Clean Eating For Diabetics

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Clean eating for diabetics should, in my opinion, be recommended by all doctors everywhere.

But what do I know. I’m just diabetic and a clean eater. Ha!

Because I talk a lot about my blood sugar issues here, I get a lot of questions from diabetic readers. And the question I’m asked most frequently is, “Is clean eating okay for diabetics?

Clean Eating For Diabetics

Because I’m not a medical professional, I do not want to inadvertently give medical advice. Please remember, this is the internet. You should be getting your medical advice from a medical professional.

I also want to be sure that the information I post in this article is accurate. So for this blog post, I’m collaborating with Jessica Biehn, RD. We have worked together on this blog post to ensure that the information is current and correct. Jessica is a clean eater as well.

This is what Jessica has to say on the topic:

THREE TYPES OF DIABETES:

  • Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar and other carbohydrates into energy. This type of diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults.
  • Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Although most often diagnosed in adults, it is becoming increasingly prevalent in children. In Type 2 Diabetes, insulin is not utilized properly in the body, causing high blood glucose levels and poor metabolism. Lifestyle is often very influential in the development of this disease.
  • Gestational Diabetes is diagnosed in pregnant women who have abnormal blood glucose levels.

For this post, we will concentrate primarily on Type 2 Diabetes. There are several risk factors that increase the chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes. These include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, race, age, familial history, and others.1 Additionally, more studies are emerging and are suggesting that a diet of processed foods may significantly contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes.2, 3, 4

PROCESSED FOODS AND DIABETES:

To know how processed foods contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes, we must first understand how processed carbohydrates are metabolized in the body. When grains are processed (milled) for food products like bread or cereal, for example, the germ and bran (fiber) and other inherent nutrients like chromium, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and iron, are removed. When fiber, specifically, is removed, the carbohydrate that remains is converted to glucose by the body much more quickly during digestion, thus rapidly increasing blood sugar levels. In someone with impaired glucose utilization or insulin resistance, the body does not produce insulin effectively and blood sugars begin to build up in the blood. Over time, the consumption of heavily processed foods can increase the need for insulin production by the body, leading to adverse health conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, amongst others.

Oppositely, if fiber is intact in the original grain, the body will react and handle its presence much differently. A portion of the fiber will simply pass through the digestive system completely. This means that eating grains and other foods rich in fiber will less likely cause a spike in high blood sugar, limiting the need for the body to produce excess insulin. These foods will also be more nutritious since their naturally occurring vitamins and minerals will still be available.

Similar to processed grains, other things like soft drinks, candy, sweetened foods and desserts (especially those using refined grains and sugars), and foods with consumer-unaware added sugar, also increase blood glucose levels.   Even artificial sweeteners, which have long been hailed as an easy and safe way for diabetics to enjoy sweet foods and drinks, are now in question as to their efficacy in disease management. One report has even found that these substances can reduce glucose tolerance in individuals.5

A LOW CARB CLEAN EATING DIET FOR DIABETICS?

 Considering the above information, wouldn’t it make sense for those suffering with Type 2 Diabetes to switch to low-carbohydrate diets in an effort to maintain blood-glucose levels? That is currently the speculation. Two studies recently determined that diets low in carbohydrates were effective in blood-glucose control6, reduced cardiovascular risk factors6,7 and promoted weight loss7. Many health professionals have even gone as far as to state that low-carbohydrate diets should be part of standardized care for those living with diabetes.8 Of course this is not without caution.

WARNING: Please seek advice from your doctor or dietitian before switching to a diet low in carbohydrates, especially if you are someone who is receiving insulin. By switching to a low-carbohydrate diet, it is possible to experience dangerously low blood sugar levels and other side effects.

 Keep in mind, too, that food and its quality have also steadily changed, mostly within the last 100 years. Agriculture is no longer sustained by a farmer and his family, but by large corporations and businesses. Produce, meat, eggs, and milk were once locally raised and grown. Now food is obtained world-wide, and what is commonly available and consumed is often heavily processed.9

Therefore, clean-eating for diabetics would certainly benefit someone with Type 2 Diabetes as well. Those who eat ‘clean’ avoid processed grains, processed sugars, artificial food ingredients, and soft drinks. Clean eaters are concerned about the quality of food they consume and the benefits these foods offer to their overall health. As Tiffany discussed in her post, What is Clean Eating, there are a few different types of Clean Eating to choose from. Please also discuss this matter with your doctor to determine the type that works best for your current health situation!

This piece only summarizes parts of a very large topic. Not all data available is inclusive, nor is this post meant to be personal nutrition advice. Please use caution if you plan to alter your lifestyle. Inform your doctor of any changes that you may consider!

 Wishing you the very best of health!

  1. Web MD. Risk Factors for Diabetes. Retrieved January 14, 2015 from www.webmd.com/diabetes/risk-factors-for-diabetes.
  2. Cai and colleagues (2012). Oral advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) promote insulin resistance and diabetes by depleting the antioxidant defenses AGE receptor-1 and sirtuin. Retrieved January 13, 2015 from http://pnas.org/content/109/39/15888.
  3. Gross and colleagues (2004). Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecological assessment. Retrieved January 12, 2015 from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/774.full.pdf+html.
  4. Basu and colleagues (February 27, 2013). The relationship of sugar to population-level diabetes prevalence: an econometric analysis of repeated cross-sectional data. PLoS One Epub.
  5. Suez and colleagues (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Retrieved January 14, 2015 from: Source
  6. Tay and colleagues (2014). A Very Low Carbohydrate, Low Saturated Fat Diet for Type 2 Diabetes Management: A Randomized Trial. Retrieved January 14, 2015 from Source.
  7. Bazzano and colleagues (2014). Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial. Retrieved January 14, 2015 from source: Annals of Internal Medicine.
  8. Diabetes in Control (August 1, 2014). Low-carb Diets Recommended for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Retrieved on January 14, 2015 from (link no longer live)
  9. Smith, J. (1994). Atwater to the Present: What Have We Learned About Our Food Supply? Retrieved January 12, 2015 from (link no longer works).

Jessica, MS RD, has worked in a retirement home, a hospital, and has consulted for various businesses in the past. Currently, she is a stay-at-home mom to four small children. Her youngest child is adopted and has Down syndrome. She writes about her life and family at www.ourpathlesstraveled.wordpress.com. Using her nutrition knowledge, she strives to live as a healthy, active example to her family and friends.

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8 Comments

  1. I’ve changed to “clean eating” for 4 months and my blood sugar and A1C have both dropped to near “non-diabetic” levels. Everyone is different but it sure has helped me control my diabetes

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Susan – Absolutely!!! You just can’t go wrong with real food. 🙂

  2. Hi! Thanks for posting this! I am a certified Health Coach and my focus is people with type 2 Diabetes. It was very helpful to see this.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Nicole – I’m happy it helped in some way! 🙂

  3. Tonya Keena says:

    I am a Type 2 diabetic and have been trying to clean eat for about month now. Since starting it, I have been having a terrible time controlling my blood sugar levels. I am experiencing extreme lows which leads to reducing my insulin or treating lows and then rebounding to extreme highs. Any helpful tips or comments from you or your followers would be appreciated.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tonya – That sounds like a question for a medical professional. I would contact your doctor. It could be that you just need to balance your proteins more, but I really can’t say. I have no medical training whatsoever.

  4. Would like an example of how to balance protein.

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