Good food is key to managing – and avoiding – diabetes

Can you tell who has diabetes just from looking at the food on their plate? If they have the healthiest looking plate on the table, maybe you can. Eating well is key to managing diabetes. And what’s good for managing diabetes turns out to be good for a lot of us.

Choosing whole food – like fruit instead of fruit juice, or eating whole grains – is a cornerstone of health for everyone.

“Whole food lowers the sugar, starch, salt and calories in your diet,” said Dr. Amit Shah, CareOregon chief medical officer. “That’s good for some of our biggest health issues, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure – and for preventing them.”

The meal planning tool at Diabetes.org shows a way of eating that can work for most anyone, even many with dietary restrictions. See your plate as divided into four equal parts: Two parts hold non-starchy vegetables like broccoli or spinach; one part is lean protein like chicken or fish; and one part is high-fiber starches, like brown rice or beans.

Food + medicine. Eating whole food helps keep blood sugar stable. That can slow down the long-term effects of diabetes.  Medication plays a role, too. Sometimes, it takes both of these working together to make people with diabetes to feel their best. CareOregon pharmacists ask members to take all their medication, and offer some tips to eat well.  

Tip #1 - Avoid sugary drinks and treats

Check food labels for sugar and any word ending in “ose” – that means sugar. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says we should limit “added sugars” to about 100 calories a day for women and 150 calories for men. That’s only six to nine grams. One12-ounce soft drink or the average cafe latte is over that limit.

For people who do not have diabetes, avoiding added sugar can help prevent it.

Tip #2 - Load up on veggies and lean protein

These whole foods help manage blood sugar. Over the course of a day, we should all be “eating a rainbow” of colorful food, packed with nutrients.

Reality check. We’re famous in our country for huge portions. That’s not as good as it sounds. The true cost is higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. Good news: You are walking around with a wonderful tool to check portion sizes – your hand:

  • 3 ounces of protein (one serving) =palm of the hand
  • 1 cup of vegetables (two servings) = clenched fist
  • 1 half-cup of fruit (one serving) =cupped hand
  • 1 teaspoon of butter (one serving) =fingertip

Daily management. Whether you have diabetes – or live with someone who does – day-to-day activities help keep people feeling well. Besides meal planning, there’s checking blood sugar and taking all medication as directed, even on good days.  Be sure to ask your doctor about health screenings just for people with diabetes.

November is National Diabetes month, and you may see news about activities, classes and support groups in your area to help you stay healthy.

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