The Mediterranean diet emphasizes nutrient-rich eating from sources such as vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and lean protein. The dietary approach has been praised for its health benefits in recent years, including improved heart health. Now, it’s also been hailed as a beneficial diet for people with type 2 diabetes, thanks to its ability to improve several key biomarkers, such as inflammation, insulin resistance, body mass index (BMI), and HDL cholesterol.
How the Mediterranean Diet Helps with Type 2 Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is a flavorful eating pattern based on the dietary habits of people in countries near the Mediterranean Sea. It offers filling meal options that prioritize the nutrients bodies need to perform their best, while also limiting additives such as refined carbohydrates, red meat, and added sugars.
According to research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants of the Mediterranean diet had the best A1C scores, which measure blood sugar over a three-month period. They also lost more weight and had the best cardiovascular health, including improved cholesterol levels, compared to peers who participated in high-protein, high-fiber, vegetarian, vegan, or low-carbohydrate diets.
While this heart-healthy diet can’t reverse diabetes, it can help reduce the risk of complications related to the disease. By reducing cholesterol, it protects the heart, thereby limiting the risk for serious issues such as heart attack and stroke. The diet also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by as much as 30%.
Which Foods Can You Eat on the Mediterranean Diet?
Fortunately, the Mediterranean diet isn’t restrictive and is quite simple. The idea is to incorporate as many fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible and prioritize lean meat or plant-based protein, such as skinless chicken, fish, and legumes. Here are a few examples of which foods are commonly eaten in the diet:
- Whole Grains: Choose whole-grain bread and pasta products, as well as quinoa, brown rice, barley, and farro.
- Nuts, Seeds, & Beans: Heart-healthy nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios are excellent choices. You can also have sunflower and sesame seeds, beans such as kidney, white, black, and cannellini beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
- Vegetables: Eat a variety of vegetables such as bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, artichokes, carrots, beets, fennel, onions, and zucchinis, among others.
- Fruits: While fruits do naturally contain sugars, they are also nutrient-rich and can be enjoyed in moderation. Consider snacking on melons, figs, dates, grapes, citrus fruits, berries, and apples.
- Healthy Fats: Olive oil is a great source of healthy fats, and can be used for cooking or salads.
- Fresh Fish & Seafood: Salmon, shrimp, halibut, mackerel, herring, trout, and other seafood rich in healthy fats are among the best protein sources.
- Dairy & Poultry: Reduced-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt and milk, eggs, and lean poultry are all welcome choices on the Mediterranean diet.
While switching to an entirely new eating style can be overwhelming, you might consider taking small steps to work towards a full Mediterranean dietary lifestyle. For instance, you might start by reducing or eliminating processed foods, then aim to incorporate vegetables with most of your meals. Making healthy dietary choices can deliver numerous wellness benefits and is a worthwhile endeavor, even if it takes some time to adapt.
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For people with diabetes or pre-diabetes, making healthy
dietary choices is an important aspect of disease management. In particular,
patients should avoid foods that are known to spike blood sugar to keep their
levels within a healthy range. Even for individuals who aren’t diabetic,
limiting or avoiding these foods can help to prevent against serious health
issues, including insulin resistance, obesity, and heart disease. Discover some
of the worst culprits behind elevated blood sugar below.
White Grain Products
While limiting your consumption of grain products may have
certain health benefits, you don’t have to skip rice and bread products altogether.
Simply steer clear of white rice and bread, and opt for whole-grain varieties
instead. In particular, eating white
rice regularly has been associated with an increased risk of type 2
diabetes. This could be a result of the food’s lack of fiber, which helps to
regulate blood sugar levels. White bread, too, is linked to a higher risk of
type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
It’s made from refined flour, which is digested too quickly and can therefore
spike blood sugar.
Too much red meat increases the likelihood of developing
diabetes, especially when it’s processed. Even just two slices of bacon or one
hot dog eaten daily can increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by as much
Red meat has also been linked to higher levels of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular
disease. Researchers suspect that while the saturated fat found in red meat is
one part of the problem, the high level of sodium, which can increase blood
pressure and create insulin resistance, is also to blame.
