As a functional medicine provider, I spend endless amounts of time educating my diabetic patients about the importance of diet. Of course, they’ve heard dietary advice before, but it often follows conventional routes of pairing insulin with carbohydrates, eating less fat, and losing weight. To me, these are useless tips.
Instead, the focus must be on using food as medicine to give the body the tools it needs to reverse the course of damage caused by inflammation and imbalanced blood sugar. Moreover, there’s no perfect diet that can meet the needs of every person.
Diets should be designed to meet the unique needs of each individual based on their bloodwork and genetics.
That being said, there are three common trends I see in my patients’ diet habits that drive their bodies into a state of disease. Experts warn that these trends lead to a state of being overfed but malnourished, resulting in obesity and disease.
1. Not Getting Your Fill of Fiber
Most Americans are not eating enough fiber to keep things moving smoothly. Fiber is the indigestible part of plants such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds. While our digestive tracts can’t break it down, it serves to feed the healthy microbes that live in your colon producing nutrients and supporting your brain, immune system, and more. Fiber also pulls toxins out of your body and keeps your digestive tract working well.
The minimum amount of fiber that you should consume is 14 grams per 1000 calories, but more is better in this case because high intakes of fiber mean a lower risk of developing diabetes and other chronic inflammatory diseases. To give you an idea, one cup of oats, lentils, or split peas all have at least 14 grams of fiber, and chia seeds have over 10 grams in only one ounce.
2. Too Much Empty Energy, Not Enough Nutrients
You’ve probably heard of “empty calories,” but what does that really mean? A calorie is just a measure of energy, and the average adult consumes around 2000 of these energy units per day. However, alongside energy, your body needs a mountain of vitamins and minerals to keep everything functioning.
If your food is rich in energy but low in nutrition, you’re eating empty calories.
The best way to combat this problem is to ditch processed foods that have had nutrients pulled out and refined sugars and fats added in. Instead, eat whole foods that don’t come in boxes, bags, and cans. This may mean a little more prep time, but it means a lot less time wasted on poor health. When my patients switch from processed to whole foods, they get to eat more, but they take in fewer calories, which normally leads to weight loss and much better health.
3. Avoiding Antioxidants
Once again, I have to harp on the incredible importance of whole foods–especially vegetables and fruits–for diabetics. Diabetes is directly linked to increased inflammation and oxidative stress. This means that your body is producing more free radicals that it can balance due to damage from high blood sugar and its complications. Combating oxidative stress means consuming more antioxidants, which are found in much higher quantity in plants than in animal foods. Berries, grapes, leafy greens, orange veggies, whole grains, and tea are among the strongest antioxidant-containing foods.
Take It to the Next Level
Making these changes is great, but even more effective is a nutrition plan that is tailored to your body. As I said, there’s no specific diet that works for everyone. That’s why I use advanced testing to uncover nutrient imbalances, food sensitivities, and many other health details critical for the effective treatment of type 2 diabetes. Because even the healthiest diet might not be enough to turn high blood sugar around if other imbalances are not corrected, too.
Conventional medicine throws a standard approach at diabetes, treating a diagnosis instead of the patient sitting in front of them. In functional medicine, we don’t make the same mistake. Instead, we use every tool available to help our patients regain their health and thrive.