Each week I answer many of the same questions asked by my patients. I always like to share them with you since you may have the same ones. Although I am not advocating that you eat or drink these specific foods or supplements, I wanted to share the information I offer to them. Always check with your own health care provider before making any changes to your diabetes care plan, treatment or routine. Never stop your prescribed medications without telling your physician. Some of you may see results with these products and many may not. Just stay informed and keep up with your exercise and lifestyle changes for the best results.
What do you think about?
- Almond Milk – All milk products are counted as carbohydrates since they turn to glucose. There are many differences between cow’s milk and almond milk. Almond milk is made from almonds and water and does not contain saturated fat or cholesterol. It is a healthy mono-unsaturated fat. It contains no hormones and has a mild sweet taste. Almond milk stays fresh longer than regular milk in the refrigerator. It is a good source of flavonoids and Vitamin E which can protect your cells and slow aging. It naturally contains zinc, copper, potassium magnesium and selenium. It can increase the function of your immune system. It is lower in carbohydrates and calories when compared to cow’s milk. It is rich in Omega 3s which are good for your heart and helps reduce your LDL or bad cholesterol. It is lactose free, gluten free and high in protein. If you decide to try it make sure you are not allergic to nuts and buy the unsweetened variety since it does not have added sugars.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a great breakfast, cheap, easy to prepare, filling, full of fiber and about 150 calories if served plain. It contains Vitamin B, minerals and can reduce your heart disease risk due to the gel like substance – soluble fiber. This fiber is said to help blood sugars remain stable without large swings or fluctuations. The best variety is the steel cut oats because it contains the oat kernel but it will require longer cooking times of 10-20 minutes. The quick rolled oats require about 5 minutes of cooking and instant may be ready in 30 seconds. Remember to buy the plain variety (the maple sugar or apple flavored has more added sugar and twice the calories) and add your own sweetness with berries, cinnamon or vanilla extract. Always add a protein source to your breakfast meal.
- Low-fat Dairy – For years we have been recommending fat-free food products since fat was the enemy. Research done in England with over 5000 people now suggests that low fat dairy is a better option. It found that those who ate low fat yogurt regularly had a decrease in the incidence of diabetes by 28%. Low fat dairy keeps you more satiated than fat-free dairy and it may protect against insulin resistance. Fermented low fat cheeses contain good sources of calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and probiotics which add back good bacteria to your gut. What about regular low fat yogurt and Greek low fat yogurt? Greek yogurt has a tangier, creamier taste since more liquid is strained off. It has more protein, less sodium and less carbohydrates which is a bonus when you have diabetes. It is counted as one serving of carbohydrate and is quite satisfying. Again, try to add your own fruit – which is a better option than syrupy fruit in the yogurt.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – This is fermented apple cider. Some patients confirm that this helps reduce their blood sugars while others have had no success. Although there has been research done, there are no solid recommendations. Research done in Sweden and Arizona State University printed in Diabetes Care in 2007 states “apple cider vinegar may benefit people with diabetes by decreasing the rise in blood sugars after eating.” The acetic acid may inhibit carbohydrate enzymes which cause sugars and starches to pass through the gut without digestion. Do not drink too much since it could cause enamel erosion on your teeth, decreased potassium levels, decreased bone density and burns in the esophagus. The most accepted way is by adding 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar mixed with olive oil over your salad. Some people take 2 teaspoons diluted with water prior to each meal and others drink 2 teaspoons before bed for a lower morning blood sugar.
- Lemon / lime juice, fermented foods and sour dough bread – If added with other foods, these can help slow gastric emptying, decrease the absorption rate and formation of glucose and decrease the rise in blood sugars. These foods have a low glycemic index. Try Kefir with your cereal.
- Luncheon meats (including salami, bologna, hot dogs) – A recent study looked at men who ate these foods frequently (up to 5 times a week) and developed type 2 diabetes – 50% more than men who did not eat these foods. Sodium, fat levels and nitrates are high in these foods and should be discouraged.
- Coconut Oil – Virgin organic coconut oil may have an ability to decrease cravings of refined or added sugars and reduce insulin resistance; swings in blood sugars decrease by slowing the digestive process. It is a saturated fat which may raise your risk of heart disease. It is a medium chain fatty acid which could raise your metabolic rate. It may help increase your calcium and magnesium absorption and aid in dental and bone health. It contains lauric acid which lowers lipids. It is easily digested and can be eaten on toast or just on a spoon. It is a fat which is fattening – watch your portions if you decide to try it.
- CoQ10 (Ubiquinone) – It is made in the body and amounts increase when eating meat, soy beans, canola oil and seafood. It is needed for organ function, helps give energy to the cells, and is considered an anti-oxidant. Many patients with diabetes are on statin drugs to reduce their cholesterol which inhibits the formation of CoQ10. The body then has a reduced amount. Although no large studies have confirmed this, many patients who suffer from muscle pains and aches benefit from a CoQ10 supplement. It could cause an upset stomach, skin rashes or increase blood clotting. Be aware if you take a blood thinner with CoQ10 and tell your health care provider.
- Coconut Water – This has been on the tropical islands for years. It has now become a very popular drink on the main land. It is the clear liquid from young or green coconuts – not the sweet, thick milk. It has no cholesterol or fat but does contain calories and carbohydrates – up to 9 grams per serving. It contains a large amount of electrolytes and is useful after a long and difficult workout like a marathon or triathlon. There is no evidence it helps control diabetes or blood sugars and it is expensive. It is better than drinking sports drinks but consider sticking to regular water to quench your thirst.
- Brown sugar, Agave, Raw Organic Cane sugar, Honey, Coconut sugar, Fruit juice concentrate, Evaporated Cane juice or High fructose corn syrup – These are all different names for sugar and are no better for your diabetes than regular white sugar. All these products will increase your triglycerides, insulin resistance, weight, bad cholesterol and build up fat in the liver.
This is just a sample of the questions I am frequently asked. I hope this helps you make a decision when and if you want to try these. Best of luck!
NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.