Fried, greasy foods may look appetizing, but they’re among
the worst offenders on this list. Most varieties have soaring calorie, fat, and
salt counts, all of which spike blood sugar. Salty fast food is particularly
dangerous, as it can increase blood pressure. Because diabetes patients already
face a higher risk of heart
disease, controlling blood pressure is critically important to their health.
Commercially prepared baked goods and other packaged snacks
should be avoided, or at least eaten in moderation. Many of these options have
harmful additives and are high in trans fats, which can impact your cholesterol
and lead to inflammation. Snacking on whole foods, such as a handful of
almonds, vegetable sticks, roasted chick peas, and hard-boiled eggs will
deliver more nutritious benefits in between meals.
As mentioned above, saturated fat can lead to insulin
resistance, or the body’s inability to use insulin for energy. When this
happens, insulin builds up in the blood, leading to higher blood sugar levels.
While not all dairy contributes to this issue, whole milk and other full-fat
dairy products are particularly high in saturated fats. For this reason,
diabetics should choose reduced or nonfat dairy products, including yogurts and
cheeses, whenever possible.
Making necessary diet changes to keep the blood sugar levels under control is key especially for those with diabetes. Focus on consuming foods that improve your condition and keep your diabetes under control. There are some key foods identified by researchers that are known to improve the condition and reduce the risk:
The tiny berries are a source of daily good carbs and research also shows that eating blueberries improves sensitivity to insulin. The phytochemicals present in blueberries also have special anti-inflammatory properties that are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases especially the ones associated with diabetes type 2.
Incorporate more clementines, grapefruits, and oranges in your daily diet. Research shows that consuming citrus fruits can have a long-term positive effect on blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Research conducted at Harvard University showed that consuming the whole fruit with the pulp rather than just the juice reduces the risks of diabetes type 2. This is due to the presence of their soluble fiber and the compound called hesperidin which is an anti-inflammatory by nature.
Is it possible that a sweet treat like chocolate can control glucose levels? Yes, studies show that high-quality dark chocolate if consumed daily can decrease blood pressure and fasting insulin levels. This is achieved due to the presence of the compound called polyphenols. Try replacing unhealthy carbs with a high-quality low sugar dark chocolate to improve the glucose levels while also satisfying your taste buds.
Chickpeas are quite well-known for having a low glycemic index, making it very beneficial for diabetes. New research also suggests that consuming legumes has a very therapeutic effect on the body. Compared to others, people who consume a cup of legumes daily showed a significant decrease in blood pressure and hemoglobin values.
Replacing unhealthy fats with good healthy fats is suggested for everybody but especially for those who have diabetes type 2. Consumption of extra virgin olive oil has been proven to be associated with the decreased risk of diabetes and improves glucose levels because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Try to incorporate olive oil as much as possible in your diet like including it as a dressing for your salads.
It is observed that vegetarians have a lower risk of diabetes 2 development. A study published in 2012 showed that a diet that is mainly centered around fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes has a major positive effect on people who are diabetic. Some participants who strictly followed this diet showed a significant decrease in hemoglobin type A1, blood pressure, HDL levels, and triglycerides. Almost 60% of the participants resulted with glucose levels within the normal range.
Diabetes patients who had a high intake of non-starchy leafy green vegetables showed a significant decrease in the levels of hemoglobin and risk of cardiovascular diseases. Advanced research is being carried out to see whether these effects were specifically due to the presence of vitamins A, C, and E in the dense green leafy vegetables. It is also observed that best results were obtained when people consumed a minimum of 200 grams of vegetables daily. This included around 70g of green vegetables.
Nuts and Peanut Butter
Having 5 servings of nuts a week showed a major reduction in the stroke risk and heart disease in women with diabetes type 2. A study published also showed that diabetic patients consuming 2 ounces of nuts daily as a substitute to regular carbohydrates had improved blood sugar levels and blood lipids. Try incorporating daily carbs like almonds, walnuts and peanut butter instead of unhealthy carbs. Be sure to watch the sodium intake and portion size.
