American Diabetes Association Diet

Healthy foods that are recommended as part of the American Diabetic Association diet are discussed in this article.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people who suffer from diabetes symptoms eat foods daily from each of the 4 major food groups, which are:

  1. Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, green beans, Swiss chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, and fruits including berries and apples.
  2. Whole grains, breads and cereals like barley, bran, oats, wheat, and brown rice.
  3. Low or non-fat dairy products like skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, and non-fat cottage cheese.
  4. Proteins including cold water fish, poultry, meats, eggs, nuts, tofu and dried beans.

According to the American Diabetes Association, your diet should include foods from each of these 4 groups every day in order to be sure you receive all the nutrients you need.

The main nutrients found in foods we eat are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Carbohydrates offer energy for your body.  Good healthy carbohydrate food options also include lots of vitamins and minerals.  The ADA recommends peas, beans, lentils, fruits, whole grain breads, whole grain cereals and vegetables.  (We question the inclusion of whole grain breads and cereals because they tend to be high glycemic foods, thus raising blood glucose more than other foods might).  We also recommend raw vegetables and fruits, rather than cooked ones to obtain maximum nutrition. Research has also shown that various mushrooms like reishi mushrooms help prevent diabetes.

The American Diabetic Association diet includes proteins which are very important to help in your body’s growth and can help with the body’s energy supplies. The diet includes proteins such as non-fat dairy products, fish, tofu and skinless poultry.

High-fiber foods like beans, bran cereals, and low glycemic index fruits and vegetables are very healthy for diabetics and definitely recommended as part of the American Diabetic Association diet. This is chiefly because foods high in fiber may prevent excessive rises in blood glucose after meals.

The ADA recommends that you lose weight, if you are overweight.  Losing weight alone can often correct insulin resistance and symptoms of diabetes.  Reducing portions of high calorie foods (high fat, high carb or high glycemic foods) and increasing portions of low calorie or low carb foods (raw or cooked vegetables, low glycemic fruits) is one way to do this.

The American Diabetes Association
Does Not Recommend the Following Unhealthy Foods

Although this diet includes some fat, excessive saturated fat has been shown to be a major contributor to the development of diabetes and heart disease.  In addition, excessive animal fats (found in meats and dairy products) may aggravate or even cause insulin resistance.  There are several healthy fats that should be included in your diet including the oil found in ground flax seed, walnuts, olive oil and fish oil (found in wild caught salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies).  Still, all fats should be consumed in moderate amounts.

Most other fats, especially animal fats, should be limited because increased fat and cholesterol in the diet can result in a higher likelihood of heart disease or hardening of the arteries both of which affect diabetics more than non-diabetics.  Avoid eating all fried foods such as fried potatoes, fried chips and fried meats. Suggestions for cutting down on fat include:

  • Pick lean meats rather than fatty meats and be sure to cut away extra fat.  Don’t eat ground meat as almost all ground meat has a lot of extra fat added.  Eat less meat and more fish and poultry.
  • With poultry be sure to remove the high fat skin before eating and focus on the lower fat breast rather than legs and thighs.
  • The ADA diet suggests margarine instead of butter.  Newer margarines do not have hydrogenated fat in them (check for this on the label), so are OK in very small amounts, as is butter in small amounts.
  • The American Diabetes Association diet proposes skim or low-fat milk rather than whole milk, half and half or cream.
  • Eat only up to 3 or 4 eggs per week and occasionally have some liver (we always recommend organic liver due to pesticides and other toxins in commercial beef).  Note:  It is possible today to get eggs with omega-3 fat in them (the chickens are fed flax seed), these are probably the best choice for diabetics.

Salt can be a problem as it can make high blood pressure, a common consequence of diabetes, worse.  Besides the obvious sources of salt, there are hidden sources of salt in almost all prepared foods such as canned soups, salad dressings, and cheeses.  Read the labels and try to reduce your sodium intake.

As part of the American Diabetic Association diet, sugar intake should be reduced (again we disagree, we believe you should cut out all sugar from your diet in any of its forms including honey and maple syrup).  Pies, frosted cakes, table sugar, honey, and breakfast cereals with sugar coating have a high amount of sugar in them.  Did you know that a 12-ounce can of Coke has about 9 teaspoons of sugar?

Other foods to avoid include ice cream, any pastries made with white flour, sugar and shortening, potatoes, fried foods, fruit juices (which are mostly sugar or corn syrup) and all high sugar sodas.  Drink tea with lemon, water or drinks sweetened with sugar substitutes.

Stay away from alcohol and ask your dietician for advice if you decide on a drink or two.  Alcohol acts like sugar in your blood stream so it’s not a good idea for people with diabetes to drink it.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that you create a personalized diet by working with your dietician to design a meal plan that’s effective for you and includes foods you really like.  Your regular eating habits and schedule should be a fit with this diet while you retain a steady weight. To learn more about diabetes, read here. To learn more about available treatments for diabetes click the link.

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