The Diet and Diabetes Dilemma

As the medical industry continues to make strides in the prevention and treatment of many diseases and conditions, it’s somewhat surprising that diabetes is still on the rise in the U.S. One of the most concerning aspects is that some forms of diabetes may actually be preventable and can often be attributed to the foods we eat.

While changing guidelines can make it difficult to know what foods we should or shouldn’t be eating, it’s important to stay informed as we continue to learn more about the importance of food and overall health.

What we don’t know can hurt us

Ongoing studies have prompted changes in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is published every five years. The changes are intended to improve our overall eating habits, limit the onset of diseases and support a healthy lifestyle.

However, most Americans only receive this information as it trickles down through advice from doctors or the latest health and fitness programs or magazines. This can cause confusion, as some of the information may be taken out of context.

All fats are not created equal

Whether or not we should eliminate fat from our diets is a good example of how data can be misinterpreted. There has been a lot of discussion on the importance of reducing fat intake to improve health, but many consumers are confused as to what this actually means.

There are fats that should definitely be eliminated from our diets, such as trans fats, which can raise cholesterol. There are also fats we should carefully consider, such as saturated fat. But there are also healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, which can actually lower bad cholesterol and prevent clogged arteries.

For consumers that choose to oversimplify this concept by eliminating all fats, the concern is what foods they are eating instead.

More carbs isn’t the answer

Consumers seeking ways to reduce fat intake may unknowingly do more harm than good when it comes to increasing their risk of diabetes.

For example, cutting out high-fat processed meats is a good idea. But if those foods are being replaced by starchy breads and pastas made from refined white flours that have little nutritional value, you’re really only trading one problem for another.

A better option would be to substitute with more fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Balance is key

While genetics and other factors may play a role in the risk for certain diseases such as diabetes, a healthy diet may help reduce this risk. The key is to eat a balance of fresh, natural foods that are high in nutrients and to limit the intake of refined grains, trans fats and foods that contain added sugar.

It’s also important to check in with your doctor regularly, particularly if diabetes runs in your family, and to seek nutritional advice tailored to your personal situation.