According to the American Diabetes Association, 107 million people in the United States have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and the rate is steadily growing. Therefore, following a healthy diabetes diet needs to be taken seriously.
Keeping a healthy body weight is essential for everybody, but if you have diabetes, excessive weight can make it more challenging to control your glucose and might increase your chance for developing other severe complications. Losing weight may be tricky for individuals with diabetes, and choosing the wrong diet could compromise their health. But, there are several popular diets which might be beneficial for diabetic patients.
It might seem surprising to find that there is no “Diabetic Diet,” or an exact eating prescription. However, the American Diabetes Association suggests that some meal plans can be used to control diabetes, including the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet, a vegetarian or vegan diet, a low-fat diet, or low-carb diets like Keto, Paleo, and Atkins. While the versatility is great, it also can leave you frustrated and not knowing where to even begin.
So, what’re the best diets for diabetes? Here are 6 healthy diabetes diets, and how they may impact diabetes, weight, and long-term health, based on recent research.
The best healthy diabetes diets to lose weight safely
Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
Vegetarian diets rely on plant foods (veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, soy products, etc.) to meet energy and nutrient requirements. However, some milk, dairy products, eggs, and at times, even fish might be included, based on the type of vegetarian diet followed. A vegan diet is the restricted form of Vegetarian diet, as it implies avoiding all animal products.
How it helps with Diabetes
- Studies suggest that following a plant-based diet may improve insulin sensitivity, enhance blood sugar control, potentially lessen the likelihood of developing T2 diabetes, and may allow for diabetic medications to be reduced.
- Most plant-based diets lead in considerably higher fiber intake, which seems to improve glycemic response and provide satiety levels to aid in weight reduction.
- Getting adequate protein to offer satiety might lead to higher carbohydrate intakes because vegetarian protein sources like beans, peas, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and soy are also composed of carbs.
- “Vegetarian” or “vegan” does not necessarily imply being healthy as there are lots of processed foods that are vegetarian that contain added sugars and not as much healthy fat.
While vegetarian diets can be healthy diabetes diet to follow, it might lead to missing out on essential nutrients. Therefore, it’s much better to acquire some nutrients through supplements that include:
Found primarily in dairy products, calcium is a vital nutrient which contributes to the health of teeth and bones. The broccoli and kale can help supply essential calcium, but supplements may be required in a vegetarian diet.
Iodine is required for metabolizing food to power, mostly found in fishes. Without consuming these animal products in their diets, vegetarians might have difficulty getting enough of the essential iodine.
Since just animal products have vitamin B-12, a supplement may be necessary for anyone who is on a strict vegetarian diet.
The primary source of zinc is in high protein animal products, so a supplement may be recommended for people on a vegetarian diet plan.
The Mediterranean Diet was patterned after researchers discovered that traditional foods in countries like Italy and Greece could lower the incidence of chronic diseases in those areas.
The eating approach relies on plants foods, whole and minimally processed foods, and healthy fats.
Foods which are to be heavily restricted or prevented are red meat, added sugars, processed foods, and processed grains.
How it helps with Diabetes
Numerous studies indicate that after being on the Mediterranean diet, A1C levels reduce, fasting glucose levels and insulin sensitivity enhances, weight loss speeds up, and the cardiovascular risk reduces. This diet significantly reduces the probability of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- In an investigation that included nearly 3500 Type 2 diabetics on six distinct diets, those who were on a Mediterranean diet and low-fat diets had the best weight loss rate, and best results for A1C levels and weight loss appeared after following a Mediterranean diet in which less than 50% of calories come from carbohydrates.
This eating approach does not specify calorie levels or daily portion sizes, so overall moderation of calories and carbohydrate consumption is required.
The DASH diet, designed to treat hypertension and relies on foods which are low in sodium, rich in potassium and fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. Serving sizes from every food group are supplied according to individual caloric needs. The focus on plant foods and restricting processing make it like the Mediterranean Diet.
How it helps with diabetes
Studies indicate that the DASH Diet is efficient for reducing blood pressure in people with diabetes and might potentially improve blood lipids. No to mention heart disease is the leading cause of death of T2 diabetics.
- This diet plan is higher in carbohydrates than previous diets, and some may not find it as a healthy diabetes diet to follow.
Low-carb diets: Paleo, Keto, Atkins
The Paleo Diet is developed based on the theory of attaining optimum health and protecting our body against diseases. The paleo diet emphasizes the belief that modern agriculture is to blame for developing chronic disease. Paleo dieters eat only what our ancient ancestors would have been able to hunt and gather for their meals.
It implies an intake of organic, grass-fed animal proteins, organic fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and fats and oils like olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, and avocado. These foods are heavily restricted in this diet; beans, grains, dairy products, potatoes, processed foods, processed vegetable oils, added sugars and alcohol.
How it helps with diabetes
- Studies indicate that being on the Paleo diet is associated with lowering A1C, triglycerides, and blood pressure. It is also practical approach for Type 2 diabetics to shed weight.
- Paleo diets have been based on whole, not as processed foods and foods with a lower glycemic index, and therefore are usually lower in carbs compared to Mediterranean Diet, the DASH and vegetarian diets–something that some people with diabetes might discover the key in their blood sugar management.
- The diet focuses on food quality, but not quantity, so overall moderation of calories and carbohydrates is a must.
- The diet typically contains above protein recommendations, and this excess protein consumption is something that might cause negative effects on kidney function and is not a healthy diabetes diet for people with kidney issues.
Keto diet and Atkins
These are low-carb, high-fat eating plans. Most everything you consume is healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. Also saturated fats such as butter and coconut oil. Approximately 20%-30% of your daily diet is protein, either fatty or lean. You are supposed to strictly restrict carbohydrates, even the ones which are usually considered healthy.
Typically your body obtains its energy by fueling from sugar that it receives from carbohydrates. However, after a few days on the Atkins and Keto diet, your body runs out of sugar and begins burning fat, known as ketosis. It generates fatty acid chemicals called ketones, which your body can use for energy.
How Keto helps with Diabetes
Studies indicate the Keto diet aids people with T2 diabetes to shed weight and reduce their glucose levels. Also to rely less on medication and drop their A1C after following the keto diet for a year.
If you are insulin resistant; that usually means you’ve got higher blood glucose levels since your body is not functioning properly to insulin. You can take advantage of this ketosis since your system will need it and also make less insulin.
Fewer studies are taking a look at the keto diet for those who have type1 diabetes. However, one small study discovered that it helped people with type 1 reduced their A1C levels.
Generally, people with type 2 who are overweight seem to get good results from the Keto diet. However, if you have T1D, talk to your doctor first to be sure it’s the healthy diabetes diet for you.