What Should I Eat for Diabetes?
November is National Diabetes Month. Twenty-nine million Americans have diabetes and one in four of those people don’t know they have it. Another 86 million adults have prediabetes, more than one in three Americans and nine out of ten of those people are not aware they have it. Of those with prediabetes, 30-50% will go on to develop diabetes within five years. These numbers are staggering and continue to climb. The big question on many patients’ minds is “what should I eat?”
In 2013 the American Diabetes Association® (ADA) updated their nutrition recommendations, which has changed the way dietitians counsel clients with diabetes. The main message of the new guidelines is there is no one size meal plan for all people with diabetes. Here are the latest recommendations.
Individualize, Individualize, Individualize.
An eating pattern should be based on an individual’s health goals and personal and cultural preferences. There is no one dietary plan that is best- be it Mediterranean, low-carb, or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
Early Referral to a Registered Dietitian
Once a patient is diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes they should be referred to a dietitian. Their dietitian will assess what they need to eat based on nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. Since no one diet is appropriate for everyone, each patient can learn how to eat to manage their blood sugars based on their personal preferences and health goals. Research suggests seeing a dietitian produces reductions and better control of blood sugars similar to or better than what is expected with medication for diabetes. In other words, see a dietitian!
Optimal Nutrient Mix
There is no optimal mix of nutrients, so the amount of calories a person with diabetes should ideally get from carbohydrates, protein and fat can vary based on their current eating patterns, preferences, and weight-related goals.
People with diabetes benefit from getting at least the amount of fiber and whole grains recommended for the general population, which is between 21-38 grams/day. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Energy and Calorie Needs
People who are overweight will benefit from reducing calories and portions to promote weight loss. The method of weight loss may vary per person; however it is important to consider following a long-term healthy approach that can be sustained to keep the weight off for the long haul.
Avoid Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
This is the first time ever that ADA formally recommended that people with diabetes should not drink any sugar-sweetened beverages. This not only includes drinks that contain sucrose, but also honey, agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar.
People with diabetes should limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg/day. People who have high blood pressure may need to limit their sodium intake further. Keep in mind, most of the sodium we get in our diet comes from the food itself, without adding any salt at the table.
Vitamins and Herbal Supplements
ADA’s position on vitamin supplementation remains essentially the same. There is no clear evidence that vitamin and mineral supplementation benefit individuals with diabetes who do not have underlying deficiencies. There continues to be conflicting research on the benefits of vitamin supplementation. Check with your physician to find out which vitamins are right for you.
- See a dietitian to obtain an individualized meal plan.
- Eat the right amount of calories from a variety of nutrients.
- Lose weight, if overweight.
- Avoid all sugary beverages.
- Reduce sodium, if needed.
- Consume fiber from a variety of unprocessed “whole” foods.
- Take supplementation based on individual needs.
One last note
Please get screened for diabetes or prediabetes. It is best to find out sooner than later so you can act now to live a long healthy and fulfilling life. Please share your comments.
To meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Cooper Clinic, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.