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Diet Plans for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, the right diet plan can get you off insulin and other medications.

Doctors agree that the best diabetes diet plans not only help patients lose weight and lower their blood glucose levels, but in many cases, will completely reverse their type 2 diabetes. Many patients can go off their insulin or other medication, simply by following a weight loss plan specifically tailored to lower —and control— their blood sugar levels.

Pre-diabetic patients can also benefit: A study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that patients with high blood sugar levels cut their chances of developing full-blown diabetes by 58% with diet and regular exercise.

A small amount of weight loss can have a giant impact on a diabetic patient

Weight loss is always beneficial for the diabetic patient. For very heavy people, shedding only 15-20 pounds can produce positive and very significant results:

  • Reduce blood sugar levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Reduce strain on joints, including ankles, knees, and hips
  • Improve energy and mobility

The benefits of weight loss can be significant for diabetes patients, but they are urged to consult their doctor before embarking on a diet. Even small reductions in calorie intake and changes in diet can have a serious impact on blood sugar levels, which need to be monitored closely and coordinated with meal and exercise programs.

The Center for Medical Weight Loss, the largest network of weight loss physicians in the US, has been achieving tested and proven results in treating type 2 diabetes with personalized diet programs specifically tailored to an individual patient’s metabolism and medical needs. “We see diabetic patients all the time who lose weight and no longer need insulin,” says Dr. Michael Kaplan, founder and chief medical officer of the CMWL. “When patients lose 5% – 10% of their body weight, it is a given that they will reduce their blood sugar significantly; many no longer need medication.”

Keys to diet plans for diabetics

Balance fats, proteins and carbs: For most patients on a diabetes diet, a safe goal is to cut 500 total calories per day from their current regular diet. But just as important as the number of total calories a person cuts is the proportion of different kinds of foods they consume. To best maintain a steady, safe blood sugar level, it is recommended that patients divide their daily calories to fit these guidelines:

  • 15% protein
  • 30% fat
  • 55% carbohydrates

Eat the right kind of carbs: Carbs have the most influence on blood sugar—which means that too many or too few carbs can be dangerous for diabetes patients. Especially important is to choose the right kinds of carbs—“complex” carbs, which are absorbed incrementally by the body— to avoid sudden peaks in blood glucose levels. Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are all great carb choices.

Avoid high-protein diets: High-protein, low-carb diets like the Atkins diet are not recommended for diabetes patients, due to the fact that when the body has a deficit of carbs to burn, it starts to burn fat calories instead. The result is a drastic shift in the body’s metabolism, which can cause ketosis, or reduced oxygen supply to the body’s tissues. Ketosis can cause serious damage to the heart, kidney, liver, and eyes.

Exercise: Even a small amount of physical activity, such as a 10-minute walk, can significantly lower blood glucose levels. Regular exercise — particularly aerobic activities like running or cycling — burns calories effectively, meaning that people can eat more each day and still lose weight. Keep in mind that unlike aerobic exercise, which lowers blood sugar immediately, strength training or weight lifting has a delayed effect on blood sugar—so keep fruit or crackers with you in case of a sudden unexpected glucose drop. Read more about diabetes and weight loss.

Patients taking insulin or medication must take special care

The balance of blood sugar, insulin, and other medications in the body is delicate. Diabetes patients on insulin need to keep an especially close watch on glucose levels, to make sure that dieting and exercise don’t cause erratic spikes and drops. Doses of insulin and other medication will often have to be adjusted to complement a patient’s new, lower-calorie eating habits.