Food For Type 2 Diabetes

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Are you looking for a diet program for food for type 2 diabetes? If so, then this blog is for you. The information here can help you learn how to eat in a way that helps you maintain a healthy weight, manage your blood sugars, and lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and other health problems.

When it comes to food for type 2 diabetes, you need to know that there are a lot of questions about what foods you should be eating. It’s not just about counting calories and carbs anymore, but also about thinking about fat and fiber content in your meals. Even as a nutritionist, it can be hard to know exactly what to recommend when it comes to this disease. There are so many things that affect how your body reacts to certain foods.

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Food For Type 2 Diabetes

Your food choices matter a lot when you’ve got diabetes. Some are better than others.

Nothing is completely off-limits. Even items that you might think of as “the worst” could be occasional treats — in tiny amounts. But they won’t help you nutrition-wise, and it’s easiest to manage your diabetes if you mainly stick to the “best” options.

Starches

Your body needs carbs. But you want to choose wisely. Use this list as a guide.

Best Choices

  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, millet, or amaranth
  • Baked sweet potato
  • Items made with whole grains and no (or very little) added sugar

Worst Choices

  • Processed grains, such as white rice or white flour
  • Cereals with little whole grains and lots of sugar
  • White bread
  • French fries
  • Fried white-flour tortillas

Vegetables

Load up! You’ll get fiber and very little fat or salt (unless you add them).  Remember, potatoes and corn count as carbs.

Best Choices

  • Fresh veggies, eaten raw or lightly steamed, roasted, or grilled
  • Plain frozen vegetables, lightly steamed
  • Greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula. Iceberg lettuce is not as great because it’s low in nutrients.
  • Low sodium or unsalted canned vegetables

Go for a variety of colors: dark greens, red or orange (think of carrots or red peppers), whites (onions) and even purple (eggplants). The 2015 U.S. guidelines recommend 2.5 cups of veggies per day.

Worst Choices

  • Canned vegetables with lots of added sodium
  • Veggies cooked with lots of added butter, cheese, or sauce
  • Pickles, if you need to limit sodium. Otherwise, pickles are OK.
  • Sauerkraut, for the same reason as pickles. Limit them if you have high blood pressure.

Fruits

They give you carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Most are naturally low in fat and sodium. But they tend to have more carbs than vegetables do.

Best Choices

  • Fresh fruit
  • Plain frozen fruit or fruit canned without added sugar
  • Sugar-free or low-sugar jam or preserves
  • No-sugar-added applesauce

Worst Choices

  • Canned fruit with heavy sugar syrup
  • Chewy fruit rolls
  • Regular jam, jelly, and preserves (unless you have a very small portion)
  • Sweetened applesauce
  • Fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit juice drinks

Protein

You have lots of choices, including beef, chicken, fish, pork, turkey, seafood, beans, cheese, eggs, nuts, and tofu.

Best Choices

The American Diabetes Association lists these as the top options:

  • Plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, or tofu
  • Fish and seafood
  • Chicken and other poultry (Choose the breast meat if possible.)
  • Eggs and low-fat dairy

If you eat meat, keep it low in fat. Trim the skin off of poultry.

Try to include some plant-based protein from beans, nuts, or tofu, even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan. You’ll get nutrients and fiber that aren’t in animal products.

Worst Choices

  • Fried meats
  • Higher-fat cuts of meat, such as ribs
  • Pork bacon
  • Regular cheeses
  • Poultry with skin
  • Deep-fried fish
  • Deep-fried tofu
  • Beans prepared with lard

Dairy

Keep it low in fat. If you want to splurge, keep your portion small.

Best Choices

  • 1% or skim milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low-fat or nonfat sour cream

Worst Choices

  • Whole milk
  • Regular yogurt
  • Regular cottage cheese
  • Regular sour cream
  • Regular ice cream
  • Regular half-and-half

Fats, Oils, and Sweets

They’re tough to resist. But it’s easy to get too much and gain weight, which makes it harder to manage your diabetes.

