Diabetes is a serious health issue, and it affects more than 34.2 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Within our neighborhood of Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Counties, 12% of adults have been diagnosed with the disease, according to available census data, and it is the seventh leading cause of death in this district and in Georgia overall.
Tackling diabetes — or any chronic disease for that matter — requires lifestyle changes, which can be difficult. However, even small changes can make a big difference. If you’re diabetic and are trying to make changes to your diet, there’s good news! The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says that there is no “perfect diabetic diet,” so you have plenty of options to choose from and incorporate into your lifestyle!
To begin your journey, try adding some of these foods to your meal plan. This list includes some foods that are recommended by the ADA, Mayo Clinic, and other trustworthy sources.
Whole grains provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and Vitamin B, says the ADA. They’re also a good source of fiber and a good carb to include in your meal. It is better to incorporate whole grains instead of the less healthy carbohydrates like white bread, white potatoes, pasta, and flour tortillas, which can be made with enriched flour, lots of sugar, and processed grains.
Berries are a sweet snack and come loaded with antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries each have their own health benefits. Berries are a better fruit to eat in moderation compared to bananas, pineapple, and watermelon, which have a higher sugar content.
The ADA recommends beans as a “diabetes superfood” because one half cup of beans contains the same amount of protein you can get from one ounce of meat, but it doesn’t come with the saturated fat that meat has. If you’re using canned beans, however, the ADA advises drain the juice and rinsing the beans to get rid of the added salt.
Mayo Clinic recommends incorporating heart-healthy fish into your diet at least twice per week. Fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which could help prevent heart disease.
However, Mayo Clinic warns to avoid fried fish and those with high levels of mercury, such as mackerel.
The ADA also recommends this type of fruit because it provides Vitamin B, fiber, potassium, and folate — which is good for healthy cells and red blood cell formation, according to Mayo Clinic.
Since citrus fruits are on the sweet side as well, be sure to eat them in moderation.
Some nuts and seeds are a good source of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids, according to the ADA. These include walnuts and flaxseeds. Paired with fruits, nuts can help curb hunger during snack time.
Leafy greens like spinach and kale other greens like broccoli are good for any healthy diet, and they’re easy to incorporate into meals as a side dish, or to be cooked with the main course.
The Diabetes Plate Method
For those who need more guidance on their diets, or who may be struggling with portion sizes, try this helpful trick. Recommended by the ADA and other sources, the Diabetes Plate Method is a simple way to make sure you’re getting a variety of nutritious foods in every meal. Start with a plate with a diameter of about 9 inches, and fill up half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli or cabbage. Then reserve one quarter for lean proteins and another quarter for starchy vegetables or healthy carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes or whole grains. Learn more about this simple method here.
It’s important to take care of your health, but don’t get overwhelmed. Making small changes over time can have a huge impact in the long run. Take the time to experiment with new dishes and find a healthy diet that works for you.
Providers at Good Samaritan Health Centers of Gwinnett are able to talk with you about diabetes and address your concerns about appropriate dietary changes for diabetes. Schedule an appointment by calling 678-280-6630 for our Buford Highway clinic and 770-806-0162 for our Commercial Court clinic.
Feature photo credit: David Vincek— stock.adobe.com