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How a 'Diabetes Diet' Protects Your Health

Healthy food can help prevent diabetes complications.

Managing Your Carbohydrates continued...

The Plate Method for Carbohydrates

The plate method is a simpler way to count carbs and control portion sizes. You visualize a line dividing your plate in half. Then divide one half into two quarters.

  • Fill the largest section -- half your plate -- with non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, or green beans.
  • Fill one of the two smaller sections -- a quarter of your plate -- with starchy foods such as whole grain breads, potato, or cooked cereal such as cream of wheat.
  • Fill the second smaller section -- a quarter of your plate -- with meat or meat substitutes.

The Link Between Healthful Eating and Fewer Complications

Eating healthfully can help you control blood sugars and reduce the risks of complications of diabetes such as nerve pain (diabetic peripheral neuropathy),heart disease, and foot problems.

"Most complications are related to fat and the amount of fat in the diet," says Hamdy. Any diet that can reduce high cholesterol levels [by reducing fat] is good, he says.

Does a Better Diet Really Make a Difference With Diabetes?

Weight loss, plus exercise, can make a difference in helping people with type 2 diabetes get their hemoglobin A1c -- the measure of average blood sugar levels -- to the goal of less than 7%, Hamdy has found.

He reported on results of a program at Joslin Diabetes Center called Why WAIT (Weight Achievement and Intensive Treatment), in which those with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to lose weight by following the Joslin guidelines for overweight patients.

In a report on 85 WAIT participants, he found that they reduced their initial weight by an average of 24 pounds after 12 weeks. About 82% of the participants reached the target A1c of less than 7%.

Their cholesterol levels improved significantly, too. And participants needed less diabetes medicine once they lost weight.

Lifestyle Changes Are Doable

Lifestyle changes are possible, says Ginn-Meadow of Joslin in Baltimore. "I had a patient who came in with an A1c of 8%," she tells WebMD. "By making lifestyle changes, counting carbs, and eating better, he got it down to 5.8%," she says. He was 65 years old and had had type 2 diabetes for over 15 years, she said. And he got results in four months.

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Reviewed on April 12, 2011

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