Appropriate nutritional strategies play a vital role in diabetes management. A well-balanced diet that includes foods proven to help control blood sugar levels and prevent obesity improves overall health and can reduce the effects of type 2 diabetes.
Here are 10 ways people can employ nutritional strategies for diabetes management:
1. Monitor Carbohydrate Intake
Carbohydrates impact blood sugar because they break down into glucose as the body digests. People with diabetes should watch both the type and amount of carbohydrates they consume, and avoid refined sugars from foods like soda, candy bars, or white bread. Instead, they should eat complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables which are less likely to cause glucose spikes.
2. Understand the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that ranks carbohydrates based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, while low-GI foods have a slower impact. Choosing low-GI foods can help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which can prevent or lessen the impacts of diabetes.
3. Balance Meals and Snacks
To control blood sugar effectively, people need to eat balanced meals and snacks. This means eating smaller portions throughout the day to prevent blood sugar fluctuations and to eat a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats in each meal. A balanced meal can slow the body’s glucose absorption and stabilize blood sugar levels. People with diabetes should avoid large meals that can lead to significant blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes as the body ramps up various processes to handle the large food intake.
4. Portion Control
Overeating, even healthy foods, can still cause blood sugar levels to rise. Practicing portion control is vital for maintaining steady blood sugar levels and to avoid obesity which is a driver of blood sugar and hormonal issues. People can use tricks like smaller plates, measuring portions, eating slower, and taking breaks while eating to prevent unintentional overeating.
5. Increase Fiber Intake
Fiber-rich foods, particularly those with soluble fiber can slow the absorption of glucose and regulate blood sugar levels. Foods like oats, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of dietary fiber that can help people manage diabetes and maintain a healthy weight because they feel fuller.
6. Choose Healthy Fats (in Moderation)
People who manage diabetes can incorporate healthy fats into their diet, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats can help improve blood sugar control and support heart health while providing other essential nutrients. With any food, moderation is key. Healthy fats such as olive oil still contain large amounts of calories, so people should always watch their portioning.
7. Avoid Soda and other Sugary Drinks
Sugar-sweetened beverages can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. They also provide “empty” calories with zero nutritional benefit. People that crave sugary drinks should instead opt for water with lemon, herbal tea, or other sugar-free beverages (but not diet sodas) to stay hydrated without the harmful effects of sugar.
8. Plan for Meals and Snacks
Planning meals and snacks in advance can help individuals with diabetes make healthier choices. People can map out their dinners and buy ingredients ahead of time to avoid running short of time and resorting to fast food. Having nutritious options readily available can prevent impulsive and less healthy food choices that often happen when someone is hungry and their blood sugar dips.
9. Monitor Blood Sugar Levels
Monitoring of blood sugar levels gives people and their care team data on the ways different foods and lifestyle choices impact blood glucose. Keeping a record of blood sugar readings can uncover patterns and give people added incentive to adjust their diet.
10. Work with a Dietician
People managing diabetes can work with a registered dietitian to give them a strategy to control blood sugar and manage diabetes through nutritional adjustments. These professionals build personalized diet plans tailored to an individual’s specific needs and goals that take into account their lifestyle and activity levels.
Managing diabetes through a dietary and lifestyle plan can provide benefits, but it’s not the complete care regimen. People with diabetes should work closely with an endocrinologist, a specialist doctor that understands the body’s hormonal and metabolic processes. An endocrinologist can perform ongoing tests and offer both lifestyle and possible medication-based strategies to help people manage diabetes and blood sugar. Dr. Brian Fertig, a New Jersey-based endocrinologist, provides patients with expert counsel about various hormone-based conditions. He is also a noted expert in metabolism and wrote a comprehensive and groundbreaking two-part series called “Metabolism & Medicine.” You can buy “Metabolism & Medicine” from Amazon to learn more about Dr. Fertig’s insights.