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Dietary Approaches for Diabetes Management

Dietary measures can have a positive impact on health, improve the ability to manage diabetes, and decrease the risk of developing complications of diabetes.  There is no perfect universal “diabetes diet” that works for every individual.  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that there is no ideal combination of macronutrients, or food components that suits all people.  Nutrition plans should be individualized based on gender, age, activity level, health conditions, personal preferences, as well as other factors.  However, various eating patterns may be helpful to utilize for blood sugar management in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Carbohydrates and Diabetes

Since carbohydrates break down into sugars in the body, a nutrition plan lower in carb intake may improve blood sugar balance and control.  This plan may be most helpful when the total daily carbohydrate goal is broken-down evenly into various daily meals and snacks.  The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults eat no less than 130 grams of carbohydrate each day for adequate nutrition.  To best achieve a healthy reduction in carb intake, consider incorporating adequate non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, and portions of healthy fats at meals and snacks.  It is also important that the carbohydrates you choose are full of fiber and nutrients to keep you satisfied.  These carbohydrate sources include fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, beans and legumes.

Glycemic Index

The concept of carbohydrate quality is further emphasized in a dietary approach called the glycemic index (G.I.).  This type of dietary plan focuses on choosing carbohydrate sources with lower glycemic values, such as whole grains and fresh produce, in place of carbs with higher glycemic values, such as sugary beverages and desserts.  This is recommended since foods with lower glycemic values cause lower and slower rises in blood sugar after eating them compared to foods with higher values.

A Healthy Lifestyle is Important for Diabetics

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight may be useful for individuals with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.  Some nutrition plans primarily focus on reducing overall caloric intake as a method to aid in glucose control, in some cases independent of types and amounts of carbohydrate intake.  Losing excess body weight can improve insulin resistance, or your body’s ability to use insulin hormone, as well as improve cardiovascular health, stress on joints, and quality of life.  It is estimated that in order to decrease body weight by 1-lb in a single week, a daily deficit of 500 calories per day must be achieved.  This deficit can be reached through a combination of eating less calories and increasing physical activity.  Calorie intake may be reduced by limiting to portion sizes listed on food labels, eating less high-fat and fried foods, and reducing or eliminating intake of sugar-containing beverages.

Regardless of what dietary approaches or ideas you utilize and find most helpful in controlling blood sugars, it is important to note that nutrition is a modifiable factor and can always be adjusted as needed.

Learn more about CHI Health's diabetes resources.

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