E writes in that she has diabetes and wonders if she needs to avoid carbohydrates and eat more vegetables.
Thank you for your question, E. First, please know that your doctor should be able to refer you to a good nutritionist who you can sit down with to discuss how to eat to stay healthy when you have diabetes.
Next, remember that there are carbohydrates, and then there are carbohydrates. What I mean is that some carbohydrates can still be very good for you even in the setting of diabetes, many of them in the form of vegetables.
In general, the more highly refined, the more highly processed the carbohydrate, the worse it is for you (even for those of us who don't have diabetes).
One good way to help you make healthy food choices is through the use of the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) of foods. Briefly, the GI is used to classify foods based on how rapdily they cause a rise in blood sugar once they have been eaten; the GL is perhaps even a little more accurate because it takes into account the total amount of carbohydrate in a given food.
High GI or GL foods are quickly digested, resulting in a rapid rise in blood sugar. Focusing more on low GI / GL foods can help keep blood sugar and energy levels more stable.
When eating high GI / GL foods you can lessen their impact on blood sugar by adding small amounts of healthy fat (extra virgin olive oil, for example) and protein to the meal, or a little vinegar or lemon juice to the recipe - each of these slows the rate of food digestion and lessens the rapid rise in blood sugar that otherwise would occur.
You can learn more about GI and GL from a past e-Letter
(http://www.harristeeter.com/yourwellness/e_letter/glycemic_index.aspx) and from the web site glycemicindex.com
Other healthy diet tips for people with diabetes include:
- eat frequent small meals
- focus on non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, eggplant and beans
- enjoy cold-water fish at least twice a week for their omega-3 fatty acids
- be sure to get adequate magnesium in your diet from foods like lentils, tofu, spinach and almonds
Having diabetes doesn't mean you can't be healthy - the first step is to take control by making smart dietary choices (and exercising regularly per your doctor's recommendations).
I hope this helps, E. Be well.
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