Which Diet is Best for Diabetics?
Do you want to adopt a healthy diabetes diet but are confused by the many diets suggested in magazines, the internet and social media? Can a single dietary supplement or meal replacement product…by itself … provide the necessary nutrition for individuals with diabetes? Have product claims been validated in human trials?
A nutritious diabetes diet is rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. A balanced combination of healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates, with supporting vitamins and minerals is part of an evidence-based approach to life cycle nutrition for diabetes. What is the goal of this healthy diet? In brief, it is to improve glucose tolerance, support weight loss and discourage anti-aging of muscles and cognitive decline.
Recommended daily allowances of appropriate proteins, fats and carbohydrates in a nutritional and healthy diabetic diet is based upon consumption of 2000 calories or less daily. What are the preferred daily amounts of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to eat?
Healthy diabetic diets recommended by the World Health Organization, the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), the prestigious Mayo Clinic and other health organizations suggest that 15-20 percent of our daily food intake should be from healthy, quality proteins, 15-20% should come from healthy fats and 45-60 % from carbohydrates. What are good sources of food or dietary supplements to provide this balance?
Proteins Deliver Key Amino Acids
Protein provides energy and supports our ability to remain active. Eating the right amount of high-quality protein keeps our immune system functioning properly, maintains heart health and improves respiratory system activities. It also speeds muscle recovery after different normal and sports exercises. Protein helps reduce muscle wasting as we age.
Eating daily a combination of plant-based protein sources such as non-GMO soy, whey, grains, beans, peas, vegetables and nuts will provide the essential amino acids our body needs. Other sources of protein can include skim milk, unprocessed cheese and low- fat yogurt.
Essential amino acids can also be contributed by other proteins such as meat (organic grass-fed is preferred), poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Avoid processed lunch meats (high salt content).
Often overlooked is that non-GMO soy is an excellent and very healthy alternative to red meat. It also provides healthy support to various chronic disease conditions.
Our bodies need amino acids for breaking down food, repairing muscle tissues and ensuring synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters required for optimal nervous system function. Although our bodies need 20 different amino acids to grow and function properly, only nine amino acids are classified as essential. These include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. These essential amino acids cannot be made by our bodies. Each of these amino acids serve to provide a specific function in maintaining a healthy body. They must be obtained through our diet. Arginine, classified as a nonessential amino acid, must be supplemented as it is particularly important when fighting certain diseases like cancer.
Good Fats And Bad Fats
Good fats should represent 15-20 percent of our daily food intake and is important because fat is needed for energy, to absorb vitamins, protect the heart and support brain health. Be cautious, however, when examining food packages as both good and bad fats exist. Good fats also help improve mood (satiety), boost energy and support weight loss.
Often misunderstood is that dietary fat which contains cholesterol, by itself, is not bad. Our bodies need cholesterol for supporting cell membrane health. Cells represent 80% of our body composition. Cholesterol helps make needed hormones for body performance, supports fat soluble vitamin production in our bodies, and assists bile acids in the liver for digestion. Of course, too much ingestion of “bad fat cholesterol” can have a negative impact on health. Instead of counting cholesterol calorie additions to the daily diet, determine what good fats or bad fats are being eaten.
Adding good or healthy fats to the diabetic diet helps to create a more satisfied feeling after eating, reduces the hunger desire associated with the hormones leptin and grehlin, and can promote weight loss. Good fats (known as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent abnormal health rhythms, fight inflammation and prevent hardening and narrowing of the arteries.
Sources of good healthy fats include unsalted cashew nuts (my favorite), peanuts, walnuts, various oils (sesame, soybean) including natural peanut butter. Do not forget pumpkin and flaxseed! These polyunsaturated fat healthy sources support a nutritious and tasty diabetes diet.
Bad fats include “artificial trans fats” found in baked pastries, cookies, doughnut, cakes and pizza dough, snack foods margarine, fried foods and anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. It is always important to read the stated contents on any food label.
Carbohydrates Are Valuable
Decisions about which foods that contain carbohydrates are critical as 45-60 % of our daily calorie intake must come from carbohydrates. Often thought to be a negative addition to the diabetic diet, carbohydrates MUST be a part of the diabetic diet. Carbohydrates, however, are best consumed throughout the day and not taken in one large meal.
Why are carbohydrates needed? They provide energy for regulation of glucose and spare the use of protein for energy. They also break down fatty acids and prevent ketosis (low availability of glucose). They improve body cell metabolism and can speed up our metabolism.
What are good carbohydrates for a diabetic individual? They include fruits, vegetables, low fat milk products, nuts, grains, seeds and legumes (beans, peas and lentils).
Is sugar a carbohydrate? Yes, but consumption of sugar must be regulated. It can have a very negative impact on a daily human diet and of course the diabetic healthy diet. How does this occur?
Sugar is the most inflammatory ingredient that an individual can eat. It aggravates the gastro-intestinal tract and the balance of good and bad bacteria that exists in the human gastrointestinal normal tract (the microbiome). A more natural carbohydrate choice is the use of raw honey. It does not cause the inflammatory reaction of traditional sugar and offers a healthy enzymatic activity and can cause fermentation in the presence of many food ingredients. This carbohydrate should not account for more than 10 percent of daily calorie intake. Diabetic diets must account for possible sugar or sweetening ingredient additions to ensure any use of additional insulin additions do not cause an imbalance in the needed insulin to support adequate ingestion and utilization of consumed foots. Diabetics should avoid foods that list “added sugars” on any food or supplement label.
Formulating a Diabetic-Friendly Dietary Supplement
What ingredients or food sources can be utilized to create a diabetic-friendly dietary supplement that is a nutritious meal replacement? Amazingly, a composition which provides the necessary balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates for a diabetes diet was created over thirty years ago. Hubertus Trouille, a German holistic practitioner, designed a sustainable composition that included non-GMO soy, low fat yogurt powder, natural raw honey and important vitamins and minerals. This proprietary blended powder… for reconstitution with liquid… provides 180 calories per recommended serving with 27 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of total good fat, important vitamins and minerals and twelve essential and potentially essential amino acids. The fermented composition is gluten-free and contains no artificial fillers, no artificial flavors, added sugars, preservatives or stimulants. The composition has a low glycemic index (27) and low glycemic load (4).
Importantly, over fifteen international published studies involving diabetes, weight loss, metabolism assessment, microbiome support, muscle mass and cognitive awareness exist for this proprietary composition. This diabetic-friendly product, available in Europe and North America, is called Almased.
Eating with diabetes should be and is about being label smart and enjoying healthy food.