How to Eat to Prevent and Treat Diabetes?
The global prevalence of diabetes is on the rise, currently estimated at more than 422 million people worldwide. In recent years, popular trends are moving towards low carb diets such as the ketogenic diet and the Low Carb High Fat diet (LCHF) to prevent or improve the control of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has just released a consensus report on the nutritional treatment of diabetes and prediabetes based on the most recent evidence. It indicates that you can follow different nutritional approaches to achieve your goals when you are diabetic or prediabetic. The following are the main recommendations from this report.
1) Which dietary approach should you choose?
A mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, low fat or low carbohydrate diet as well as the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet) can be effective in preventing type 2 diabetes and/or reducing hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). The HbA1c is a test that measures the average blood sugar concentrations for the past three months and is an indicator of blood sugar control. It has been shown that a reduction in total carbohydrate intake is effective in improving blood glucose, and that this reduction in carbohydrates can be achieved by following different dietary approaches adapted to individual preferences and needs.
2) What are the ideal proportions of macronutrients?
Scientific evidence indicates that there is no ideal percentage of calories from carbohydrate, protein and fat in people with or at risk for diabetes. Macronutrient distribution should be personalized according to a person’s dietary preferences and metabolic goals.
3) What are the key nutrition factors to consider?
Regardless of the dietary approach chosen, the following tips are important for preventing or improving diabetes control:
- Eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables daily (all vegetables except for potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas and corn)
- Minimize added sugars and refined grains
- Choose whole foods rather than processed foods
4) How much fiber should you eat?
People with diabetes and those at risk for diabetes should consume at least the minimum amount of fiber recommended for the general population. In Europe, it is recommended to ideally consume 30 grams of fiber per day. In Canada, fiber requirements are set at 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. According to Health Canada, most Canadians consume only half of these fiber amounts. An increase in fiber intake (through vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, or fiber supplements) can help reduce the HbA1c.