Diabetes comes in two forms, Type 1 and Type 2, and while the health implications of having either type are the same, they are quite different health conditions. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, whereby the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone needed to convert blood sugar into energy for the body and brain, and with type 1, insulin needs to be administered manually. This type generally affects young children and adolescents and accounts for about 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, occurs when the cells in the body become insulin resistant. It has a genetic component and is usually a result of being overweight (especially around the middle), eating a diet high in refined and processed foods, and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes typically affects adults over the age of 40 and can have a very gradual onset. It is treated with diet and lifestyle changes and if needed, medication to improve insulin response. Type 2 diabetes is quickly reaching epidemic proportions with a staggering 40% of Americans predicted to get it in their lifetime! Both types need careful blood sugar control in order to help avoid systemic and devastating health complications such as limb amputation, blindness, kidney and heart failure. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be prevented and managed by mindful choices including diabetic friendly foods, achieving a healthy weight and getting daily exercise. Below are are some of the ideal foods for diabetics.
Cinnamon is characteristically warming, sweet and pungent. It can stimulate the heart and circulation, dispelling cold and building core strength. Cinnamon will help balance blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance and contribute to achieving a balanced weight.
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found garlic can be beneficial to diabetics as it was efficient in raising insulin levels and improving glucose tolerance. It may also help to prevent blood clots and arterial plaque from forming which will help protect against diabetic heart disease.
Turmeric is a true superfood and has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which benefit every health condition, especially diabetes. Turmeric may also be beneficial to prediabetics as a study published in the American Diabetes Association’s own journal found that turmeric was 100% successful at preventing prediabetic patients from becoming diabetic over the course of a 9-month intervention period. Use turmeric liberally in cooking, baking, in fresh vegetable juices, soups and tea infusions.
Avocado are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They contain a broad range of nutrients including vitamins C, E, B6 and folate and the minerals iron magnesium and potassium. They are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. All of which are protective for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Blueberries are amongst the richest of all fruits in antioxidant compounds. The anthocyanins found in Blueberries may help prevent heart disease and diabetes. They are also low to moderate on the Glycemic index (GI). A low GI diet means eating foods that release their energy slowly that don’t cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Stable blood sugar levels are vital for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
Mackerel are an excellent source of essential omega-3 fats that provide protection against heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Mackerel are also a great source of selenium, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and 12. Their high protein and high omega-3 content make them a perfect food for diabetics.
Almonds are an excellent source of protein and also contain good amounts of essential fats, calcium and magnesium. Almonds contribute to a healthy weight, good digestion and a healthy heart, very important areas to watch for those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Nuts can be high in calories though, so 1 oz per day is optimum. Try to combine protein (almonds) with carbs for a slower sugar release. (ex. Almonds + apple = an ideal combo!)
Bok choy is from the same cruciferous family as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Like other leafy green vegetables, bok choy is high in vitamins A, B, C, and K, as well as the phytonutrient lutein, known to benefit eye health. Bok Choy is also very low in calories, so adding it to your meals, in place of higher calorie and high GI foods can help you manage your weight and can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Having diabetes places a high oxidative stress on the body that should be addressed with an antioxidant supplement regime including vitamins A, C and E. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant needed for a healthy immune system and it also lowers levels of the sugar sorbitol, which can accumulate and cause damage in the eyes, kidneys and nerves. Food sources include citrus fruits, broccoli, red peppers, strawberries and kiwi fruit.
CoQ10, in the form of ubiquinol, is a powerful antioxidant and helps convert food into energy. It is found in almost every cell of the body and is most abundant in the heart and brain and in cells with rapid turnover, like the mucosal lining. The body’s own source of CoQ10 diminishes as we age so supplementation is recommended, particularly in the case of diabetes where it may contribute to a healthy heart, prevent blood clot formation and act as an antioxidant.
Having diabetes places high oxidative stress on the body which should be addressed by an antioxidant supplement regime including vitamins A, C and E. Vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols) work well together to recycle glutathione, needed to support detoxification in the liver. There are specific liver supporting antioxidant formulas that include these vitamins along with, CoQ10, glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, glutamine, calcium D-glucarate, milk thistle and other nutrients.
Fenugreek seeds nourish the pancreas and help to balance blood sugar levels. One journal study showed that when soaked in hot water, the powdered seeds reduced Fasting Blood Sugar and VLDL-cholesterol by 25% and 30% respectively.