Almost one in 10 Canadians has diabetes, and millions more adults are considered pre-diabetic. That means their blood sugar is higher than it should be, and so are their odds of developing this disease. The rate of diabetes in this country is rising quickly. But many of the risk factors for diabetes, including heavy weight, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, can be reduced by choosing a healthier overall diet.
Certain foods are particularly helpful in giving you more control over the condition – or avoiding diabetes altogether.
Just a half-cup of lentils will give you almost eight grams of fibre. That’s more than you’d get from two cups of brown rice. Fibre is a true friend, because it can actually lower your blood glucose level – as well as your bad cholesterol – while making you feel full. Insoluble fibre in particular seems to lower the risk of diabetes. This past April, researchers at the University of Guelph reported on the difference it makes to blood sugar when you replace just half your potatoes or rice with lentils. (Hint: It’s significant.) Lentils are also a protein food, with a three-quarter cup serving providing the same amount of protein as a five-ounce steak!
If you’re eating to prevent or control diabetes, get to know the glycemic index (GI). Foods with a lower GI won’t spike your blood sugar as much as those that are higher on the scale. Stick with these, and you can reduce your likelihood of developing diabetes, or reduce complications if you already have the disease. Not only are apples a low-GI fruit, they offer plenty of fibre and flavonoids. (Don’t peel the skin!) An apple a day may literally keep the insulin away: Research from the Women’s Health Study in the U.S. suggests that eating apples regularly may be protective against diabetes.
Sourdough bread (over other types of bread)
Tangy sourdough bread dough is fermented from wild yeast and bacteria cultures. Sourdough bread is lower on the glycemic index than regular wheat bread, so it’s long been considered the better choice if you want to avoid sugar spikes after your sandwiches. The acid produced by the bacteria help keep the bread fresher longer. And that’s not all: Compared to regular wholegrain bread, the sourdough method has been shown to retain more of the phytonutrients (chemical compounds that are good for us, such as flavonoids). Keep in mind, however, if you choose to eat sourdough bread, do so in moderation. While it may be better for you than other types of bread, it is still carbohydrate-heavy and does raise your glucose levels.
Your diabetes-fighting diet should include lots of vegetables, like leafy greens, while avoiding the starchier veggies that rank high on the GI, such as potatoes. Beets are a best bet, with benefits supported by many studies. For example, drinking beet juice has been associated with reduced blood pressure, something that many people with diabetes struggle with. Beet juice is high in inorganic nitrate, a substance that helps dilate blood vessels and could explain the healthier blood pressure. Beets are also rich in metabolites, molecules that support cell function. Metabolites tend to be lower in people with insulin resistance. Beets may even lower chronic inflammation. Many researchers are looking into the potential therapeutic benefits of beets. (We’re just looking for tasty ways to cook them.)