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Diabetes Medications and Diet: Synergistic Success

Help diabetes drugs do their job. A high-fiber diabetes diet and regular exercise are key.

Diabetes Diet Avoids Blood Sugar Spikes

A number of factors influence blood sugar levels after meals, but carbohydrates have the biggest impact, so watching what you eat is essential. You must learn to make wise food choices that won't cause blood sugar spikes -- yet indulge in an occasional pizza slice.

A dietitian or diabetes educator can help you line up a game plan for meals, says Roberta Anding, RD, a diabetes educator at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. She is also a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

After all, not all carbs are created equal. "A scoop of white rice is different from a scoop of brown rice," Anding tells WebMD. "The calories may be the same, but they act differently when digested."

Processed "white foods" -- white bread, white rice, cakes and cookies (made with white flour) -- are digested quickly, which causes sharp spikes in blood sugar. Even an apple -- highly nutritious and high in fiber in its natural form -- is done a disservice in processing. When an apple is made into applesauce or apple juice, it loses its fiber content.

"You see remarkable differences in the effect on blood sugar levels," Nathan explains. "The more processed the fruit, the faster the glucose level goes up -- and the higher it goes up. Getting more high-fiber carbohydrates in your diet will naturally slow the absorption rate, and will help the pancreas keep up with the insulin demand."

What are high-fiber carbohydrates? Everything your mother ever advised: vegetables, fruits, whole-grain breads, and cereals. Every colorful fruit and vegetable in your grocery's produce section -- broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, fruits and berries of all types. Oatmeal is another great source of fiber!

Weight Gain vs. Diabetes Drugs

Weight gain poses its own problems for people with diabetes. The fight against weight gain has always been tough, as many older diabetes drugs may cause weight gain -- which further interferes with blood sugar control.

"The heavier you get, the more you're fighting a losing battle," Nathan tells WebMD. "If you're gaining weight, diabetes medications won't work as well, so you need more of the medicines -- which only makes your weight go up more."

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