As we head into the holiday season (or, extra food and treats season!), it’s important to remember that a balanced, healthy diet is something that’s important for everyone to have. It can help maintain your body weight, boost your immune system, and lower your chances of getting certain diseases like heart disease. But when you have diabetes, a healthy diet becomes especially important to maintaining your health and keeping further health complications away.
With diabetes, your body stops producing insulin, which your body needs to regulate your blood glucose levels. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to properly utilize the insulin. In these cases, as a result, your ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL) lowers while your levels for ‘bad cholesterol’(LDL) rise, putting you at risk for hypertension, heart disease, strokes, and a whole host of other maladies. Over time, high glucose levels from your diabetes also weakens and damages your blood vessels, which can put you at risk for developing heart disease. This is also why people who have diabetes tend to develop heart disease at an earlier age than those who don’t.
Because of this, you need to pay close attention to what you eat in order to control your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, to not only manage your diabetes but also to reduce your risk for heart disease. But this doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your favorite foods once in awhile. You still can if you plan out your meals, exercise regularly, and keep track of your levels with routine medical tests.
First, let’s take a look at some healthy options you can take with you going into end-of-year:
Animal products such as cheese, milk, and red meat contain saturated fats, which your body can turn into bad cholesterol. While you do need some fat, remember that saturated fats and trans fats are the ones you want to cut back on, whereas mono- and polyunsaturated fats are the ones you want to include in your diet. To minimize the bad fats and maximize on the nutrients from the fats you want to include, choose low-fat dairy products and lean meats such as white meat (i.e. turkey!), fish, and legumes.
Cookies, cakes, and other sweet things will be running rampant across your office and all your holiday parties. And they’re all high in simple sugar. You know this, and sometimes we all get a little craving for something sweet, especially this time of year. While sweets don’t need to be completely cut from your diet (except for Aunt Debra’s fruit cake – you can bin that), you’ll definitely need to pay attention to your sugar consumption. Foods high in simple sugars aren’t just cakes and cookies, though, processed carbs are also in this category, like white bread. They are high in calories and provide little to no nutrients, so they should only be a treat you have on occasions.
Where have you heard this before? Possibly everywhere you go. Fresh vegetables and fruits, along with whole grain products, are packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You just can’t go wrong with them. They’re naturally low in fat and calories, and none of them have cholesterol. So when in doubt, you should always go for one of these on that buffet table.
Watching out for what you eat is important when you have diabetes, it’s a part of how you can stay on top of your health. What’s just as important is seeing your doctor routinely and keeping yourself up-to-date with glucose and cholesterol tests. Check-ups and tests, such as a Cholesterol Test (Lipid Panel), can be ways you can measure your cholesterol level progress and ensure you’re maintaining your diabetes correctly.
You might think that having diabetes means you’ll have to avoid all the good foods this holiday season. But the truth is, you just need to avoid foods that are fried and high in sugar, when you can, while keeping them to a minimum to a can’t (or won’t, we don’t judge). Other than that, you can keep much of the same healthy diet as everyone else as long as you are thoughtful in the foods you eat, and keep track as you go. And you might just find that a healthy diet has plenty of benefits other than keeping your diabetes in check.