One of the key ways to manage type 2 diabetes is through maintaining a healthy diet. After all, a healthy diet can keep your blood sugar levels and weight in check. However, figuring out what to eat and what to avoid can often be confusing.
People with diabetes have to watch their carbohydrate intake and choose the foods that help them maintain healthy blood sugar levels. In trying to ensure that they maintain healthy habits, diabetics can often commit unintentional mistakes that can cause them more harm than good. For example, eating a lot of sugar-free foods and removing all high-fat foods from one's diet may seem like the right choice, but this is not necessarily the case. Let’s find out why.
Foods that are marketed as friendly for diabetics are easy to find at any supermarket. From cookies to syrups, these foods do not contain any sugar. Naturally, these food items appeal to diabetics and are supposed to be safe for them. The question is, 'Should people with type 2 diabetes eat these sugar-free foods?' Nutritionists warn against them because people with diabetes need to cut down on their consumption of refined carbs, and foods made with sugar-free sweeteners typically contain refined flour and very little fiber. Hence, they're not great for diabetics.
Moreover, eating any kind of sweets triggers the desire to indulge in a little more, which is never good. Of course, having sugar-free foods every once in a while is fine. But before you add anything to your grocery cart, be sure to check the ingredients list properly and avoid foods that contain refined carbs.
2. Taking vitamins and supplements regularly
“Diabetes-friendly” supplements and vitamins have become quite popular these days. Experts do not recommend taking unnecessary supplements because research on the long-term safety of such supplements is lacking. More importantly, no supplement can replace a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables and provides you with carbs, fiber, and healthy fats will always be a much better option than supplements.
Cinnamon and chromium are the two most widely used diabetes supplements. Vitamin D supplements and psyllium have likewise shown promise for diabetes. However, before choosing any supplement, always consult your doctor first. Even if a product is natural, it doesn’t mean it’s safe for use or right for you.
3. Relying on meal replacement bars for losing weight
Weight is beneficial for diabetes management. To achieve that goal, however, you shouldn’t rely on meal replacement bars. Some of these bars – like a chewy granola bar – are fine to have occasionally, of course. In fact, a study by the American Diabetes Association published in the journal Diabetes Spectrum in 2013 found that the participants who ate meal replacement bars were better at managing their weight compared to the control group.
Unfortunately, many of these meal replacement products tend to be high in calories and include ingredients like sugar alcohols. Look for bars that have resistant starch or uncooked cornstarch in them, as these ingredients prevent blood sugar spikes. Since resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine, it doesn't raise blood glucose levels.
Also, make sure that the bars you choose are not too high in calories and rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Even with these ingredients, be sure that you don’t go overboard with the meal replacement bars. You can have them as an occasional snack or a quick breakfast from time to time, or enjoy one to prevent low blood sugar throughout the day. Meal replacement bars shouldn't replace a proper meal.
4. Drinking juice
Fruit juice is generally considered a healthy drink, but is it a good option for people with type 2 diabetes? Not always. According to Diabetes.co.uk, most types of fruit juices contain “large amounts of sugar, which can raise blood sugar levels very quickly.” People with diabetes should ideally try and avoid drinking fruit juice frequently. Research has shown that the consumption of specific fruits like blueberries, grapes, and apples can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, but a greater intake of fruit juice may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
To elaborate, an apple has about 19 grams of sugar and 4.5 grams of fiber. On the other hand, apple juice has 25 grams of sugar and just 0.5 grams of fiber. Eating an apple will satisfy your hunger and stabilize your blood sugar. That won’t be the case with a glass of apple juice.
5. Completely removing high-fat foods from your diet
Having too much fat, particularly saturated fat (foods like bacon and butter), can lead to a spike in bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL). Diabetes makes you more likely to develop heart disease. Hence, it's even more important for diabetics to keep their fat intake in check. However, that doesn’t mean that you should completely remove fatty foods from your diet.
Certain high-fat foods can actually be helpful. According to a study by Penn State University, having a daily avocado, which is high in fat, could actually lower one's "bad" cholesterol levels. Here are a few other good options:
-Oily fish (such as salmon and sardines)
-Nuts (such as almonds, pistachios, or walnuts)
- Sugar-free peanut butter or almond butter
-Seeds (such as sesame seeds, flaxseeds, or chia seeds).
Furthermore, in a 2018 study, scientists found that certain types of fat in your diet can provide some protection from diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends including more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than saturated or trans fats in your diet.
So don’t fear fatty foods. Just be mindful of the portion sizes and make sure you are having the right kind of fat.
Drinking sugary drinks is a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. This is why diet sodas are preferred by diabetics. While diet drinks do not contain any sugar, they are generally sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Many of these diet sodas also have artificial flavors, coloring agents, and preservatives.
Health experts say that sugar-free sodas are generally safe in moderation for people with diabetes, which is unlikely to considerably affect blood sugar levels. However, do remember that these drinks won’t provide you with any nutrients. The American Diabetes Association recommends zero-calorie drinks or low-calorie drinks like unsweetened iced or hot tea when you are in the mood for a flavored beverage.