I really feel for the wider public when it comes to the issue of a diabetes diet because I truly believe the common prescription that is being given to people on a daily basis is highly flawed.
Here’s just one example shared on my facebook page recently (thank you Sue):
Sue is just one of the people receiving recommendations from dieticians to continue to consume a high carbohydrate diet (filled with crap) with little protein and fat!
It’s surely no wonder that people don’t seem to be getting any better.
Nutrition Recommendations – an interesting topic
Discussing nutrition recommendations is an intersting topic. I’m currently completing a Masters in Nutrition and I get frustrated with much of the information we get ‘taught’ because it is behind what current research has to say. Thank goodness I’m an avid researcher with a very open mind 🙂
It also continually frustrates me that no one is ever looking at a holistic picture but always segmenting symptoms into neat little boxes. I just think this gets you nowhere when you’re trying to piece a puzzle together.
Look I don’t claim to have all the answers, but type 2 diabetes is beginning to become more and more of a passion for me and I will continue to debunk myths and determine some of the facts as I go along. So I hope what I discover and share in future helps you to get a clearer picture of what really constitutes a healthy diabetes diet.
I think you have to look at the evidence with a very critical eye, and of course there is also some personal opinion involved too. However as it sits right now, the overall current recommendations for people with diabetes are to follow the Governments dietary guidelines for the general population. In Australia that’s the healthy eating guide, in the US it’s the Dietary guidelines for Americans. They are both the same since Australia tends to take their facts from what the US sets as a model.
The Diabetes Diet Prescription
So here’s what a diabetes diet prescription currently looks like to them:
Eat foods from the 5 core food groups, maintain a healthy weight, enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods, limit intake of fat especially saturated fat, minimise trans fats, limit intake of added salt, sugar and limit alcohol intake.
These are pretty basic and generally apply to most of the population in general.
They also have points to allow the consumption of sucrose, promote the use of artificial sweeteners and diet products, encourage low fat, and a few other interesting things I won’t mention here.
Some of these recommendations are highly questionable in my eyes and I’m not going to cover them all in this post or it will end up a major essay but lets just go over the main macronutrients, carbohydrate, fats, and proteins and we’ll finish with a bit about weight loss.
So here’s why I think some of the common prescription is flawed.
Why do I think the recommendations are flawed?
Some of what I’m about to share is based on fact and some on opinion purely because I haven’t conducted the research, yet. Believe me I do intend to investigate all of these things in more detail.
There is no evidence to suggest that 40-65% of a healthy diet should come from carbohydrate. Even though it currently does, there is no statistical evidence to say it should.
It is a well documented and researched fact that monosaccharides (aka simple sugars), and fructose cause high blood sugar and insulin release that contributes to insulin resistance and yet common diabetic diet prescriptions are asking people to cut the protein and fat, so what are people left to do? Most likely they will increase carbohydrate intake.
Sure, there is nothing wrong with carbs, we do need them. But not in the proportions they are currently being consumed. And definitely not in the forms they are currently being consumed becuase in many cases people won’t be swaping their intake for whole grains and more fibre.
For diabetics and everyone in general, the focus on eating vegetables before other carbohydrates is definitely a key aim. Space your carbohydrate intake evenly throughout the day and eat a good balance between carbohydrate, fat and protein.
Associated problems with diabetes such as high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, lead to the recommendation to reduce saturated fat and trans fats. Saturated fat is still commonly believed to contribute to these problems and so in the eyes of diabetes educators a reduction in these will reduce complications of diabetes and help weight loss.
There is now increasing evidence to suggest that both diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease are diseases sparked by increased inflammation in the body. But information such as this is still going to take a while to come to the fore as far as widely spread prescriptions go.
Research does suggest that saturated fat and trans fats are associated with diabetes, but medium chain fatty acids and medium chain triglycerides in the form of coconut oil, butter and olive oil are a whole different story. These types of fats may have antidiabetic effects and decrease body fat accumulation, improve insulin and glucose metabolism, and may improve cardiac dysfunction. Other healthy fats to eat regularly include Omega 3 oils such as flaxseed, fish oil, and eating oily fish such as salmon and sardines.
The common reasoning behind recommending lower intake of protein is in helping reduce impact on the kidneys and the diabetes complication of nepropathy. And the red meat and saturated fat link always comes into the picture too. When it comes to this advice there is some truth in it because generally speaking most people consume conventional meats that are grain fed and the livestock are commonly fed hormones and antibiotics too.
Conventional red meats have an imbalanced ratio of Omega 3/Omega 6 fats and this makes them proinflammatory. It is also true that red meats do have more saturated fat to other meats, but the most important connection I see is that animals store toxins in fat, just like we do. Therefore the fat of conventional meats will be of less value to the body on a nutritional level and could further increase inflammation leading to cardiovascular risk and other possible complications.
If you were to eat organic or grass fed red meats, then your exposure to proinflammatory markers and toxins is lessened a great deal and the issue of eating saturated fat becomes lessened in nature. You may not be able to afford organic, but many supermarkets and stores now commonly stock grass fed red meats, so selecting those is going to be a better option.
The common myth that fat makes you fat is nonsense. And the common prescription dictates that eating fat increases energy intake leading to weight gain. It is actually excess carbohydrate and sugar consumption that frequently leads to higher energy intake overall. Excess carbohydrate and sugar also largely contributes to high blood sugar and promotes excess fat storage.
If you want to lose weight, focus on eating loads of fresh vegetables, a bit of fruit, a good balance of protein and healthy fats and that’s all you need to do. Our body needs all of the macronutrients to function effectively so it’ always a matter of balance and most importantly a focus on quality.
I hope this has helped to ease a little of the confusion around a diabetic diet and I will defintely be sharing more details in the future.
Nutritionist & Health Counselor
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