When it comes to illness, we often focus on drug therapies, leaving out elements such as nutrition and lifestyle, considered only minimally influencing the state of health.
I have seen this type of approach especially when there is a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes : all the attention is placed on the drug to be taken, while the nutritional intervention is reduced to a generic indication, which turns out to be useless and sometimes even harmful.
What is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is a chronic metabolic disease that is very common nowadays and unfortunately is continuously increasing.
Normally the mechanism that governs glucose metabolism works like this: the carbohydrates we take from the diet are digested and broken down into sugar, which ends up in the blood; at that point the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone necessary to let sugar enter cells to produce energy, in directly proportional quantities.
In DMT2, however, the mechanism jams : the insulin no longer works very well causing a situation of insulin resistance, or it is no longer produced in the quantities that would be needed.
The sugar therefore remains in the blood, the blood sugar increases , and this stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin, causing imbalances and disorders that can turn into even serious complications.
Insulin resistance occurs mainly in overweight subjects , where fat represents an enormous amount of stored energy.
But insulin is also a lipogenic hormone, that is, responsible for the formation of fat, so the whole procedure favors weight gain, with a real vicious circle that affects an increasingly large number of people.
Dietary advice for sufferers
To make you understand the importance of nutrition even if you are taking drug therapy for diabetes, I want to tell you the story of a patient of mine from when I was still practicing medicine.
At the time Gianna was 53 years old, overweight and has type 2 diabetes mellitus for which she was prescribed a drug and the generic food indication to “eliminate sugars”.
Determined to take care of herself, she takes the drug regularly and no longer eats table sugar, sweets and fruit, but her blood sugar is struggling to return to normal.
“ Eliminating sugars ” is too vague an indication: it certainly eliminates a problem, but it does not guarantee that the resulting diet is balanced in general or for the specific case.
The presence of industrial fats, the excess of fatty meats and cheeses , the consumption of alcohol, the excessive use of refined cereals and the low intake of vegetables, for example, are factors that they can affect the level of blood sugar and the functioning of insulin but that Gianna did not know and had not taken into consideration.
Furthermore, ” eliminating sugars ” does not necessarily ensure weight loss – a necessary condition to restore correct interaction between cells and insulin – and can lead to the demonization of a precious and fiber-rich food and micronutrients such as fruit which, if well managed, does not interfere at all with the normalization of blood sugar.
This can be taken as an example of how limiting nutritional intervention to a generic indication can be useless and sometimes even harmful.
What foods to avoid with type 2 diabetes
As this is a metabolic disease, it is easier for people to be subject to excess weight, hypertriglyceridemia or hypercholesterolemia in cases of T2DM: these are all possible consequences or contributory causes of the onset of diabetes that influence each other.
It is therefore important to pay attention to all those foods that can affect this and that contain large quantities of:
- added sugars
- trans fats
- saturated fat
All components that we find above all in processed and packaged foods, ready meals, sweets and snacks, cold cuts, snacks, chips and drinks, options to be eliminated as much as possible.
Other foods should instead only be limited, such as some of those of animal origin: red meat, eggs and cheeses should, for example, be alternated in the rotations of the main courses, while butter can replace fats such as extra virgin olive oil, which should always be preferred.
Foods you think you can’t (wrongly) eat
Can potatoes be eaten? What about carrots? What about bananas?
Often, even today, many people with type 2 diabetes mellitus are convinced that they must completely avoid certain foods: carrots, potatoes, or more sugary fruits such as bananas, grapes and mandarins.
The secret, however, lies not in quality but in quantity.
Let’s take for example that your normal portion of fruit is 150 g: if you wanted to consume a fruit with a higher sugar content than the average, such as grapes, bananas or tangerines, it would be enough to reduce your portion to about 100 g per have an intake of sugars not excessive, but not at the same time having to give up that kind of fruit.
potatoes should always be considered as a possible substitute for grains such as pasta or bread, but quality counts here too: it’s better to prefer sweet potatoes, which, despite the name, have a lower glycemic index than classic varieties.
Preparation is also important . A mashed potatoes will not be the same if prepared with real potatoes or with ready-made products: the potato flakes of the instant puree should be avoided; better still eat boiled potatoes , perhaps in salads.
Finally, what matters is the meal as a whole and not just the individual food, which is why it is more important that the meal contains fiber from vegetables, fruit and legumes , rather than fossilize on a slightly higher sugar content: it is true, carrots contain 7.6% carbohydrates (source IEO database) against an average of about 3 g out of 100 for the category “ vegetables ”, but this won’t be the difference, as much as the meal as a whole.
Each case must be addressed in a specific and personalized way , but there are some indications that can be put into practice both in case you are a healthy person who wants to do prevention, and in case you have already a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Swap refined grains for whole grains
Pasta, rice, bread and substitutes should be as whole as possible, in order to increase the intake of fiber from the diet, which will help modulate the glycemic response of your body.
Eating grains can also be a good idea: you will also increase the variety of your diet.
Eat more legumes
Legumes are very rich in fiber, contain both carbohydrates and proteins, but less than cereals and animal products: if you decide to combine them with cereals, remember to halve both portions.
They also greatly increase the sense of satiety, allowing you to control hunger and your body weight.
Some healthy fats …
The fats to prefer are those from extra virgin olive oil , fatty fish such as mackerel or salmon and dried fruit, also rich in fiber: these foods will help you keep your lipid profile and also your dietary cholesterol intake.
… and lots of vegetables
Vegetables are to be eaten both raw and cooked, of every color and better if in season: they contain a lot of fiber but also a lot of micronutrients, such as minerals and vitamins.
The right quantities of fruit
It is better to consume fruit as it is, avoiding juices and limiting centrifuges and juices: it is true that the naturally present sugar content is quite high, but fiber and water have a positive influence by slowing down its absorption.
In general it is good that meals have a low glycemic load , but this depends on both the quantity and the quality of what you eat: the previous indications, combined with the Harvard single dish concept , could be a good starting point for dealing with a type 2 diabetes situation.
I have given you some suggestions in the previous lines, but I would like to remind you that in any case it is important that you rely on the care of your diabetic doctor : he will help you monitor the situation and he will decide the need or not for drug therapy and the possible support of a dietician for the nutritional field.
Only an expert opinion can give you information on how to keep the disease and its possible complications under control.
Set up an appropriate diet for the specific case, making it understood in detail by the person concerned, and associate it with a motor activity program can, on the other hand, significantly help drug therapy to bring blood sugar levels back to normal and, in milder cases, to even make the use of drugs unnecessary .
In fact, among the diabetes risk factors we find, in addition to excess weight and hyperalimentation , also a sedentary lifestyle and cigarette smoking, a sign that lifestyle matters a lot in determining the severity of a disease. You must therefore adopt a healthy overall lifestyle in order not to lose health, mental freshness and energy.
Watch the free video lesson “Nutrition timing” taken from the course ” Potential Nutrition ” contained in Soul Camp ™, it can help you get a clearer idea about your diet.