Many studies have shown that including good bacteria in your diet has a positive effect on glucose regulation. Consuming food such as probiotic yogurt significantly improves the HgbA1 and glucose levels when consumed for eight weeks or longer.
Cinnamon increases the sensitivity to insulin which in turn reduces blood sugar. The science behind how this spice does the job is still under study however, a majority of the studies conducted thus far have shown cinnamon as an aid to controlling the glucose level of blood if consumed regularly and long term. You can incorporate cinnamon in your diet by sprinkling it on foods you regularly eat like nuts, oatmeal, butter and yogurt.
Diabetes patients know that maintaining regular visits with their primary care physician is essential to effectively managing their condition and its symptoms. Yet, it’s also critical to make sure other aspects of their health are well-maintained, too. In order to take an all-encompassing approach to health management, individuals with diabetes should also follow a regular schedule of eye and dental exams as recommended by their optometrist and dental care team. Discover why these two facets of health are so important for diabetes patients in particular here.
Eye Exams for People with Diabetes
If you’ve never had an eyesight issues, you may wonder why your primary doctor would recommend having an eye exam following a diabetes diagnosis. The reason for this is because certain conditions in the eye, including glaucoma and cataracts, are more common in diabetes patients. While they are commonly treatable when caught in their early stages, when left unaddressed, they could lead to vision loss.
Additionally, individuals with diabetes may be at risk of developing a condition called diabetic retinopathy. When too much sugar is found in the blood supply, it can impact the blood flow to the retina. In its earliest stages, symptoms may be undetectable, but over time the condition may cause blurred vision, floaters, difficulty focusing, or other vision changes. Luckily, this and other conditions can be detected in tests performed during diabetic eye exams.
Any time you notice changes in your vision, it’s important to discuss your symptoms with an eye care professional. As with many other health conditions, treatments are often most effective when administered in the earliest phases of eye-related issues. It is advisable for individuals with diabetes to receive eye exams performed by specialists at least once every one to two years, depending on their doctor’s recommendation.
Dental Exams for Diabetes Patients
According to research, there has been a recent decline in dental visits in adult patients with diabetes. This is a problem because dental wellness and diabetes are interdependent on one another: for instance, people with diabetes have higher odds of developing periodontal disease, and periodontal disease can worsen diabetes by impacting blood glucose levels.
As with eye exams, dental checkups are useful for early detection of potentially serious issues. Periodontal disease, also called periodontitis, is an aggressive form of untreated gum disease which causes pockets to form between the teeth and the soft tissue of the mouth. Within these pockets, infections can develop, which may eventually lead to bone loss. Thus, not only can periodontitis worsen diabetes symptoms, but it can eventually lead to widespread health issues.
The good news is that the dental conditions to which diabetes patients are more prone, including all forms of gum disease, are easily detected by dental care professionals. Therefore, while a preventive dental care regimen is important for all individuals, it is especially critical for anyone with diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition with symptoms that are not isolated to one part of the body, so it’s important to take as broad an approach to wellness as possible. By going for regular eye and dental checkups in addition to receiving treatment from your diabetic care team, you can manage your symptoms more proactively and enjoy a better quality of life.
For individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders, finding effective ways to manage symptoms is critical. While there are many medical treatments available to treat these illnesses, making dietary changes may also yield positive results in some patients. One such dietary change to consider is swapping out regular cow’s milk for camel’s milk.
Camel’s Milk for Diabetes
People with diabetes must be mindful of their dietary choices so as to manage blood sugar levels. While milk is a staple item in many individuals’ diets, it is notoriously high in fat and can cause blood sugar to rise. Camel milk, on the other hand, doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar, and could in fact help reduce the amount of insulin needed to control diabetes because it is a rich, natural source of the hormone.
