There has always been debate about what kind of diet is best for diabetes and weight loss. Low fat, low glycemic index or low carbohydrate? The answer is not necessarily the same for everyone. Often when people limit fat, they eat more carbohydrates and when they limit carbohydrates, they eat more animal fat. Generally speaking, most Americans eat a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet – getting anywhere from 40% – 65% of their daily calories from carbs. The key to controlling diabetes is limiting carbohydrates that spike blood sugar levels. It is important not only to reduce carbohydrate intake but also to improve the type and quality of carbohydrate consumed. There are many diets recommended to patients struggling with blood sugar dysregulation and diabetes – low glycemic index (GI) and low carbohydrate diets are examples. A low glycemic diet emphasizes foods that digest slowly, thereby slowing down blood sugar elevations. Examples of high GI foods include bagels, cornflakes, French fries, jelly beans and boiled parsnips. Examples of low GI foods are bananas, boiled carrots, cherries, chick peas and apples. Many diabetes expert don’t tell patients to start a low GI diet because it’s not a practical strategy to modify a patient’s diet. This is because GI is based on the blood sugar response of eating a single food. And you cannot add up the GI index of individual foods in a meal to predict blood sugar response. So unless you are accustomed to eating a bowl of boiled carrots for lunch, following the GI diet will not be helpful. The most important dietary advice is to choose sustainable improvement in the way that you eat, and don’t just “start a diet”.
- Eliminate high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats.
- Eat 6-8 servings of non-starchy vegetables (this excludes potatoes and corn) and fruit per day.
- Limit red meat to twice per week. For the rest of your meals considering cold-water fish like salmon, lean poultry or vegetarian sources of protein (like tofu, tempeh and beans)
- Eliminate refined sugars like white sugar, brown sugar, and syrups. Do not switch to artificial sweeteners! Stevia is a great sweetener.
- Eat less and more complex carbohydrates. Instead of eating a sandwich with two pieces of toast, have a sandwich wrap. Instead of a big plate of white rice with your stir-fry, have a smaller portion of quinoa, which is a complex, protein rich gluten-free grain.
- Buy a cookbook or start following a recipe blog to help you start preparing more of your meals from whole foods. Consider a Mediterranean diet cookbook or recipes from “The Diabetic Solution” or “Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook” to learn more about cooking whole food meals.
- Be sure to speak with your doctor on how to customize a diet that is perfect for you and also sustainable! Avoid those extreme yo-yo diets!