Best Choices

  • Natural sources of vegetable fats, such as nuts, seeds, or avocados (high in calories, so keep portions small)
  • Foods that give you omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel
  • Plant-based oils, such as canola, grapeseed, or olive oils

Worst Choices

  • Anything with trans fat in it. It’s bad for your heart. Check the ingredient list for anything that’s “partially hydrogenated,” even if the label says it has 0 grams of trans fat.
  • Big portions of saturated fats, which mainly come from animal products but also are in coconut oil and palm oil. Ask your doctor what your limit should be, especially if you have heart disease as well as diabetes.

Drinks

When you down a favorite drink, you may get more calories, sugar, salt, or fat than you bargained for. Read the labels so you know what’s in a serving.

Best Choices

  • Unflavored water or flavored sparkling water
  • Unsweetened tea with or without a slice of lemon
  • Light beer, small amounts of wine, or non-fruity mixed drinks
  • Coffee, black or with added low-fat milk and sugar substitute

Worst Choices

  • Regular sodas
  • Regular beer, fruity mixed drinks, dessert wines
  • Sweetened tea
  • Coffee with sugar and cream
  • Flavored coffees and chocolate drinks
  • Energy drinks

Healthy Foods For People With Diabetes

An important way to manage prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is through a healthy, balanced diet. Being mindful of carbohydrate intake, eating smaller meals regularly, and choosing healthy, nutrient-dense options can all help a person manage the risks health experts associate with diabetes.

Vegetables

Vegetables form the basis of a healthy diet. They are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Fiber and complex carbohydrates, present in many vegetables, can help a person feel satiated. This in turn can deter overeating, which may lead to undesirable weight gain and problems with blood sugar.

Some vegetables to add to the shopping list include:

  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • greens
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • corn
  • green peas

Beans and legumes

Beans, lentils, and other pulses are a great source of dietary fiber and protein.

The high fiber content of foods in the pulse family means that the digestive tract absorbs fewer carbohydrates than it does from low fiber, high carbohydrate foods.

This makes these foods an excellent carbohydrate choice for individuals with diabetes. People can also use them in place of meat or cheese.

Below are some examples of what beans to pick up in a canned or dry form:

  • black beans
  • lentils
  • white beans
  • garbanzo beans
  • kidney beans
  • pinto beans

Also, pressure- or slow-cooking beans may help improve their digestibility.

Fruit

Fruit can have a high sugar content, but the sugar in whole fruit does not count toward free sugars. Therefore, people with diabetes should not avoid fruit.

The following fruits make a solid addition to the diet of anyone who has type 2 diabetes, thanks to their low glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load:

  • apples
  • avocado
  • blackberries
  • cherries
  • grapefruit
  • peaches
  • pears
  • plums
  • strawberries

Whole grains

Whole grains can be an effective way for people with diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels, since they often have a lower GI.

People should avoid bleached and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, and instead choose some of the following when consuming grains:

  • whole wheat or legume pasta
  • whole-grain bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice
  • quinoa
  • wild rice
  • 100% whole-grain or whole wheat flour
  • cornmeal
  • oatmeal
  • millet
  • amaranth
  • barley

Whole grains will also leave a person feeling full for longer, and they can have more flavor than processed carbohydrates.

Facts you should know about the type 2 diabetes diet

Salmon is a diabetes superfood.

  • Type 2 diabetes involves problems getting enough glucose into the cells. When the sugar can’t get where it is supposed to be, it leads to elevated blood sugar levels in the bloodstream, which can lead to complications such as kidney, nerve, and eye damage, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Foods to eat for a type 2 diabetic diet meal plan include complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils. Foods to avoid include simple carbohydrates, which are processed, such as sugar, pasta, white bread, flour, and cookies, pastries.
  • Foods with a low glycemic load (index) only cause a modest rise in blood sugar and are better choices for people with diabetes. Good glycemic control can help in preventing long-term complications of type 2 diabetes.
  • Fats don’t have much of a direct effect on blood sugar but they can be useful in slowing the absorption of carbohydrates.
  • Protein provides steady energy with little effect on blood sugar. It keeps blood sugar stable and can help with sugar cravings and feeling full after eating. Protein-packed foods to eat include beans, legumes, eggs, seafood, dairy, peas, tofu, lean meats, and poultry.
  • Five diabetes “superfoods” to eat include chia seeds, wild salmon, white balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, and lentils.
  • Healthy diabetes meal plans include plenty of vegetables, limited processed sugars, and red meat.
  • Diet recommendations for people with type 2 diabetes include a vegetarian or vegan diet, the American Diabetes Association diet (which also emphasizes exercise), the Paleo Diet, and the Mediterranean diet.
  • Guidelines on what to eat for people with type 2 diabetes include eating low glycemic load carbohydrates, primarily from vegetables, and consuming fats and proteins mostly from plant sources.
  • What not to eat if you have type 2 diabetes: sodas (regular and diet), refined sugars, processed carbohydrates, trans fats, high-fat animal products, high-fat dairy products, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and any highly processed foods.

