SALT LAKE CITY — For about five years I saw patients at an internal medicine office. The majority of patients I saw had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. While each patient was unique in their experiences, concerns and goals, I found a lot of commonalities.
Based on my observations, here are some gentle nutrition principles that could have a big impact on managing Type 2 diabetes:
Food isn’t the only thing that affects your blood glucose
It’s easy to assume that food is the only factor in abnormal blood glucose levels, but there are quite a few other things that affect it. Sleep, stress, exercise, mental health concerns, medications, meal/snack timing, eating patterns and digestive function are other contributors.
While food will be a factor, it’s important not to overemphasize its effect while losing sight of other physiological functions and lifestyle factors. There are a lot of layers to your overall self-care.
Your body thrives on rhythm
We are cyclical, rhythmic creatures. We have sleep rhythms, digestive rhythms, hormonal rhythms, etc. Your body likes predictability and rhythm. While you don’t need anything militant or rigid (which actually doesn’t have a positive impact on your physical or mental health), having a certain amount of flexible structure will help your blood sugar levels find their natural rhythm (instead of drastic, extreme changes during the day).
Here are some basic suggestions for establishing a flexible structure:
- Include 3-5 food groups at meals and 1-3 food groups at snacks.
- A snack will likely keep you going for 1-2 hours, while a meal will keep you full and satisfied for 3-4 hours.
- Honor your hunger cues and respect your fullness cues to identify how much to eat at meals and snacks.
So, if you eat breakfast at 8 a.m., you’ll likely need something to eat around 11 a.m. or noon. If lunch isn’t going to be until 1 p.m., you’ll want to plan a snack, and so on throughout the day. This flexible structure can help you anticipate your needs and plan accordingly, which will go far in stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
You can eat carbohydrates
Those diagnosed with diabetes often believe they can’t eat carbohydrates, which isn’t true. Your body and brain still need carbohydrates and energy; that doesn’t change.
I would encourage you to spread carbohydrates out evenly over the day and include them at meals and snacks with other food groups. Balance and variety are important nutrition principles for everyone
Diabetes, or any health concern, can be scary, confusing and frustrating. I hope these observations have been helpful in better understanding diabetes management.
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