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Diabetes and Nutrition: 6 Things to Know

If you have diabetes, what and when you eat can help you control your blood sugar, maintain a healthy weight and keep your risk of heart disease low. According to recent research from the American Diabetes Association, here are six things to know about diabetes and nutrition.

1. There is no one diet that is “right” for diabetes. Not everyone with diabetes has the same treatment goals. Some people need to lose weight, others need to lower high blood pressure or cholesterol, while many may have no other chronic conditions. Your doctor or dietitian can help you create a plan that is right for you.

2. You still have lots of choices. If you preferred a Mediterranean or low-carbohydrate diet prior to your diagnosis, you have a great start. If your diet consisted mainly of fast food, you may want to make some changes. Whatever you choose, your diet should include lots of green/non-starchy vegetables and a minimal amount of refined grains, added sugars and saturated fats.

3. There are no set percentages. The American Diabetes Association does not suggest a certain percentage of carbs, fat or protein that every person with diabetes should eat. Again, it’s best to personalize an eating plan with your doctor or dietitian.

4. Carbs are not off limits. Growing evidence shows that a low-carb diet can benefit people with diabetes and prediabetes, but you also don’t want to minimize carbs to the point of hypoglycemia. Healthy carbs (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans) can fuel your organs and give you the fiber, vitamins and minerals you need.

5. If you are overweight, weight loss can make a big difference. Losing even 5 percent of your body weight can lower blood sugar and improve other outcomes for people diagnosed with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

6. Simple food swaps can go a long way. Replacing butter with olive oil, white rice with brown rice, or a beef burger with a black bean burger can help people with diabetes reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke or kidney disease.