Healthy diabetes diets can benefit anyone

When it comes to eating nutritiously, a healthy diabetes diet is basically a healthy diet with a few tweaks. It can be followed by almost anyone interested in maintaining good health. A diabetic diet helps with the control of glucose levels and maintenance of a healthy body weight. According to registered dietitian and author of "The Plant-Powered Diet," Sharon Palmer, a healthy diet "should be balanced and focused on whole, minimally processed foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and moderate amounts of lean animal or plant proteins."

High fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes are beneficial in helping to control blood sugar levels, and they also help give you energy throughout the day. Healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and olive and canola oils can offer some protection against heart disease and offer long-lasting satiety. Protein-rich foods fill you up and are digested slowly. They may help to keep you feeling full after meals and help limit hunger-driven cravings.

Healthy diabetes diets: avoid these foods

Blood sugar control is the key to maintaining diabetes control, so you should cut back on foods with added sugars such as cookies, cakes, pies, candy, ice cream, regular soda, and fruit punches that lead to an instant rush of glucose into the bloodstream. "These should only be sometimes foods, not everyday foods," warns Lona Sandon, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Because diabetes puts you at an increased risk for developing heart disease, limiting your intake of foods that are unhealthy for your heart is important. "These include saturated fats found in fatty meats and full fat dairy products, trans fats found in processed foods, and salty foods that can promote high blood pressure," according to Palmer.

Create and stick to a healthy diet

Sandon recommends using the MyPlate approach at mealtime. You should apportion your food as follows:

1/2 of the plate = non-starchy vegetables and some fruit

1/4 of the plate = whole grains

1/4 of the plate = lean meat or plant-based proteins

Include a glass of low-fat milk, a low-fat yogurt or one slice of cheese on the side.

Visualizing this plate in your mind helps keep your portions in check and can also help keep your carbohydrate intake consistent at each meal and throughout the day, which in turn helps keep blood sugars steady.

The veggie portion is the largest because both raw and cooked vegetables help fill you up with very few calories. They are packed with naturally occurring plant compounds that boost immunity to disease.

For optimum benefit, your healthy diabetes diet should include more whole foods while limiting the intake of overly processed foods. Palmer suggests, "Experiment in the kitchen with whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and wheat berries -- they are high in fiber and satisfying."

Benefits of a diabetes diet

Following a diabetes diet can help you reach or stay at a healthy weight. It can also help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Healthy diabetes diets include a variety of foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other substances that offer an array of protective benefits, lowering your risk for countless diseases. And of course, a healthy diabetic diet can help keep your blood sugar levels steady. Even for those without diabetes, keeping blood sugar levels from fluctuating can help regulate energy levels and mood. So, while someone with diabetes needs to follow this kind of healthy diet, someone without diabetes can follow it and reap tremendous benefits.


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About Heidi McIndoo

Heidi McIndoo, MS is a registered dietitian who has been counseling women, men, and children about healthy eating for twenty years. She firmly believes food should be enjoyed and all foods can fit into a healthy diet -- it's just a matter of how much and how often.

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