This blog post was written by Kristen Peairs, Nutritionist and Meditation Guru at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
In the United States, more than 1 in 3 adults have pre-diabetes and more than 1 in 10 adults have diabetes. Fortunately, with adjustments to diet and lifestyle, pre-diabetes can be reversed and diabetes symptoms can be reduced. Here’s what you need to know about how to change your diet to prevent the most common type of diabetes—type 2 diabetes.
A key focus with diabetes is blood sugar. People with pre-diabetes and diabetes experience blood sugar levels (also known as blood glucose levels) that are chronically imbalanced. Dietary adjustments can help the body more effectively balance blood sugar levels.
A common question about blood sugar is “Does a rise blood sugar always correlate with eating more dietary sugar.” The answer is “No.” In a healthy person, the body can effectively process dietary sugar without dangerous rises in blood sugar. In a person with diabetes, the body cannot effectively process dietary sugar and so the sugar lingers in the blood and takes longer to be absorbed. Uninterrupted, this cycle eventually results in additional health problems.
To learn more about pre-diabetes and diabetes, check out this article.
Focus on Fiber
When thinking about how to change your diet to prevent diabetes, the first thing to do is focus on eating foods that contain fiber. Fiber is in all foods that come from plants. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all example of fiber-containing foods. Fiber supports slower sugar absorption which means that blood sugar rises less rapidly. With slower rises in blood sugar, the body has more time to absorb it which helps prevent excess from accumulating in the blood.
Easy ways to include more fiber in your diet include the following:
· Swapping whole grain bread for white bread
· Adding extra tomato and lettuce to a hamburger
· Snacking on fresh (or dried) fruit through the day
Eat Every 4-5 Hours
Eating at regular intervals supports balanced blood sugar. When we eat at consistent times, our bodies prepare to receive the food by revving up production of digestive enzymes. The additional enzymes help pave the way for the efficient absorption of the food as it is eaten.
If you’re a person who eats inconsistently or forgets to take breaks, set a timer on your phone as a reminder for when it’s time to eat. If you find there never seems to be enough space on your schedule to consume a meal, consider how space can be created so you can take care of you. A few strategies people have used to make time for eating during a workday are as follows:
· Blocking out mealtime as a high priority meeting on the calendar
· Talking with managers and colleagues about normalizing taking breaks to eat during the day
· Creating a personal boundary regarding taking a meal break regardless of outside demands
Choose Low Fat
Regularly consuming higher fat foods is linked to increased chances of chronically elevated blood sugar. Higher fat foods include foods such as French fries, fried chicken, potato chips, bacon, cream, butter, cheese, and ice cream. Even though these foods can be mouthwateringly craveable, they are not supportive of healthy blood sugar levels.
Why are high fat foods so craveable? One reason is that they taste good because of the sugar and or salt flavors that accompany the fat. Another reason is that consuming them often produces a temporary feeling of satisfaction and happiness. When trying to reduce intake of high fat foods, it can be helpful to recognize that a craving for the high fat food might be signifying an underlying need for nutrients as well as feelings of relaxation and happiness.
A few suggestions for reducing cravings for high fat foods include the following:
· Eat regularly (at least every 4-5 hours) to keep bloods sugars balanced to help prevent cravings
· Keep healthy sweet and salty snacks close by for sudden hunger
· Take rest breaks to help yourself destress and rejuvenate
Take Time Out to Eat
The body digests best when it’s relaxed. Coincidentally, being relaxed also helps lower blood sugar. When it’s time to eat, take a few minutes to let your body and mind unwind rather than munching while working.
Reduce Refined Foods
Another consideration in how to change your diet to prevent diabetes is reducing refined foods. In the workplace, it can be so easy to grab a bag of chips, snack on a candy bar, or fill up on ramen noodles, but foods like these are not supportive for preventing diabetes. Refined foods rarely contain significant amounts of fiber which means that they are rapidly absorbed and quick to cause a rise in blood sugar. Also, these foods usually have very few life-supporting vitamins and minerals that your body needs to have energy to run the metabolic processes your body depends on to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Finally, refined foods are frequently contain unhealthy fats which can cause inflammation in an already stressed body.
Overall, refined foods tend to cause more problems than they solve.
Diabetes-Friendly Snack and Meal Ideas
Some easy, healthy diabetic snacks for work include the following options:
· Apple, clementines, and grapes
· Granola bars
· Whole grain crackers with guacamole
· Raw almonds
· Veggies and hummus
Easy workday meals include the following options:
· Turkey wrap with lettuce and tomato in a whole grain tortilla accompanied by a side of fruit
· Spring greens salad topped with chicken (or beans), tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives with a side of warm brown rice, quinoa, or noodles mixed in.
· Chicken and veggie tacos with salsa on corn tortillas
· Rice bowl filled with brown rice, fresh veggies, beans (or other lean protein), and teriyaki sauce
Moving Forward in Health
The type 2 diabetes prevention tips listed in this article are great guidelines for being healthier through diet. To get started on your dietary wellness journey, simply choose your favorite tip and focus on integrating the suggested changes into your life. Once you feel successful and comfortable with the initial changes, focus on integrating the changes suggested in another one of the tips. Small step by small step, you will become healthier less likely to develop diabetes.
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