The Five Keys to Eating Right for Diabetes Health

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 7

Listen to your body when you eat. You can hear whether your diet is right for you if you pay attention to what your body tells you. Each body is different, and none of us responds to what we eat in exactly the same way as other people. Ask your body what it thinks about these five questions.

Does what and how much you eat let you manage your blood glucose level?

While controlling diabetes isn’t easy, you are lucky that your A1C level is such a simple guide. When it’s normal, probably 5.7 or less, you minimize the risk of complications. Diabetes drugs can help, but a safer way to get to normal is not to eat lots of those foods that raise your level. Those foods are grains, potatoes, and other carbohydrates.

Do you eat too much to get your weight right?

Don’t join the crowd. It’s no coincidence that 85 percent of American adults with diabetes are overweight or obese. When you get to a normal weight, managing your glucose level will become easier. The standard way to get normal is to have a normal body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9. You can calculate it here.

Do your lipid levels look good?

Lipid levels measure your cholesterol and triglycerides and help determine your risk of heart disease. Guidelines say the optimal LDL cholesterol level is less than 100 mg/dl, HDL cholesterol needs to be above 60 mg/dl, and a normal triglyceride level is below 150 mg/dl. A study showed that a very low-carbohydrate diet improves these levels.

Do your meals help keep your blood pressure normal?

When your blood pressure is normal, you cut your risk of heart disease, stroke, and more. Normal is under 120/80 mmHg. Losing weight is the most important step in reducing it. Cutting back on one type of carbohydrate, fructose, may also help. But if you are salt sensitive, you will also need to cut back on the amount of salt in your food.

How do you feel when you finish a meal?

The fifth key or principle is to wait 15 minutes before grabbing a dessert or a second helping. If you are still hungry 15 minutes after finishing a meal, you might need more. But it’s more likely that you ate something that contained wheat or other grain, which is addicting.

It’s your call

Your diet is no exception to the fundamental way to manage diabetes: it is a disease that, perhaps more than any other, depends much more on the patient than on the doctor. All of us are different. If your diet fails any one of these tests, these are the guidelines showing how to make a course correction. This means that the ball is in your court.