If you’re living with diabetes or prediabetes, you know how important it is to pay attention to your diet. What you eat can have a big impact on your health, especially when it comes to controlling your blood sugar. But sometimes, it can be difficult to plan meals when other responsibilities take priority. Fortunately, easy diabetic recipes that support your health and your lifestyle are within reach.
What is the root cause of diabetes?
To understand the importance of diet management when living with diabetes or prediabetes, we reached out to Dr. Jacintha Cauffield, PharmD, BCPS, CPP, CDCES, CRPS-A, NCPS, an ambulatory pharmacist at Mission Weight Management and Diabetes Education Center, for her expert opinion.
According to Cauffield, “We’re still trying to understand the root cause of diabetes.” She continued, “With Type 1 diabetes, it appears as though the immune system attacks the cells that make insulin in the pancreas and destroys them. Thus, patients with Type 1 diabetes will require insulin therapy for life.
“With Type 2 diabetes, it is much more than just high blood sugar,” Cauffield explained. “It appears to start when the body becomes more resistant to the insulin it already makes. At some point, the body loses the ability to keep up with the increased demand for insulin. Controlling the blood sugar does decrease the risk for complications. However, changes occur in the body that place someone at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes, even if their blood sugar is well controlled.”
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
“The signs can vary depending on age and type of diabetes,” said Cauffield. “All types of diabetes can be traced to a deficiency in insulin activity in the body. Insulin acts as a key to open cells to take up nutrition from the food we eat, particularly sugar.
“In Type 1 diabetes, which is more common in children, the body loses its ability to make insulin,” Cauffield explained. “Without that “key” to tell the cells to eat, food passes right through the body, and any sugar in the bloodstream builds up to harmful levels.”
As a result, children with diabetes will often experience the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Hunger, even after eating a meal
- Extreme thirst, caused by increased sugar in the blood stream
- Frequent urination, due to the body trying to flush sugar out of its system
- Feeling tired and fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea, vomiting and dehydration
If a child develops the symptoms listed above, they should be seen by a provider as soon as possible. Learn more about pediatric diabetes treatment at Mission Health.
“Adults may have diabetes and not have any symptoms,” Cauffield said. “That’s why it is important to get regular check-ups with your doctor. They can run tests to see if you have or are developing diabetes. It is important to catch diabetes early and get treatment to prevent complications such as vision problems, kidney problems, pain in the hands and feet and foot infections that don’t heal. It’s important to know the risk factors for diabetes.”
Diabetes risk factors in adults include:
- Older age
- Family history of diabetes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- History of high blood pressure.
If you are concerned about your risk for diabetes as an adult, take a diabetes risk test. If you score a five or higher on the assessment, make an appointment to discuss your results with your healthcare provider. Learn more about our diabetes program at Mission Health.
Best practices for eating with diabetes
While there isn’t a specific “diabetes diet,” certain eating approaches can help manage diabetes. One of the most popular (and most researched) eating styles is the Mediterranean diet. Though more than 20 countries border the Mediterranean Sea, each with its own unique culture and agriculture, Mediterranean-style eating has some shared factors. These include:
- Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Limited dairy and red meat
- Limited sweets, added sugars, salt and highly processed foods
The Mediterranean way of eating can help manage insulin levels and blood sugar. Insulin helps your body turn food into energy, which keeps your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. However, when you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly. This is why it’s important to understand how the foods you eat can affect your insulin and blood sugar levels.
Diabetes and the glycemic index
Some people with diabetes use the glycemic index as a meal planning guide. The glycemic index measures how quickly a food increases your blood sugar levels. Only foods that contain carbohydrates have a glycemic index. These foods fall on a scale of zero to 100, with pure glucose (sugar) being 100.
The Mediterranean diet prioritizes foods with a low glycemic index, meaning they won’t cause blood sugar spikes. Highly processed foods, on the other hand, have a high glycemic index. This means your body digests them quickly and easily, which can cause your blood sugar to spike.
High-glycemic foods include most snack foods, potatoes, white rice, white bread, honey and most processed cereals. Low-glycemic foods include most nuts, legumes, beans, non-starchy vegetables and whole grains like quinoa and farro.
Delicious diabetes-friendly recipes
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, you may be wondering which foods are best for your health. One of the most important things to remember with diabetes is to eat the healthiest foods possible in moderation. That means you can still eat the foods you love, but you might want to make some ingredient substitutions. Here are some easy diabetic recipes you can enjoy without sacrificing taste.
Multigrain chia waffles
For many people, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s especially true for people with diabetes since a balanced breakfast can help stabilize blood sugar. These multigrain chia waffles are full of fiber and omega-3s, and the ingredients — including chia seeds and unsweetened applesauce — help regulate blood sugar.
Lemony salmon and orzo casserole
This salmon and orzo casserole recipe is a healthy choice for anyone, not just people with diabetes. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and may lower blood pressure. And since it doesn’t have carbohydrates, it won’t affect blood glucose levels. Orzo and asparagus are low-glycemic foods, making this recipe great for those who need to control their blood sugar.
Roasted vegetable meatloaf with balsamic glaze
Traditional meatloaf is a favorite comfort food, but it’s not exactly healthy. This roasted vegetable meatloaf is delicious, and it contains diabetes-friendly foods such as zucchini, peppers and olive oil. It also has a lower fat content than traditional meatloaf while still retaining the flavor of ground meat.
Spaghetti squash and meatballs
If you grew up eating spaghetti and meatballs, you’ll be sure to enjoy this healthy twist on a childhood favorite. Regular spaghetti is around 50 to 55 on the glycemic index. This recipe substitutes white pasta with spaghetti squash, which has a glycemic index of 20. It also uses low-sodium sauce, reduced-fat Parmesan cheese and 95% lean ground beef.
Bacon and spinach pizza
Depending on the type, pizza can be high in calories and sodium. But with a few tweaks, it can be a healthy choice for people with diabetes. This bacon and spinach pizza only has five ingredients. Plus, you can use prebaked crust and ready-to-serve bacon for fast prep.
Meal management for people with diabetes or prediabetes
Living with diabetes or prediabetes doesn’t have to mean you can’t eat the things you like. You can make your favorite meals healthier with a few substitutions and techniques, like pairing a carbohydrate with a fiber-rich food to slow the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. But if you’re looking for quick and easy diabetic recipes, give one of these five a try.
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