It comes as no surprise that one of the first questions someone newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes asks is “What am I supposed to eat?”.
Let’s face it you’ve probably heard over and over again that type 2 diabetes is a ‘disease of lifestyle’. And lifestyle commonly involves food. When it comes to the food choices we make there is a lot of emotional charge attached to that. For some, it may be the way that they have eaten since they were children and this is the only way they know how to eat. Food is a connecting force between us.
So, a common answer someone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may receive about what to eat from their healthcare provider may sound something along the lines of ‘eat healthy portion sizes, increase fruits and vegetables, cut down on processed foods’. And all these answers are great recommendations.
You’d think it seems pretty easy right to go out there and, ‘eat healthy portions, increase your fruits and vegetables, and cut down on processed foods’. But we know that’s not really what happens.
A lot of people struggle with food choices. Perhaps that’s why we have such a growing epidemic of borderline diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Over the course of my 20 plus years as a physician, I have encountered some really strange interpretations of what a ‘healthy diabetic diet’ means to different people. Let’s face it, the amount of information out there on the internet does not help either.
So when I address the topic of what to eat with anyone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes I start by helping them to normalize their experience. Take a deep breath. This is not a punishment for what you have done wrong. And yes, you can make a choice starting today to do things differently.
My invitation is to consider that diabetes eating is healthy eating.
I intend to give a TED talk with that title because it’s something I passionately believe. If everyone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes looked at this as a way their body was inviting them to eat healthier we wouldn’t have people walking around feeling victimized.
The great news is that by making these changes to how you eat, it is possible to halt the progression of borderline diabetes, type 2 diabetes and worsening metabolic health.
Change can be stressful. So I often start by advising you
This will help bypass the gargantuan alarm signals to your primitive brain- the amygdala which ends up keeping you from making any change smack in the middle of your comfort zone.
So back to the question -where do you start?
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is a great starting point when it comes to making some healthy changes to what you eat. The traditional
What makes up the Mediterranean diet
- whole grains
- fruits and vegetables
- extra virgin olive oil
- modest amounts of poultry, red meat and fish
- legumes (beans, peas etc)
- red wine
The Mediterranean diet has been extensively researched. Over 50 studies have shown that by eating this way there is an improvement in overall metabolic health parameters- reduced waist circumference, improvement in lipid profile, blood pressure, weight and blood sugar levels.
Perhaps you want to go a step further and you want to develop an empowered relationship to food.
Food can be used as a powerful tool, to bring about healing. In functional medicine, we call this functional nutrition.
There are several food plans used in functional medicine, each targeting different results.
The cardiometabolic food plan is a step above the Mediterranean diet.
Features of the cardiometabolic food plan
- low glycemic foods
- personalized targeted calories
- helps to balance blood sugars
- high in fiber
- low amount of simple sugars
- a healthy balance of quality fats
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