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    In Australia, 1.7 million people suffer from diabetes, and a new Australian is diagnosed with diabetes every 5 minutes.  A disease that is often brought on by poor dietary choices and the continues consumption of processed, sugary foods, its long-term consequences include liver, kidney and pancreas problems, increased blood pressure and circulation issues leading to edema in the lower extremities.  Diabetes occurs when the body is not able to properly secrete insulin and manage blood sugar levels.  This can be due to an issue within the pancreas, or simply because the insulin receptors are no longer responsive. With the prevalence and diagnosis of diabetes on the rise, it is important to learn ways to manage the disease. One of the most important aspects of this is diet.  Learning to eat the right foods to reduce the impacts of the disease and work towards reducing its effects on the body is a key part of disease management.  And while the overall theme of eating for diabetes is to eat whole, natural, plant-based foods, that are free of added sugar and high in nutrients, there are other foods you can consume that have a more targeted effect on diabetes health.

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    Foods for diabetic

    apples, avocado, and dandelion root

    Dandelion Root– Available as a powder and in tea form, dandelion root is a superfood for the liver.  The liver is the body’s main detoxifying and metabolizing organ, responsible for metabolizing drugs and alcohol, detoxifying food and drink that we consume and preventing toxins from being taken into our bloodstream.  The liver is also closely linked to the pancreas, where the insulin is typically secreted.  Because of the malfunction of the pancreas in diabetes patients, the liver is also impacted by the impaired pancreas functioning and is increasingly burdened due to having to compensate for the incapacities of the pancreas.  Therefore, any foods and herbs that can help boost lever health are strongly recommended.  This includes bitter foods, like endive and radicchio, as well as dandelion root.  Get dandelion root tea bags and enjoy it as a tea, or buy the powder and dissolve it in hot water and it makes a great substitute for coffee.

    Avocado – While you may love avocado for its creaminess and delicious flavor, you can now also love it for the fact that it is good for managing diabetes.  High in healthy fats, avocado is a source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  We need these healthy fats in our diet to improve skin health, for proper brain function and to foster healthy digestion.  As a diabetic patient, boosting your brain health is important because of the potential impacts of diabetes on brain health.  Glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain.  In order to metabolize glucose properly and send it to where it is needed (like to the brain), or send it to be stored as glycogen via the liver, the pancreas needs to secrete insulin properly to manage the glucose consumed in the food.  In diabetes, when the insulin secretion does not occur properly, this can have a chain of effects throughout the body, including on brain function.  Eat your healthy fats and keep p your brain at its best!

    Apple– It seems like a basic food, but there’s merit behind “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Not only are apples a complex carbohydrate, which fills you up and stop you from snacking on other sugary snacks, but it is also high in fiber.  Fiber helps bind bad fats and cholesterol in the bloodstream and move them through to be eliminated.  Researchers have also done work surrounding the antioxidant content in apples and have found that apples contain a specific antioxidant, which also contributes to helping lower LDL or bad fat content within the blood.

    Foods that help manage diabetes

    watermelon, flaxseed, and legumes

    Legumes– A study published in 2012 by researchers working with the American Heart Association, found that eating more beans and legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans resulted in better blood sugar control and helped lower blood pressure.  Typically the body is able to very accurately and effectively manage blood sugar levels, and when you eat a food that has sugar in it, the pancreas secretes the proper amount of insulin to counteract that sugar and make sure that your blood sugar level does not go too high. For those suffering from diabetes, however, this ability is compensated and it is helpful to consume foods that can contribute to blood sugar management.   In addition, beans are high in protein, and fiber, so they fill you up and are a much more nutrient dense plant-based protein source for the body.

    Flaxseed– Flax is one of the best plant sources of essential fatty acids.  Found regularly in fish, it is harder to obtain these fats through plant sources.  Flax, however, contains alpha-linoleic acid, which can be converted into omega 3 fatty acids.  These are the acids that are necessary to be consumed via the diet, as the body is unable to make them or source them from within.  The importance of Omega 3s lies in helping to improve brain function, boosting skin health and digestion, and also helps us to feel satiated and full.  When we are in tune with our body’s cues of satiation and fullness, this prevents us from overeating or binging in on sugary, unhealthy foods.  Eating food in the proper portion size prevents obesity and this lowers the risk of developing diabetes and helps those already affected by it work towards eliminating the disease.

    Watermelon– Watermelon is a high water-containing fruit.  Increasing your intake of water encourages improved circulation and helps reduce blood pressure, two negative side effects from having diabetes.  Water also fills you up, reducing your need to consume other foods that may not be as diabetes-friendly.  In addition, watermelon is a good source of the antioxidant lycopene.  Lycopene, also found in tomatoes, helps reduce oxidative damage that occurs within the cells in the body and can contribute to cancer and other diseases.  When the body is already suffering from a disease, it is less able to fight this oxidative stress on its own, as it is devoting its energy and resources to fighting the main disease, and in addition, because of the compensated functioning within the body, there may be an increased level of oxidative damage that occurs.  Regular intake of antioxidants from all fruits and vegetables is an important step in fighting these issues.

    Foods to manage diabetes

    grapefruit, cinnamon, and nuts

    Nuts – Containing fiber, healthy fats and several vitamins, nuts are one of the healthiest snack options and consuming just a handful at a time is enough to see the benefits.  Their vitamin E content, especially found in almonds, is important for helping with thinning the blood and in blood circulation an area often at risk in diabetes.  Furthermore, a Canadian study published in Diabetes Care in 2011 found that nuts can improve blood sugar control in patients with Type 2 diabetes: eating just two ounces of nuts per day, resulted in decreased blood sugar levels and a decrease in LDL cholesterol.  Together, both of these, as well as nuts’ ability to fill you up bode well for improving health among those suffering from diabetes.

    Cinnamon– Results from a clinical study published in Diabetes Care journal in 2003 suggest that cinnamon bark or cassia cinnamon improves blood glucose and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.  The study showed a reduction in LDL or bad cholesterol, and also showed an increase in insulin sensitivity.  In individuals suffering from diabetes, the issue is often that their cells are no longer responding to insulin because they have become insulin resistant.  Part of managing the diabetes is working to re-establish this insulin sensitivity. Another benefit of cinnamon is that it is slightly sweet, meaning it can be used to sweeten foods without adding sugar, which is a better option for diabetic patients.

    Grapefruit – Not only does grapefruit fill you up, and is a low sugar fruit option, but also it has been shown to help boost HDL cholesterol levels.   HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol in our body, which is required for important bodily processes, such as insulation, brain function and metabolizing fat.  Having higher levels of this in our bloodstream helps decrease the amount of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and decreases the risk of heart disease and artery related issues stemming from cholesterol clogging the arteries.  For people who have diabetes, this is especially important, as circulation may be impeded, and the liver, responsible for helping with cholesterol breakdown and metabolism, is not necessarily functioning optimally either.  Helping in both areas, by working to manage cholesterol levels is a great way to help manage diabetes and ensure it does not get any worse due to overburdened systems within the body.

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