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Diabetes

Dietary Suggestions to Avoid Diabetes?

01/16/2007

Question:

I am a 30 year-old African American woman and I am worried about developing Type 2 diabetes. Several people in my family are overweight and have the disease. What type of foods should I avoid and what should I eat in order to prevent developing diabetes? What else can I do to keep myself healthy?

Answer:

Having a family history of diabetes does put you at greater risk for developing the disease as well as at risk for other associated diseases. Cardiovascular risk can begin early, even before the blood glucoses rise.  If you have a fasting blood glucose >95 mg/dl, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, abdominal obesity, hypertension, family history of diabetes or history of gestational diabetes, etc, you should seek the care of a diabetologist or endocrinologist (or aggressive primary care doctor) who can help you prevent future complications. 

However, there are several things you can do to help reduce your risk.  If you are not already at your ideal body weight, try to lose weight.  Having increased body fat stores reduces your body's ability to handle the sugar from the foods you eat.  Over time, your body has difficulty keeping your blood sugars in the normal range and diabetes can develop. 

To lose weight, eat sensibly and watch portion sizes.  Choose more whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.  Incorporate protein and unsaturated (healthy) fats into each meal and choose high fiber foods.  Eliminate simple sugars such as those in regular soda pop and juice.  Consistently bombarding the body with high amounts of carbohydrate and simple sugars causes an increase in insulin secretion, which over time, can result in your body not being able to handle glucose efficiently, leading to diabetes. 

Balancing the carbohydrate in your meals with protein and healthy fat helps to prevent the spikes in insulin seen with an all carbohydrate/sugar meal.  A good way to balance carbohydrates throughout the day is to count carbohydrates.  What is nice about carb counting is that any food can be incorporated into a meal plan.  Women who are trying to lose weight should strive for 30-45g per meal; men 45-60g per meal.  

For example, you could have:

Breakfast:

Lunch:

Dinner:

Looking at the total carbohydrate line on a food product's nutrition label will tell you how many grams of carbohydrate are in one serving of the food (the serving size is listed on the top of the label). It is wise to measure out your foods to be sure your portion sizes are accurate. 

Exercise is also important in achieving your ideal body weight and helps the body utilize glucose more efficiently.  Strive for some activity each day; join a gym, get some exercise equipment at home and work out in front of the TV, go for a walk, or dance to your favorite music.  Every little bit counts, so park further away when you go to the store, take a flight of stairs instead of the elevator or walk in place while watching your favorite ½ hour show.  These tips are appropriate to prevent diabetes as well as to control already diagnosed diabetes.  Encourage your family members to join you in the fight against diabetes.

For more information:

Go to the Diabetes health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Connie A Gottfried, MPH, RD, LD, CDE Connie A Gottfried, MPH, RD, LD, CDE
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University

Laurie   Sadler, MD Laurie Sadler, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University