Diabetes & Your Diet: How to Make Impactful Changes
According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 28.7 million Americans have diabetes. Another 8.5 million are thought to have the condition but have yet to be diagnosed. Combined, that’s over 11% of the US population!
Even more concerning, 96 million adults have prediabetes—a condition marked by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not quite in the diabetic range.
These kinds of stats are concerning for several reasons. For one, diabetes significantly increases the risk of many other health issues, including cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, blindness, liver disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, and neuropathy/other foot problems that often lead to amputations.
On top of that, simply put—diabetes can kill you. It was the 8th cause of death in 2020.
All these stats and figures may seem like doom and gloom—but there is a ray of hope. By taking control of your diet (and subsequently, your weight), you can reverse diabetes and even eliminate the need for medications or other interventions.
Glucose is a simple sugar that the body uses for fuel. Certain foods you eat get converted into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
Once there, your pancreas gets to work by releasing the hormone called insulin. Insulin directs glucose to enter your cells, where it provides you with the energy you need to function and survive.
Problems arise when there’s either not enough insulin to make this process run efficiently, or when the cells stop responding to the insulin (called insulin resistance). In either scenario, levels of glucose in the bloodstream remain elevated. When this goes on endlessly and unchecked, it eventually leads to diabetes.
How Food Affects Blood Sugar
To better understand how different foods impact your glucose levels, it’s important to know about the three macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Every food you eat is made up of one, or a combination, of these macronutrients.
Carbohydrates (carbs for short) are the main supplier of glucose. They can be further broken down into a few basic subcategories, including starches and sugars. Carbs are quickly digested so that your body doesn’t have to wait long for glucose/energy. Simple carbs like refined flours and foods high in sugar, are the most quickly broken down. Carbs that contain a lot of fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) are more slowly digested than carbs that don’t have a lot of fiber (simple carbs).
Proteins break down into amino acids, which build and repair muscles and tissues. This is why you always hear about the importance of eating protein-rich foods after working out or lifting weights.
Proteins also provide energy if there are no carbs available. However, proteins don’t break down into glucose, so they don’t have nearly the impact on your glucose levels that carbs do.
The third macronutrient is fat, which, similar to protein, does not break down into glucose. What fats do, however, is slow the digestive process. This leads to a much slower rise in glucose levels.
When eaten moderately, fats don’t have much of an impact on blood sugar levels. But eating too much fat can lead to insulin resistance, which eventually can cause problems with blood sugar management.
Whether you have diabetes, prediabetes, or you are trying to prevent it from ever happening, the key to keeping stable glucose levels is the same: Eat meals and snacks that combine lean protein, healthy fat, and fiber-rich carbs.
Combining all three macronutrients helps to slow the digestion of the carbs. This, in turn, slows their absorption into your bloodstream. Rather than getting a quick spike in energy, as you would after eating a donut or drinking a soda, you get a steady and controlled output of energy that lasts much longer, without the harsh “crashes.”
So, if there is one impactful change you can make to better manage your blood sugar, it’s this: Add more proteins and healthy fats to your meals and snacks. Some good examples are:
- Plain, no-sugar-added yogurt with berries
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Vegetables and hummus
- Cottage cheese with fruit and pumpkin seeds
- Peanut butter and celery
Meals should contain foods from all three macronutrient categories: lean protein (chicken, turkey, beef, seafood, etc.); healthy fats (avocado/olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, etc.) and fiber-rich complex carbs (sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, etc.)
Another impactful and easy change you can make is to change the order in which you eat your macronutrients. Believe it or not, doing so can have a dramatic effect on your glucose levels.
In one study, 11 obese people with diabetes ate the exact same meal one week apart. The first week, they ate the carbohydrates first, followed by the fat, protein, and veggies 15 minutes later. The second week, they reversed the order—fat, protein, and veggies first, then the carbs.
Despite the fact that the meals were identical, glucose readings were consistently lower after they ate the carbs last rather than first. So, eating your meals in this order can further help to stabilize your post-meal glucose levels.
Finally, it is critical to limit—or even better, fully eliminate—simple carbohydrates from your diet. Things like baked goods, juices, sodas, candy, cereals, ice cream, and other junk foods have little nutritional value and only serve to spike (then crash) your blood sugar.
Supplements that Help
There are several nutrients that can help to naturally manage blood sugar levels, too—especially when taken alongside a healthy, balanced diet (as discussed above).
Gymnema sylvestre is an herbal extract that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to balance blood sugar and aid in weight loss for more than 2,000 years.
Chromium is an essential mineral that keeps blood sugar in check by binding to insulin receptors (“docking stations”) on the surface of cells, and enhancing insulin activity. These actions move glucose from the bloodstream and into cells.
Vanadyl sulfate is a supplement that has an insulin-like effect, urging the movement of glucose into cells. Research has shown it can increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose.
All of these nutrients, along with several others that work together to manage blood sugar, can be found in Newport Natural Health’s Sugar Management supplement.
Research shows that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can also be a helpful tool in managing blood sugar. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is instrumental in cellular energy metabolism.
One recent meta-analysis that looked at 13 clinical trials, concluded that CoQ10, “may assist in glycemic control, decrease triglycerides, and improve HDL-cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes.”
Newport Natural Health CoQ-Max contains not only CoQ10 but curcumin, a premier natural anti-inflammatory compound. This formula not only provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection, it boosts your energy for a difference you can truly feel.
Remember, supplements are meant to complement healthy diet and lifestyle. But along with making dietary adjustments to support your blood sugar levels, these supplements can give you that extra edge toward long-lasting health and success.
Weill Cornell Medicine. Food Order Has Significant Impact on Glucose and Insulin Levels. June 23, 2015.
Zhang S, et al. Effectiveness of coenzyme Q10 supplementation for type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Endocrinol. 2018 Sep 16;2018:6484839.