3.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, so if you’re reading this chances are you or someone you know has diabetes.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that lowers the level of sugar in the blood. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t properly use the insulin that it does produce.
There are a few different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes - Your body produces little to no insulin, which means that you will need insulin injections to maintain your blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but generally occurs most frequently in children and adolescents.
- Type 2 diabetes - Your body does not properly use the insulin that it produces. Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults and accounts for around 90% of diabetes cases. Overtime type 2 diabetes may require medication but for some a healthy diet and exercise alone can improve blood sugar levels.
- Gestational diabetes - During pregnancy your placenta can start producing hormones that block insulin. This causes a build up of sugar in the blood which results in diabetes. Gestational diabetes can also be treated with a healthy diet. It usually goes away after birth but can affect you and your baby’s health if not treated.
An unhealthy diet can have serious negative effects on your body if you’re living with diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and blindness. It is important to limit fried foods, foods high in sodium, and snacks and beverages with added sugars.
Healthy eating is a huge factor when managing diabetes. In some cases, with the guidance of a Doctor or Registered Dietitian, changing your diet may be enough to control the disease completely and prevent a delay in other health problems caused by diabetes. A healthy lifestyle can keep your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol in your target range. Below are some diabetic friendly foods to add into your diet if you’re interested in managing your diabetes with a healthy lifestyle.
Fatty fish like salmon are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Getting enough of these healthy fats is important for diabetics because they have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Salmon is also a great source of protein at meal time. Pair it with some fresh veggies and rice for a balanced, diabetic friendly meal.
Research shows that eating more whole grains can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Whole grains are a great source of fiber, which can help slow the absorption of sugar in the blood. They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals, making them a healthy choice of carbs. Some healthy whole grains include oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa.
Berries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. Blueberries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit and vegetable and may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Blueberries can be enjoyed in salad, on top of oatmeal, in smoothies, or on their own as a snack.
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and cabbage are low in carbs and calories. They are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, E, and K, iron, calcium, and potassium. Leafy greens can be eaten in salads, stews, soups, or even added to smoothies.
Chia seeds are a great option for people with diabetes. They’re high in fiber and low in digestible carbs. The fiber in chia seeds can help to slow down the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. Chia seeds can be added to smoothies, juices, oatmeal, yogurt, or soaked in liquid to make chia pudding.
Managing your diabetes is not an easy task and uncontrolled diabetes increases your risk of some serious diseases. While your diet can’t contain any one food that will drastically lower your blood sugar levels, incorporating diabetic friendly foods into your diet can help keep your blood sugar, insulin, and inflammation under control. Before making any drastic changes to your diet, it is always important to consult your Doctor or a Registered Dietitian.