts are high in sodium.

• Carrots – are loaded with beta-carotene, which has been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A study found that individuals with high blood levels of beta-carotene have 32 percent lower insulin levels (suggesting better blood glucose control). Carrots are good for the eyes, delaying macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. They are rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower bad cholesterol.

Cauliflowers – pack few kilojoules and lots of fiber. They are rich in vitamin C, supplying up to 50 percent of daily need, which assists in protecting cells from damage due to high blood glucose. They are a good source of folate, potassium and vitamin B6. Like Broccoli and cabbage, cauliflowers are rich in anticancer compounds. At least 80 studies found that individuals consuming the largest amounts of cauliflower have lowest risk of lung, stomach, colon and rectal cancers.

• Cherries – are very rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium. They also have little amounts of iron and the fiber pectin, which helps in lowering bad cholesterol. Australian cherries have a moderate glycemic index (GI). Tart (sour) cherries, usually sold bottled, have low GI, making them ideal snack foods, as they don’t raise blood sugar levels as high as most snack foods.

• Chili and Capsicums – capsaicin, which gives chili its heat, boosts the body’s heat generation, translating into more burnt energy, elevating metabolic rate, which is crucial in optimizing blood sugar levels. Eating a meal containing freshly chopped chili reduces the amount of insulin needed for post-meal blood glucose levels. Capsicums are an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and the red variety is rich in beta-carotene. Bright orange, green and yellow capsicums are high in carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein, which help delay diabetic retinopathy.

• Cinnamon – researchers discovered that this spice helps lower blood glucose. One study involving 60 individuals revealed that taking as little as ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowered blood glucose by 18-29 percent. Like chromium, some natural compounds found in cinnamon helps insulin in transferring glucose into cells as energy.

• Custard Apples – (atis in Filipino) are a very rich source of magnesium, which helps regulate blood glucose levels, maintain normal nerve and muscle functions, steadies heart rhythm, keeps bones strong, and supports a healthy immune system. Diabetics usually have low magnesium levels.

Moderation is not only the crucial element in diets that fight diabetes. The right combination of foods rich in fiber and blood glucose lowering nutrients works as much. These factors compliment exercise, and sometimes medications, in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for diabetics.

Foods that fight diabetes, like dried fruit, eggplant, fennel, fenugreek, fish and seafood, pack the right nutrients that help lower blood glucose and cholesterol. They compliment exercise, and sometimes with the inclusion of medications, in optimizing blood glucose levels. Diet is the most important component in any regimen designed to fight diabetes.

The Right Combination of Foods

Since most of what we eat and drink end up in our blood stream, moderation is not only the key. Choosing the right foods, and their combinations, is crucial in maximizing all the factors into working symbiotically for optimal results.

Foods that Fight Diabetes

From Dried Fruit to Fish

The following is a list of foods that fight diabetes either on its own terms, or symbiotically with other foods:

• Dried Fruit – like apple rings, apricots, peaches, pears, prunes, cranberries, figs, raisins and sultanas retain the fiber after drying. Even if vitamin C is lost in the process of drying, dried fruits have significant amounts of iron, potassium and selenium. For sustained energy, needed for exercise for instance, dried fruit is ideal. Dried fruits contain high levels of polyphenols, an antioxidant.

• Eggplants – (also called aubergine) rank with spinach and sweet potatoes as the highest plant sources of antioxidants. Eggplants have lots of chlorogenic acid, which fights cancer, bacteria, virus and bad cholesterol. Because it is a good source of soluble fiber, eggplants can lower blood glucose. Eggplant skin contains nasunin, a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage, especially from high blood sugar.

• Fennels – are rich in vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese and fiber – the nutrients that do best in regulating blood glucose levels. They pack very small amounts of kilojoule. They are also a source for calcium and iron. It contains the phytonutrient compound anethole, which reduces inflammation and helps fight cancer. Fennels also help in digestion.

• Fenugreek – researchers discovered that this spice mimics insulin in helping transfer glucose from the blood stream to cells. Only ½ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds packs 1 g of soluble fiber, which helps lower bad cholesterol. Antioxidant compounds in the spice help counteract the damaging effects of diabetes on organs.

Fish and Seafood – like fish, prawns, lobsters and crabs are high in protein and low in kilojoules, which means they have lesser impact on blood glucose levels. These foods are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which, besides being good to the heart, also reduces inflammation – which is a major contributor to premature aging and insulin resistance. Tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines are the riches sources of omega 3. Prawns and lobsters are also good sources of the fatty acid, and they are virtually devoid of saturated fats.

