Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet is vital to managing diabetes. Superfoods, nutrient-dense dense foods with several health benefits, may prove beneficial to those with diabetes who are attempting to make positive changes to their diet and well-being.
In addition to regularly monitoring your blood glucose levels, and taking your medication as directed, taking steps to improve your diet is essential. Incorporating these five superfoods into your meals may help regulate your blood glucose levels and provide some much-needed vitamins and minerals into your daily meals.
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Using Food to Curb Diabetes
The quote “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is often attributed to Hippocrates, the Greek founder of western medicine. This quote continues to ring true today, as eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can do wonders for your body and your health.
When considering which foods to eat to help curb diabetes, it is important to understand the types of foods that can affect your blood glucose levels. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale that ranks various carbohydrate foods based on how much they affect your blood glucose levels. Foods that are high on the GI scale should be avoided, as such foods can spike your blood glucose levels quickly. These blood glucose spikes cause your body to produce insulin. If you are already at risk for developing diabetes, these spikes can cause issues with your pancreas, which may lead to diabetes. Examples of high GI foods include:
- Instant oats
- White rice
- French fries/potatoes
Conversely, low GI foods raise your blood glucose levels slowly. Since these foods are usually high in fiber, they will help you feel full longer, which is beneficial if you are trying to lower or maintain your current weight. Examples of low GI foods include:
- Kidney beans
Superfoods for a Diabetes Diet
The term “superfood” was coined as a description of certain foods that offer a high level of nutritional benefits. Superfoods are packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Maintaining a healthy and nutritionally dense diet is vital to your health if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. These superfoods are not only easy to add to your diet, but they’re delicious, too.
In addition to several types of seafood, salmon is an excellent option for those with diabetes. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients that work to lower triglycerides, a fat lipid found in the body. High levels of triglycerides can result in the hardening of the arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. High triglycerides can also be found in those with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Eating salmon, preferably baked or broiled, can help lower triglycerides, which can, in turn, help manage diabetes symptoms.
Kale is often hailed as one of the apex superfoods, as it packs a considerable punch in the area of nutrients. This dark leafy green is packed with antioxidants that may help lower blood glucose levels. With Kale being chock full of vitamins and minerals, including A, C, E and K, calcium, iron and potassium, this low-calorie vegetable is a must for those with diabetes.
Superfoods to Help Curb Diabetes
If you are at high risk for developing diabetes or have perhaps been diagnosed with prediabetes, you have probably been advised by your medical professional to make changes to your diet. Attempting to find a balance between the foods you enjoy and the foods that will help curb diabetes can be challenging. Adding these superfoods to your diet can add much-needed vitamins and minerals to your meals without feeling deprived of the flavours you love.
The popularity of avocados has increased in recent years, especially with the popularization of avocado toast in fancy cafes. This trend is one we can get behind, as this green fruit offers many health benefits. Avocados are often described as being high in fat, which in turn deters people from wanting to indulge in this creamy superfood. However, avocados contain healthy, heart-friendly fats that can be beneficial to those who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Including avocados to your diet may help lower your cholesterol and increase insulin sensitivity. Avocados are a great source of fibre and won’t result in a spike in your blood glucose levels when eaten. One caveat: while avocados are full of nutrients and are great for your health, they are 200-300 calories each. Enjoying avocados in moderation may be an excellent addition to your food repertoire.
Ginger is often attributed as the “go-to” treatment for upset stomachs and sore throats. In addition to these well-known benefits, ginger is another superfood that may be beneficial in the fight against diabetes. Studies seem to suggest that ginger use leads to greater glucose absorption in the muscles by impeding enzymes that affect how carbohydrates are metabolized.
The lipid-lowering effects of ginger may also help lower the risk of diabetes. The optimal way to take advantage of ginger’s many benefits is to incorporate it into your diet daily over an extended period as opposed to taking larger doses in a short period. Adding ginger to your healthy stir-fry and baked dishes will give your meals a delicious, aromatic flavour infusion with the added benefit of introducing natural antioxidants into your diet.
Cinnamon is a spice that has been used in traditional medicine for many years. Today, it can be found in many sweet and savoury dishes that we commonly enjoy. Cinnamon ranks second highest in several herbs and spices based on the number of antioxidants it contains. Research has shown that cinnamon has many benefits as it relates to diabetes.
Cinnamon may help lower blood glucose levels increasing insulin sensitivity. It may also lower the risk of heart disease by decreasing the “bad” cholesterol and increasing the “good” cholesterol. Regular use of cinnamon may not be for everyone. If you have liver issues, you may wish to discuss the use of cinnamon with your medical professionals.
Superfoods for Type 1 Diabetes
Unlike type 2 diabetes, where the body doesn’t respond to insulin and eventually doesn’t produce enough insulin, those with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin at all.
For those with type 1 diabetes, meal timing is vital. All meals need to be timed according to when insulin will be administered, as this ensures that blood glucose levels don’t get too high or too low. Focusing on a low GI diet is beneficial for those with type 1 diabetes, as it ensures that blood glucose levels rise slowly. People with type 1 diabetes can benefit from incorporating complex carbohydrates into their diets.
Rolled oats (also referred to as old-fashioned oats) is a great complex carbohydrate to start your day with. Oats contain iron, folate, manganese and other important nutrients that benefit the body.
Much like salmon, chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are also high in fibre, antioxidants, and magnesium. Fibre can help slow the body’s absorption of sugar, which helps manage blood glucose levels. Adding some chia seeds to your rolled oats in the morning can give you the benefit of a high complex carbohydrate meal that will keep you full longer.
Superfood Smoothie for Diabetics
Smoothies are an excellent and easy way to add nutrients to your diet. This smoothie recipe from the diabetes food hub is quick, easy, and delicious:
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 2 cups kale
- 1 banana
Put all of the ingredients in your blender and puree until smooth.
The unsweetened almond milk is high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates. Blueberries are low on the glycemic index and may help satisfy the sweet tooth of those avoiding sugar while managing their blood glucose levels. They are also packed with beneficial antioxidants. Kale is choked full of vitamins and minerals, including A, C, E and K, calcium, iron, and potassium, making this low-calorie vegetable a must for those with diabetes. Bananas contain fibre, which may help reduce blood sugar spikes.
How to Curb Diabetes Hunger
Excessive hunger is a symptom that those with diabetes, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, often suffer from. When blood glucose levels are high and uncontrolled, the sugar in the blood cannot enter the cells effectively. When this happens, the body cannot convert the food you have eaten into energy. Without this energy, your body believes that it is still hungry. An increase in hunger can also be the result of low blood sugar levels.
According to Diabetes.co.uk, if the increase in hunger is a result of high blood sugar levels, the most effective way to lower your blood sugar is to exercise. Getting some exercise can help trigger insulin production in your body, which can reduce your blood sugar levels. Constant hunger should be discussed with your doctor, as changes to your medication or treatment may be necessary. If your hunger is the result of low blood sugar levels, the best course of action is to eat something as soon as possible to raise your sugar levels.
Taking the appropriate steps to make positive changes in your diet is excellent; however, it is not without its challenges. A consultation with a dietician specializing in diabetes management is a great start. Be sure to check out our guide on dining out while managing diabetes. Changing your diet and remaining consistent with it can have a positive impact on your health.