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Nutrition for Type 2 Diabetes

Eating for optimal health: Myths and facts about type 2 diabetes

FACT: Losing weight can reduce the need for type 2 diabetes treatment.

Many people who are overweight or obese develop type 2 diabetes. Often, people find that losing even a moderate amount of weight reduces the need for treating — and in rare cases sometimes even eliminates — their diabetes. Losing weight can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, greatly reducing your risk of a heart attack. The benefits of weight loss are numerous. Schedule an appointment with a nutritionist and give it a try!

MYTH: Meeting with a nutritionist is helpful only when a person is first diagnosed with diabetes.

In this world of advanced technology, it might seem surprising that one of the most effective treatments for type 2 diabetes is simple: good nutrition. This holds true no matter how long somebody has lived with the disease. Insurance companies recognize this fact, and most will cover a series of individual or group sessions with a nutritionist.

Newly diagnosed patients often work with a nutritionist to learn the basics of carb counting and making healthy food choices. Teens and young adults might learn how to lose weight while choosing foods that enhance their growth and development. And people who have lived with the disease for many years might learn new and creative approaches to a balanced diet. Over time, it's easy to fall into a familiar rhythm and become less attentive to the foods you eat. Nutritionists can help you get back on track.

MYTH: Low-carb diets are a must for people with type 2 diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes should be aware of the carbs in their diet and take care not to overindulge. Beyond that, there's some disagreement about whether it's more important to limit particular types of foods (i.e., fat versus carbs). One thing the studies do agree on, however, is that a strategy of reducing calories and exercising regularly is the key to weight-loss success. Nutritionists have long recognized that limiting a particular type of food can be difficult for people to stick to in the long run.

MYTH: When reading food package labels, people with diabetes should focus on the number of carbohydrates; the other the nutritional content is not important.

You probably know that you should monitor your carbohydrate or glucose intake, but did you know that you should also pay attention to the fat, sodium, fiber and overall caloric content of the foods you eat? Nutritionists recommend limiting calories, sodium and saturated fats. Avoid trans fats whenever possible. People are encouraged to eat a diet rich in fiber and choose complex carbs — whole grain bread and vegetables — over the simple sugars found in table sugar and candy. Though simple sugars can be delicious, they can also lead to rapid rises in blood glucose.

Remember that the goal is not to eliminate carbs entirely — it's to be aware of what you eat and not overindulge. Everything in moderation!

MYTH: There's no reason to watch your diet once the doctor prescribes insulin or other diabetes medications.

It's tempting to think that medications like insulin reduce the need to watch your diet carefully, but unfortunately it is not true. In fact, people who take insulin must monitor the carbs in their diet more closely than ever to make sure that they take just the right amount of insulin to match the glucose content of their meals. Skipping meals or taking too much insulin could cause low blood glucose; too little insulin or especially large meals could lead to high blood glucose.

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