The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) reveals that the number of people with diabetes is expected to reach 783 million worldwide by 2045. With the continued increase of people with diabetes, adopting a healthier lifestyle and dietary choices has been more important than ever.
The global diabetic food market is projected to hit $14 billion come 2027, which means that dietary goods with low sugar content and carbohydrates will be more prevalent as the years go on. If you are diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, sticking to a healthy eating plan can help effectively manage your condition and control the glucose levels in your blood.
Diet changes for a person with diabetes can definitely seem daunting. It can feel quite unmotivating to give up foods you love. However, having a diabetic-friendly meal plan should not be as boring as you think. It can actually be easier as time goes on and the diabetic food market grows. You can still find joy in food while persevering through your diabetes management efforts.
Nowadays, there are multiple diabetic diets for you to choose from. Medical professionals highly recommend two diets: the DASH and the Mediterranean diet. Learn more about them in the infographic and article below.
What is the DASH Diet?1
The DASH diet for diabetes stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This plan consists of foods rich in whole plants and limited in added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat, ultimately promoting cardiovascular health and reducing blood pressure.
In the original version of the DASH diet, your daily nutrient goals should only comprise 27% total fat calories, 6% saturated fat calories, 18% protein calories, and 55% carbohydrate calories.
Health Benefits of the DASH Diet2
Prevents the development of diabetes
A meta-analysis by The Journal of Nutrition concluded that the DASH diet has strong potential in preventing diabetes. Since it focuses on plant-based food, you can be sure to receive a lot of antioxidants through this dietary regimen, averting multiple health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Reduces high blood pressure
When trials for the DASH diet were first done in the late ’90s, researchers found that subjects with hypertension had lower blood pressure after undergoing the diet. With a meal plan low in sodium and saturated fats, you will be able to regulate your blood pressure better.
Aids in weight loss
The DASH diet can have a calorie deficit plan. When applied and followed properly, its element of satiety and reduced calorie levels may lead and support you to lose weight. Moreover, since the DASH diet focuses on fiber-filled fruits and lean proteins, it creates a feeling of fullness despite getting portioned meals.
Decreases cancer risks
According to the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, the DASH diet can help lower the risks of certain cancers such as breast and colorectal cancer. This positive association is due to the plan’s high content of antioxidants, fibers, minerals, and vitamins, which are great nutrients that help the body fight and cope with these critical illnesses.
Foods to Eat on the DASH Diet3
As you lower your salt intake, you should bulk up on potassium. Doing so helps your blood vessels relax and lowers your blood pressure. Dried fruits, including raisins, apricots, and prunes, are filled with potassium. Other fruits you can eat in this diet include mangoes, apples, pineapples, pears, and berries.
Under the DASH diet, you are free to eat all sorts of vegetables. Some that you can incorporate in your meals that are low in sugar are a cup of raw leafy vegetables, like kale or spinach, and half a cup of raw or cooked tomatoes, broccoli, squash, or carrots.
You can have six to eight servings of bread, pasta, cereal, or rice per day in the DASH diet. For example, you can fix yourself half a cup of cooked cereal, pasta, rice, a slice of whole wheat bread, or an ounce of dry cereal. Remember: whole grains, paired with lean proteins, are highly encouraged in the DASH diet.
The DASH diet limits your fat consumption, including the fat in most dairy products. It is recommended to only consume two to three daily servings of dairy products to stay on this diet. You should also substitute your full-fat or cream products with low-fat or skim.
When planning your meals, choose lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, and fish. Try to avoid or only occasionally eat red meats or processed meats. These kinds of meat contain saturated and trans fat, which raises your risks of getting cholesterol and heart disease.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?4
The Mediterranean diet for diabetes includes foods that are traditionally eaten in countries around the Mediterranean Sea. This meal plan is fairly similar to the DASH diet as they both encourage vegetables and fruits rich in fiber and vitamins, whole grains, and reduced saturated fat. Their main difference is that the Mediterranean diet supports more fish and less dairy than the DASH diet.
Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet5
Regulates blood sugar levels
Foods under the Mediterranean diet are high in fiber, which helps slow down digestion. Hence, your blood sugar levels do not fluctuate drastically. One study found that the Mediterranean diet can lower your blood sugars and improve insulin sensitivity by consuming less processed foods.
Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease
In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke. While this research shows impressive findings, further studies need to be conducted to determine whether lifestyle factors play a crucial role in lowering these issues.
Improves brain function
Several studies show that the Mediterranean diet can protect you against cognitive decline. Food groups under the Mediterranean diet seemingly aid memory improvement and reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s disease when consumed by the test subjects.
Helps in losing weight
The Mediterranean diet is built more like an eating pattern than a structured diet. Its ability to support weight loss varies from person to person, as it will depend on how you apply the diet to your current one. If calorie deficit is part of your plan, you may lose weight because you eat fewer calories.
The Nutrients Journal also supports the claim that this diet improves the outcomes of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Foods to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet6
Rather than eating cake or ice cream for dessert, you should go for fresh fruits like grapes, figs, nectarines, and strawberries. Not only do they contain more vitamins, but they also have natural sugars that will help manage your blood sugar levels.
Compared to other diets, the Mediterranean diet focuses highly on plant food such as onions, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers. One way to add these to your meals is to grill them and put them in a whole-grain sandwich.
Fish and seafood
The Mediterranean diet is low on animal products such as meat, but fish and seafood are highly encouraged. Experts suggest having it in your meals at least twice a week.
Some seafood you can include in your diet are mussels, oysters, and shrimp. Fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered good fats that can help reduce inflammation and coronary risks.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices such as garlic, pepper, basil, nutmeg, and mint are good additions to help elevate the flavor of your meals. They are also good sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, especially cinnamon. The Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology even found that half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day can significantly reduce blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes.
Aside from fish and plant food, the general guidelines of the Mediterranean diet are also composed of healthy fats like nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil, and avocados. When you replace saturated fats with healthy fats, you help improve your insulin control and lower your blood sugar levels.
Gradually Make the Switch
The DASH and Mediterranean diets are two great eating programs that effectively manage diabetes. It is up to your taste and preference which one you should adopt. Just ensure to make the switch gradually so it can be a part of your daily routine sustainably.
To be guided on a more tailored-fit meal plan, it is best to take the heart disease risk assessment test and seek the guidance of a medical expert.
2021 ESC Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. European Heart Journal (2021) 00, 1-111
Disclaimer: The information provided is for information purposes only and is not meant to be substituted for the advice given by a registered medical practitioner. This should not be used for diagnosing health problems or for self-medication. Boehringer Ingelheim shall not be responsible for any damages or losses arising out of access to or use of information provided.