According to a recently published study, the milk has been shown to be a suitable hypoglycemic agent in patients with diabetes. Further research shows camel milk is beneficial for people with diabetes, and consuming it resulted in improved blood sugar levels and a 30% reduction in required doses of insulin among the majority of study participants. Here’s another interesting find: areas where camel milk is consumed regularly experience lower rates of diabetes, suggesting that consuming it could even aid in prevention efforts.
Camel’s Milk for Autoimmune Conditions
Individuals with autoimmune conditions, which cause the immune system to attack healthy cells, might also benefit from incorporating the beverage into their diets. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis are just a few examples of these types of conditions.
Camel’s milk has a high concentration of immunoglobulins, which help to boost the body’s immune system. Though similar to the immunoglobulins in humans, the ones found in the milk are smaller and are therefore absorbed more easily by the body. Since the immune system in individuals with an autoimmune disorder is compromised, consuming these immunoglobulins may aid in alleviating the severity of their conditions. Some researchers even attribute these unique properties to reversing allergies because of their immune-boosting benefits. While the verdict is still out on whether its powers can alleviate allergies for good, at the very least, camel’s milk is a suitable dairy alternative for those who are allergic to cow’s milk.
Where Can You Purchase Camel’s Milk?
If you’re interested in finding out whether camel’s milk could provide health benefits for you or a family member, you unfortunately won’t be able to find it in most grocery stores just yet. While some health food retailers (such as Whole Foods) do carry it, for now, it seems the simplest way to purchase the drink is online, but always be sure to research online retailers before making a purchase.
Changing one’s lifestyle can be a major step towards the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. If you have a family history of diabetes or are overweight, it is crucially important for you to make it a priority to prevent yourself from the increased risk of the disease.
In fact, diabetes prevention is as easy and simple as just maintaining a healthy diet, losing some weight, or being active physically. Making these changes can help avoid serious complications like kidney, heart and nerve damage.
When it comes to Type 2 Diabetes, great news is that almost 90% cases could be avoided by taking the simple steps given below.
Increase Fiber Intake
Include fiber rich foods in your diet by eating fruits, beans, vegetables and whole grains. This will reduce your blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of diabetes, heart diseases and also promote weight loss as fiber rich foods can make you feel full and eat less.
Get Physically Active
Regular exercise and physical activity will help you lose weight, boost the sensitivity to insulin and lower the blood sugar levels. Research also shows that aerobic exercises can help control diabetes, especially when undertaken regularly to have continued benefits.
Lose Excess Weight
Each and every single pound you shed can lead to an improved health if you have diabetes. A research study proved that participants who lost a great deal of weight by regular exercise reduced the chances of getting diabetes by 44%.
Cut Down Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks are highly associated with a risk of diabetes because of high glycemic levels. Research also proved that people who consumed more than one sugary beverage daily had 83% higher chance of developing diabetes.
Quit sugary drinks by replacing them with water, tea or coffee. Coffee is also known to help prevent diabetes as well as a cup of tea.
Include Good Fats in your Diet
The type of fat you consume also affects the development of the condition. Polyunsaturated fats, usually found in nuts, vegetable oils and seeds are known to be good fats and are known to ward off the disease. However, eating the same polyunsaturated fats from fish called the omega-3 fats may be very healthy for heart conditions but do not prevent against diabetes.
On the other hand, bad fats namely Trans fats found in margarine, baked and fried foods do the opposite.
Many people with Type 2 Diabetes are found to be smokers. It is estimated that almost 50% of smokers are more likely to develop the disease while heavier smokers are even at a higher risk.
Avoid Red or Processed Meat
Avoid processed or red meat and instead, use nuts, poultry, whole grains, or fish. More evidence is showing that the risk of diabetes is increased with the consumption of red meat.
Research has found that consuming red meat may increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 19%.
When to See a Doctor
A glucose screening is usually recommended if you are:
- Older than 45 years of age and overweight
- Younger than 45 but overweight with a risk factor of Type 2 Diabetes