Sarah Abraham is a Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner with Dignity Health Medical Group – Ventura Region, and an expert on preventive health care.
If you've recently been diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic, you may be wondering what sort of diet is best for you. First, it’s important to realize the differences between type 1 and 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas (an organ in the abdomen) stops making insulin. This condition is usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes that we see in adults, this is when the body stops responding to normal or even high levels of insulin, and over time, the pancreas does not make enough insulin.
Eating an unhealthy diet and not getting enough exercise can lead to weight gain, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Making changes to your diet is a key part of managing type 2 diabetes.
What are the best foods for someone with diabetes?
Diet is a large part of helping to control diabetes. Carbohydrates (also called carbs) are the main source of energy in our diets and carbs are found in starches, vegetables, fruits, some dairy products and sugars. Most meats do not contain carbohydrates. Carbs directly affect your blood sugar level, whereas proteins and fat have little impact. A diet high in starchy or sugary carbs spikes blood sugar levels. For those with diabetes the body no longer uses insulin well, and blood glucose levels can become too high or too low.
Eating a consistent amount of healthy carbohydrates at each meal to help control blood sugar levels is crucial for those with diabetes. There are several “diet types” that are good for managing diabetes, like low fat, low carbohydrate (like the Keto Diet), Mediterranean, or vegetarian. I really recommend eating a healthy diet that contains food you like, so you stick to a plan. You should talk to your health care provider before starting any diet that involves extreme restriction. Depending on your situation, some diets may not be recommended.
What foods should someone avoid if they’re diabetic?
Since diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol can help reduce your cholesterol levels and decrease these risks. Also, eating a diet that is high in fiber may help to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
You may have heard of the “ABCs” of diabetes. This refers to the three aspects of your health that should be well controlled in order to manage diabetes:
A: A1C is a blood test that measures your blood sugar levels
B: Blood pressure
Keeping your blood sugar levels at or near your goal helps to decrease the risk of complications that can affect the eyes, kidneys and nerves. Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control helps reduce the risks of heart disease, with is a common complication of type 2 diabetes.
Any tips for those who are struggling to give up heavy carbs/sweets?
For those struggling to give up all starchy carbs or sweets, I would say that it is not necessary. You can still maintain blood sugar control by having the occasional special birthday cake or celebratory glass of wine. Remember, it is important to limit the amount of sugar, but you need not cut it out completely. Work with your primary care provider for the best plan for you!
Sarah Abraham is a Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner with Dignity Health Medical Group in Oxnard, CA. She is currently accepting new patients and her office is located at 2901 N. Ventura Road, in Suite 100.