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The best diet for controlling your blood sugar.

Continuing advances in diabetes research have prompted investigation of dietary strategies that may help control blood glucose. A recent analysis of data from 11 studies revealed that glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a long-term measure of blood glucose levels, decreased by .5 percent in participants who ate a low-glycemic index (GI) diet (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1).

Whichever approach you take, you can't overestimate the importance of your diet. "The contribution of nutrition to diabetes management, as well as overall health, is extremely high," asserts Jeffrey Mechanick, MD, clinical professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

GI details. The glycemic index of a food, which applies only to foods that contain carbohydrates, is based on the amount that blood sugar rises after the food is consumed. All foods are given a numeric rating between zero and 100, but these are best viewed as close approximations, since many variables affect the GI of a food, including its ripeness, how long it was stored, and how it was prepared. A food's GI also is affected by the properties of foods eaten with--it for example, fiber delays glucose absorption.

While a low-GI diet is one strategy that may help control blood glucose levels, other strategies also can be effective. "Instead of focusing on a specific 'Diet' with a capital D, I suggest looking for a common thread in dietary guidelines from organizations such as the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Diabetes Association, and American Dietetic Association," says Dr. Mechanick. "When you pull together their common elements, you get a healthy diet for diabetics as well as non-diabetics: plant-based, with an emphasis on whole grains that limits starches and sugars."

Helpful hints. Eating healthfully can become frustrating if all of your focus is on numbers, whether it be calories, fat, carbs, or GI. Instead, consider the overall attributes of food groups--for example, fruits and vegetables are healthy foods, but limit starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and winter squash, as they're high in carbohydrates. Sugary drinks, cookies, cakes, and crackers, should be on your "unhealthy foods" list.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

* Achieve a body mass index (BMI) in the normal range of 18.5 to 24.9.

* Exercise for 30 minutes per day most days of the week, more if you're overweight.

* Increase dietary fiber to 25-35 grams per day.
KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A HEALTHY DIET *

  FOOD GROUP                        HOW MUCH TO EAT

    Fruits                           2 cups daily

  Vegetables         2 1/2 cups daily of a variety of vegetables,
                    including dark green and orange vegetables and
                                        legumes

    Grains        Six servings daily, with at least three from whole
                  grains such as whole wheat-bread, cereals or pasta

   Protein        6 ounces daily; choose fish, poultry, lean beef or
                   pork, and eat eggs, nuts and seeds in moderation

Dairy products   3 cups daily; choose low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt
                                      and cheese

     Fats                Limit to 20% to 35% of total calories
                        (40-70 grams per day); choose poly-and
                  monounsaturated fats and limit saturated fat to 10%
                  or less of total calories (20 grams or less); avoid
                                      trans fats

* Source: Dietary Guidelines far Americans 2005, based on an intake
of 2,000 calories per day.
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Title Annotation:DIABETES
Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:532
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