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If you have diabetes, you already know the drill. What you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat can send your blood sugar skyrocketing -- or make it plummet. For better or worse, "diet and diabetes" go together like salt and pepper.

So if you need a little motivation to eat better - and who doesn't? - consider this: with diabetes, you're at high risk of the nerve pain and damage called diabetic neuropathy. What can start as a little tingling or numbness in your feet can turn into major problems with walking, working, and leading an active lifestyle. Diabetic neuropathy can also wreak havoc with your digestion, your sexual response, and make it hard to feel normal body sensations - like the signs of plummeting blood sugar or a heart attack.

Fortunately, a balanced diet that helps treat nerve pain is really no different than the standard diet advised by the American Diabetes Association, says Dace L. Trence, MD, an endocrinologist and director of the Diabetes Care Center at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. "The emphasis is really on blood sugar control," she says. "Certainly, if a dietary change might facilitate that, of course, it would be advisable."

Good glucose control can protect the health of your nerves - and may even help prevent diabetic neuropathy, says the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). You see your doctor only every once in a while, but you eat several times every day. No matter what medications you may be on, your diabetes diet has a constant - and colossal - impact on your health and well-being, with every bite you take.

Tip 1. Eat a Balanced Diet

Why? Remember the good-old food pyramid you learned about back in school? A balanced diet includes a variety of foods: carbohydrates (starches), fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy, meat, poultry, fish, and healthy fats. Eating a balanced diet helps you keep your glucose within target levels, control your weight, and reduce the risk of complications like neuropathy, heart disease, and stroke.

The goal. Step out of any food ruts you're in. Try new foods, and include all of the major food groups in your diabetes diet.

Exercises to Ease Nerve Pain

Simple moves and tips to help you avoid pain and falls.
View slideshow

Know Your Nerve Pain Risk

Is your diabetes putting you at higher risk?