A study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women with diabetes, who ate fish just once a week, have a 40 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease – a major diabetic complication – than women with diabetes who ate fish less than once a month.

Most shellfish are rich in copper and zinc, both important for optimal immune system function. They are rich in vitamin B12, which helps fight depression and Alzheimer’s disease. They are super sources of selenium, a mineral that fights cancer.

Clams are rich in sterols, which lower bad cholesterol, which is important in the fight against diabetes.

The foods we choose, or their combinations, determine to a large extent the success rate of any diet regimen. Coupled with exercise, and sometimes medications, the right nutrients – from foods like bananas, beans, broccoli and Brussels sprouts – might just work the wonders needed to fight diabetes and maintain a healthy lifestyle. After all, diabetes need not rob our rights of enjoying nature’s bounty in food. We just have to acquire the knowledge needed to make the right choices.

Foods and spices that fight diabetes – like garlic, ginger, grapes, kiwi fruit and grapefruit – are abundant in nature. Since diet is a major component in the fight against diabetes, the diabetic must acquire the knowledge of which foods, and their combinations, work best in complimenting exercise, and sometimes with medication, for strategies to have maximum effect.

Combination of Foods maximizes Diet’s Overall Effects

The right combination of foods do much more, not only in regulating blood glucose levels, but also in fighting, or delaying, diabetic complications like heart disease, retinopathy, renal disease and hypertension.

Foods that Fight Diabetes

From Garlic to Kiwi Fruit

The following is a list of foods that fight diabetes either on its own terms, or symbiotically with other foods:

Garlic – is a mainstay as the major spice of many delicious dishes. Besides being a powerful antioxidant, garlic increases insulin secretion and improve cells’ sensitivity to insulin. Garlic also works wonderfully against hypertension. It reduces bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol. Garlic also thins the blood, reducing clots which clog arteries.

A word of caution: garlic supplements show no blood glucose lowering benefits. Raw garlic works best in keeping blood sugar at bay.

Ginger – is a major culinary spice and is valued as a home remedy for upset stomach, nausea, migraine, gastroenteritis, and food poisoning. Along with at least 50 antioxidants, ginger is rich in gingerols, a compound used for cancer prevention. Ginger prevents proteins from being lost in urine, a problem that occurs with diabetes. Ginger lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure, hypertension being a major complication of diabetes. It prevents blood clots, protecting blood vessels from blockage and atherosclerosis.

Grapefruit – is packed with pectin, a soluble fiber that regulates blood glucose and cholesterol. Like most types of fiber, it provides a feeling of fullness, reducing food cravings. Half a grapefruit contains about 35 mg of vitamin C, which is almost 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), and 150 mg of potassium. The pink and red varieties are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Grapefruits are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that lowers the risk of prostate cancer.

A grapefruit before each meal, three times a day, has been found to reduce an average of 1.6 kg of weight, over 12 weeks, in individuals with metabolic problems. Grapefruit also lowered their insulin levels, which means less stress on insulin-producing cells.

Grapes – are absolutely low in glycemic index (GI), which makes it an ideal snack food, because it doesn’t have much impact on the blood glucose level. Grapes are an excellent source of vitamin C, and have fair amounts of potassium. Purple and red grapes contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Grapes contain quercetin, a pigment that regulates blood cholesterol.

Grape skin contains resveratrol, a phytochemical that reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. Grape seeds contain proanthocyanidins, a substance shown to have protective elements against bacteria, cancer, virus, allergies and inflammation. Inflammation is a major risk factor for diabetes.

Kiwi Fruit – is rich in fructose, the benign sugar, vitamin C, and fiber – both the soluble, which protects against heart disease and diabetes, and the insoluble, which reduces the risk of cancer. Kiwi fruit is a good source of vitamin E and potassium. A study at Aberdeen’s Rowett Research Institute found that people who drank 500 ml of kiwi juice have lesser damage to the DNA of immune cells than those who just drank water. This is perhaps due to high levels of flavonoids and carotenoids found in the kiwi fruit.

Nutrients from the right foods – like bananas, beans, broccoli and buckwheat or almonds, apples, apricots and avocados – combine to maximize the effects of diet on blood glucose regulation. Although moderation is no less important, the right foods, or their combinations, compliment exercise, and sometimes with medication, to maintain optimum health for the diabetic.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

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