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Diabetics Can Have Cake and Eat It, Too


"When I counsel patients, the first thing I do is find out how they like to eat," says Clark, who is the ADA's national vice president for clinical affairs. "With proper planning, a person with diabetes should be able to eat what others would eat."

The ADA once recommended a low-fat diet for diabetics, but that is no longer the case. While saturated fats, such as butter or other animal fats, should still be limited, studies have shown that diabetics can thrive on diets rich in monounsaturated fats. In the mid 1990s, Abhimanyu Garg, MD, and colleagues from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found that such a diet improved diabetes control, reduced cholesterol levels, and lowered triglycerides.

"There was a concern that diabetes control would be threatened with any high-fat diet," Garg tells WebMD. "We found that this was not the case. So we can now offer people a choice of either a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet or one that is high in monounsatuated fats."

Foods high in monounsaturated fats include most nuts, avocados, and olive, canola, and peanut oils. They have been shown to help lower the level of LDL "bad" cholesterol.

Other recommendations made by the ADA, and published in a supplement to the January issue of the journal Diabetes Care, include:

  • Foods containing carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk should be included in a healthy diet.
  • The total amount of carbohydrates in meals or snacks is more important than the source or type.
  • Non-calorie sweeteners are safe when consumed within the acceptable daily intake levels established by the FDA.

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