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  • Kellie Blake RDN, LD, IFNCP

Five Foods for Diabetes Prevention

November is National Diabetes Month and with one-third of Americans having diabetes or pre-diabetes, we've got some work to do. Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to many complications including blindness, amputation, kidney failure, dementia, stroke, heart disease and death. We've been under the impression that diabetes is just something you will automatically develop if you have a genetic pre-disposition and that once you develop diabetes, you'll be on medication for the rest of your life. The truth is this: most cases of type 2 diabetes are completely avoidable and even if you already have type 2 diabetes, chances are it's reversible with personalized lifestyle and nutrition-related changes. [Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune process and is a different story, but lifestyle and nutrition still remain very important in its treatment].

Type 2 diabetes prevention and reversal requires change, which is hard. One aspect of this process my clients frequently struggle with is the fear of getting rid of their favorite foods. That's a valid fear, after all, food is near and dear to many of us. It's sometimes easier to start with thinking about what you may need to ADD to your lifestyle instead of what needs to be removed.

Of course, preventing and reversing type 2 diabetes is much more than just food. But, focusing on improving your nutrient intake can be a great place to start! When it comes to nutrition, many of us are missing out on the vital nutrients our bodies need to function optimally, and that leads to a break-down in the system over time. Our lives are hectic, often leaving us little time for food preparation or planning. We end up with highly processed, convenience foods that lack any nutritional value and actually harm us in the long-run. While those foods will likely eventually need to be removed and replaced with more nutrient-dense options, starting with simply adding some of the foods below to your current meal plan will likely lead to big improvements in your health.

Follow the five tips below for four weeks and remember to take note of how you feel. Does the look of your skin improve? Does your digestion improve? Do you feel less tired and sluggish? How about brain fog? Do you feel less joint pain?

1. Fiber-rich foods. Fiber is found in plant-based foods and functions to feed our gut microbes, so they can work their magic by creating vitamins, hormones, and neurotransmitters. A healthy gut is how we create and maintain a healthy body. If you provide them with adequate fuel, you'll begin to notice much improvement.

Daily Goal: Eat 1 serving of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables with every meal. (1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw, or one medium piece)

2. Magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium is a mineral that participates in over 400 reactions in the body, yet 68% of Americans don't consume enough magnesium. If you have insufficient magnesium intake you are more prone to the symptoms of depression, anxiety, muscle cramps and twitching, osteoporosis, and fatigue just to name a few. Adults need about 400mg of magnesium per day.

Daily Goal: Consume at least 1/4 to 1/2 cup various nuts and seeds per day, 2 servings of leafy green vegetables (tip, this also helps increase your fiber intake), and 1 ounce of >70% dark chocolate per day.

3. Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for brain health and for reducing inflammation in the body. Yet, most Americans are consuming way more of the omega-6 fatty acids, which aren't inherently bad, but need to be balanced. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, meaning the body can't make them on its own.

Weekly Goal: Eat 2 servings of sustainably sourced, low toxin fatty fish per week.

[And consider taking a high-quality fish oil supplement daily]

4. Fermented foods. Fermented foods are a great way to feed the gut bacteria to support a healthy gut microbiome. Some great examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, miso, tempeh, and kimchi.

Daily Goal: Add 1 serving of a fermented food each day.

5. Water. Something so simple as water if often overlooked, but our bodies (which are 50-60% water) crave this valuable nutrient. It's critical for lubricating our joints, keeping our skin healthy, eliminating toxins, maintaining moisture in our eyes, and allowing for proper digestion. When we are dehydrated, even slightly, our cells and tissues suffer.

Daily Goal: drink 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning. Divide your body weight in pounds in half and aim to drink at least that many ounces of water each day.

Adding nutrient-dense foods and water each day will help improve how you feel and leave less room for the processed foods that will ultimately lead to health problems and reduce your quality of life. If you would like a more personalized lifestyle plan, contact us for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

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