Diabetic Food - Eating What Is Good For You

Diabetic food can be confusing. The rules seem to change often, but here is some good news. Making choices really is not that hard, and you don't have to give up everything you like.

Sometimes it feels like food has become our enemy, especially sugar.

I used to believe sugar made me diabetic. But modern science says that food by itself cannot cause diabetes.

But there are things we have done to foods to make them less healthy. Those changes may have helped us become type 2 diabetics.

Still, this does not mean food makes it happen. It is the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance that lead to type 2 diabetes.

Genetics, a sedentary lifestyle and our fast food culture may be the catalysts for the diabetes tidal wave seen all over the world. There is also an inflammation connection we do not completely understand yet.

However, what we choose to eat does matter. It is useful to know how diabetic food choices can help or hinder the fight against prediabetes and type 2 DM.

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There Is Good Diabetic Food

Once you know what makes foods good for you, choosing what to eat is simplified.

Because of insulin resistance and the need to keep blood sugar in check, it helps to find out how different foods affect the release of insulin.

Some turn to glucose, or simple sugar, far quicker than others, and the glycemic index was invented to help with that. It's a way to look at carbohydrates that's different from calorie counting.

For example, a cup of broccoli and a cup of mashed potatoes are different in more ways than just calories. Potatoes will raise your blood sugar, and broccoli will not.

Broccoli also has antioxidants. That helps you understand why it is a better choice on a diet for diabetics.

Exchanges, the Diabetic Diet Juggling Act

The best diabetic food is food that you don't have to juggle. Having to decide between bread and potatoes, between orange juice and a bowl of cereal is no fun.

Starches and breads are high glycemic, and if you want them you have to trade or do exchanges to get them. You can even find exchange numbers on many high glycemic foods.

That makes things a little easier, but it takes some effort and time to do exchanges right. But those high starch and sugary foods increase your insulin needs.

The best diabetic food can be added to your food plan without putting a strain on your pancreas. Low glycemic foods like raw vegetables are better for diabetics because of that.

So are berries and apples and nuts. They all have an added bonus because every one of them is high in antioxidants and high in fiber.

That's what makes a good diabetic food. Low glycemic fruits and vegetables make great snacks and side dishes for your diabetic food plan.

The Sugar-Free Trap

When I first started my type 2 diabetic diet, I was amazed at all the sugar-free foods out there.

There were candy bars and drinks and cakes and cookies. I thought I had discovered diabetic food heaven.

Reading the labels brought me back to earth. Most of the sugar free foods have similar calorie counts to the sugary ones once you compare serving sizes. They are not "free" foods, and you cannot eat all you want.

Remember, it is not just sugar that raises your blood sugar levels. Processed flour acts like sugar.

It digests into glucose quickly because it was broken down into simple starch in processing. All the fiber and nutrients are gone.

So sugar free cake may have as many calories as regular cake. That's what makes label reading an important skill for a diabetic.

Sugar Alcohol, the Tricky Sugar Substitute

Sugar substitutes made from sugar alcohol are everywhere. Look at your pharmacy counter, and you'll find rows of candies sweetened with sugar alcohol.

Putting them at the pharmacy sends a powerful message that they are good for you. But there are some problems with them.

One is that sugar alcohols have side effects that are not fun - they cause gas (and not just a little), and they can give you diarrhea. It says so on the package, and that ought to be a warning.

The second problem is that they still have calories, so eating a lot of them is the same as eating a lot of anything else. And just because they're at the pharmacy does not mean they are good for you.

There are other problems with sugar substitutes you need to know, and my page on artificial sweeteners lays them out for you. I have found out which of the sugar alcohols is best and which one you should avoid.

Still, it's nice to be able to eat candy now and then. But read labels. The carb counts in many sweets is the same for diet and non-diet ones. Sometimes the only real difference is the serving size.

A List of Good Diabetic Food

There is not a one size fits all good food list. Your list needs to fit your tastes. It doesn't matter what's good for you if you won't eat it.

Here is my personal list of foods that are high in antioxidants, high in fiber, low on the glycemic index, and low in calories. It's taken from the superfoods page of a-diabetic-life.com.

  • Almost any kind of bean (except peas which are high in fiber but also high in sugar).
  • Berries like blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
  • Nuts - almonds, pecans, walnuts, roasted peanuts, etc. (the fat in them is good for you!)
  • Avocadoes have fiber and good fat also. If you like them you are very lucky because they are so good for diabetics.
  • Raw fruits like apples, plums, pears and cherries
  • The orange and red vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, are high in carotene (vitamin A) which has been proven to aid eye health. They are also full of fiber.
  • Dark green vegetables have vitamin C and lots of fiber. Spinach has iron.
  • Coffee and tea have antioxidants, and both are proving to be good for diabetics.

Spices are high in antioxidants, and they make food taste better without added calories or salt. Vinegar has been a part of diabetes treatment for hundreds of years, and research shows that it helps some people with weight loss.

Learn more about superfoods and antioxidants.

Make Your Own Diabetic Food List

Remember that the things you like belong on your diabetic food list. There is no reason to be afraid of food. Understand how what you eat affects your own diabetes. You can make what you like work for you.

It's best not to overdo starches and bread. Try using the 50/25/25 plate that the American Diabetes Association suggests. It is 50% vegetables and fruit, 25% lean protein, and 25% whole grain and starches.

Add exercise to every day. That will prevent the tunnel vision many a type 2 diabetic gets by concentrating on diet alone.

If you are going to keep diabetes from being your life, it will not be by ignoring it but by accepting the boundaries it places on you so you can move on to what really matters to you.

There's more on diabetic friendly fats here.

Snack your way to weight loss with these smart snacking ideas.

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