Oral Medications for Type 2 Diabetes

Currently, there are nine drug classes of oral diabetes medications approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

  1. Sulfonylureas, for example, glimepiride (Amaryl) and glipizide (Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL) Meglitinides, for example, nateglinide (Starlix) and repaglinide (Prandin)
  2. Thiazolidinediones, for example, pioglitazone (Actos)
  3. DPP-4 inhibitors, for example, sitagliptin (Januvia) and linagliptin (Tradjenta)

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs over time, and involves problems getting enough sugar (glucose) into the cells of the body. (The cells use the sugar for fuel/energy.)

  • Sugar (glucose) is the preferred fuel for muscle and brain cells, but it requires insulin to transport it into cells for use.
  • When insulin levels are low, and the sugar can’t get into the cells where it is supposed to be, it leads to elevated blood sugar levels.
  • Over time, the cells develop resistance to insulin (insulin resistance), which then requires the pancreas to make more and more insulin to move sugar into the cells; however, more sugar is still left in the blood.
  • The pancreas eventually “wears out,” and can no longer secrete enough insulin to move the sugar into the cells for energy.

Which types of foods are recommended for a type 2 diabetes diet?

A diabetes meal plan can follow a number of different patterns and have a variable ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

  • The carbohydrates consumed should be low glycemic load and come primarily from vegetables.
  • The fat and proteins consumed should primarily come from plant sources.

What is the glycemic index? Which type of carbohydrates should be included?

Glycemic index and load

Carbohydrates (carbs) are the primary food that raises blood sugar. Glycemic index and glycemic load are scientific terms used to measure the impact of a carbohydrate on blood sugar.

  • Foods with low glycemic load (index) raise blood sugar modestly and thus are better choices for people with diabetes.
  • The main factors that determine a food’s (or meal’s) glycemic load are the amount of fiber, fat, and protein it contains.
  • The difference between glycemic index and glycemic load is that glycemic index is a standardized measurement and glycemic load accounts for a real-life portion size. For example, the glycemic index of a bowl of peas is 68 (per 100 grams) but its glycemic load is just 16 (lower the better). If you just referred to the glycemic index, you’d think peas were a bad choice, but in reality, you wouldn’t eat 100 grams of peas. With a normal portion size, peas have a healthy glycemic load as well as being an excellent source of protein.

Carbohydrates can be classified as either

  1. complex carbohydrates, or
  2. simple sugars.

1. Complex carbohydrates (low glycemic load foods, or foods that are a part of a type 2 diabetes low-carb diet plan) are in their whole food form and include additional nutrients such as:

  • Fiber
  • Vitamins
  • Smaller amounts of proteins and fats

These additional nutrients slow down the absorption of the glucose and keep blood sugar levels more stable.

Examples of complex carbohydrates, or low glycemic load (index) foods include:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat
  • Quinoa
  • Steel-cut oatmeal
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Beans
  • Lentils

Grains and starchy vegetables

Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal are good sources of fiber and nutrients; and have a low glycemic load making them good food choices. Processed food labels make it very confusing to understand whole grains. For example, “whole wheat bread” is made in many different ways, and some are not that different from white bread in its blood sugar impact (glycemic load). The same is true for whole grain pasta, it’s still pasta. Whole grains have less of an impact on blood sugar because of the lower glycemic load. Choose whole grains that are still in their grain form like brown rice and quinoa, or look at the fiber content on the nutrition label. For example, a “good” whole grain high-fiber bread will have 3+ grams of fiber per slice.

Starchy vegetables that are good sources of nutrients like vitamin C, and that are higher in carbohydrates than green vegetables, but lower in carbs than refined grains. They can be eaten in moderation. Starchy vegetables include:

  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Corn
  • Other root vegetables

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