Last month we discussed what prediabetes is and how to choose carbohydrates wisely to help gain better control over blood sugar. This month we will focus on the importance of choosing quality protein and fat sources and pairing them up with carbohydrates for the ultimate control in blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity.
For a quick refresher, prediabetes means you have higher than normal blood sugar, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Prediabetes often leads to type 2 diabetes which increases your risk of heart disease and a whole host of other diseases.
Since carbohydrates cause the biggest changes in our blood sugar and insulin response, it’s important to never eat them alone and balance those effects with macronutrients that either have a smaller impact on blood sugar/insulin release (protein) or no impact at all (fat).
Focus on Fats
Fat is the best buffer for carbohydrates, and it lowers your insulin requirement. Fat slows the absorption of carbohydrates, thus promoting blood sugar stabilization. Since fat lessens the blood sugar spiking effect that carbohydrates have, you don’t have a big surge of insulin. All of this helps people with prediabetes gain better control over their blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity.
- For most people, a good starting point is having a minimum of 1-2 tablespoons of fat every single time you eat. This could be adding butter to your oatmeal or eat a spoonful of peanut butter with your apple.
- Focus on quality, traditional fats such as avocados (and oil), butter (and ghee), coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds (and their butters), olives, canned coconut milk (and cream), whole milk dairy (and cream). These types of fats are heart healthy and nourishing.
- Read labels and avoid dairy products with large amounts of added sugar and those made with sugar substitutes. It’s best to buy plain whole milk yogurt and add a little honey or maple syrup (if needed).
- Strictly avoid trans-fat! Read the label and look for hydrogenated oils this is trans-fat. Main food sources are margarine, shortening, and products made with these ingredients. These harmful trans fats have been shown to decrease insulin sensitivity.
Choose Quality Proteins
Protein, like fat and fiber, slows the release of sugar into our bloodstream and has a lower insulin requirement than carbohydrates. You should pair protein with carbohydrates to avoid the spikes in blood sugar and to better regulate the release of insulin.
- A good rule of thumb is to aim for eating a portion of protein equivalent to the thickness and circumference of the palm of your hand at meals (2-3 eggs, 4-6 oz of fish or chicken) and about half that at snacks.
- Focus on grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork and poultry (and eggs), wild-caught fish and seafood, and organic tempeh (fermented soy product).
- Avoid processed soy and soy products and heavily processed meats like bacon and sausage (there are healthier versions of bacon and sausage; read the labels and avoid products that use nitrites, nitrates, and monosodium glutamate).
Missed last month? Read about which foods and nutrients are most beneficial to the heart in the March newsletter.