MEALS THAT HEAL

What to eat to im­prove your disease out­come |

Best Health - - CONTENTS - By ALEX MLYNEK

Is it pos­si­ble to man­age di­a­betes with diet? Let’s find out.

WHEN IT COMES TO TYPE 2 DI­A­BETES, MAK­ING SMALL, SUS­TAIN­ABLE CHANGES to­ward healthy eat­ing can make a big dif­fer­ence. But what that change looks like de­pends on where you’re start­ing from, says reg­is­tered di­eti­tian Joanne Lewis, di­rec­tor of healthy eat­ing and nu­tri­tion pro­gram­ming at Di­a­betes Canada.

“Gen­er­ally, when it comes to type 2 di­a­betes, there isn’t a spe­cific diet that is rec­om­mended,” says Lewis. That said, the Mediter­ranean and DASH (Di­etary Ap­proaches to Stop Hy­per­ten­sion) di­ets lend them­selves to im­proved out­comes for di­a­betes, she says. Also, nudg­ing your­self to­ward eat­ing more plant-based foods and less highly pro­cessed foods is a good step.

What about carbs? Type 2 di­a­betes means that you can’t use the in­sulin in your body or your body isn’t able to make enough in­sulin, both of which can cause a buildup of sugar in your blood. For this rea­son, some re­searchers are be­gin­ning to look into the ef­fects of a very low-car­bo­hy­drate diet on di­a­betes. But Lewis says that it’s not yet clear whether this ap­proach can be ap­plied broadly be­cause the re­search is limited and still in its in­fancy. Fur­ther­more, a low-carb diet can be diffi-

cult to main­tain long-term, says Lewis, and some may find it chal­leng­ing to man­age their blood sugar lev­els. If you do try it, Lewis says that you should al­ways con­sult your health­care team, as your di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion may need ad­just­ment.

“Mak­ing small, sig­nif­i­cant changes will have a much more pos­i­tive im­pact over time than fol­low­ing a dra­matic di­etary change in the short term,” she sug­gests. In­stead of dras­ti­cally re­duc­ing carbs, she rec­om­mends a more re­al­is­tic plan: Choose smaller por­tions of carbs and, when you can, go for ones that are lower on the glycemic in­dex, such as bul­gur and bar­ley. Even then, though, it’s im­por­tant to be mind­ful that eat­ing too much of these whole grains may im­pact your blood sugar.

“With type 2 di­a­betes, we know that what type of carb you eat is im­por­tant, but how many carbs you eat at one time is sig­nif­i­cantly more im­por­tant,” says Lewis. “For those with type 2 di­a­betes, their bod­ies have given them a car­bo­hy­drate bud­get – ba­si­cally say­ing ‘Even though you’ve given me a healthy carb, I can only han­dle so much of it at this time be­cause I’m go­ing to run out of in­sulin to han­dle the amount if you give me too much.’” That bud­get is very in­di­vid­u­al­ized, so the best ap­proach to fig­ur­ing out your food limit is to test your blood sugar with your me­ter be­fore eat­ing and two hours af­ter eat­ing to see if it stays in your rec­om­mended tar­get zone, she says.

While Lewis says that obe­sity – par­tic­u­larly weight around your mid­dle – is a risk fac­tor for di­a­betes, you don’t have to fo­cus on weight. She ex­plains that you can man­age this con­di­tion by put­ting your en­ergy to­ward eat­ing well and be­ing phys­i­cally fit.

Ready to learn how to eat in a way that helps you stay on track? Here are some ideas to get started.

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