Mediterranean Diet and Diabetics

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Mediterranean Diet and Diabetics - lunchI’m always looking for healthy ways of eating and that got me thinking about the Mediterranean Diet and Diabetics.

We love having sleepovers with our Type 1 diabetic grandson which means healthy eating is a topic I study enthusiastically.

When it comes to Alex I need to research everything diabetes-related and that includes different diets and styles of eating not only for our grandson but for us as well.

We also need to be as healthy as we can be to fully enjoy having fun adventures with our grandchildren.

I also needed to know is the Mediterranean way of eating safely for diabetics?

What effect does it have on blood glucose levels and medications including insulin?

Does it affect Type 1 and Type 2 differently?

Are there other health factors to be considered as well?

Let’s dive in and discover these answers, shall we?

What is the Mediterranean Diet

First of all, I wouldn’t consider the Mediterranean diet to be a diet at all, in my opinion, it’s more of a lifestyle.

It is not something you do for a while, it is a pattern of eating that you carry forward throughout a healthy lifestyle.

It focuses on the following items:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • beans and legumes
  • seafood
  • nuts
  • seeds and
  • plenty of unsaturated fats

 

All sweets, sugars, refined grains, and red meats are restricted.

The Mediterranean diet evolved and gets its name from the traditional eating and cooking patterns of the people living in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Countries such as Greece, Italy, France, Spain, and Morocco-based their eating patterns around the food that was native to their area.

The Mediterranean diet is more about how we eat than what we eat. In other words, take your time and slow down and fully enjoy eating a variety of healthy foods.

Slowing down while eating has several benefits such as making our meals more satisfying, we can more easily recognize when we are full so it helps us avoid over-eating.

The Mediterranean diet has been frequently studied for its heart health benefits, but research also suggests it may offer advantages to Diabetics, both Type 1 and Type 2.

What Foods Can I Eat

I needed to find out just what foods I could eat while following the Mediterranean diet. Thankfully there are no pre-made meals to purchase or expensive supplements to buy. In fact, we can enjoy quite a variety of fresh whole foods and many of them are grown locally which I always fully support.

Vegetables: There aren’t really any restrictions here just don’t drown them in a ton of salt or cheese. If there is a food you dislike, don’t worry about it, there are plenty of others to choose from. You can choose from kale, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and plenty of others.

Fruit: Berries, figs, peaches, pears, apples, oranges, pears, pomegranate seeds (yes these contain carbohydrates but it is better to eat whole fruit than drink a fruit juice) of course portion control is important.

Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and black beans are high in fiber and contain protein as well as being easy on the budget.

Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds are just some Mediterranean Diet and Diabetics - healthy supperwonderful nuts and seeds to enjoy.

Whole Grain: Yes carbs, it is important to select those carbs with a low glycemic index such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, and bread, quinoa, faro, millet, oats, barley, buckwheat, and corn.

Fish and Poultry: seafood such as oysters, clams, crab, lobster and shrimp, and a wide variety of fish. Also, poultry such as chicken, turkey, and duck.

Eggs: Chicken eggs are most common but also duck eggs or quail eggs will work quite well.

Dairy: Plain Greek yogurt and small amounts of cheese.

Fats: Olives and olive oil, walnut oil or other nut oils, avocado and avocado oil are the main types of fat in this diet plan.

Beverages: Water, unsweetened tea or coffee, and small to moderate amounts of red wine.

Seasonings: Limit salt and instead choose from a variety of herbs and spices. Give oregano, rosemary, mint, basil, sage, garlic, and black pepper a try.

Red meat such as beef, pork, lamb, and veal can be consumed occasionally but they definitely take a backseat to healthier seafood and beans.

Sweets and desserts are best saved for special occasions or treats.

Fruit juices, soda, and sweetened tea or coffee are avoided.

Health Benefits

There have been over fifty years of studies showing the heart benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The Lyon Diet Heart Trial in 1998 determined that people who followed a Mediterranean-style eating plan for three years had a 56% lower risk of death and a 50% to 70% lower risk of a heart attack. Several other studies have shown similar results.

Mediterranean Diet and Diabetics - test kitHeart disease is a major concern when it comes to diabetes because diabetics are actually two to four times more likely than non-diabetics to develop heart disease. Heart disease is actually the most common cause of death among diabetics.

Other health benefits of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • lower risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease
  • lower risk of stroke in women
  • lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
  • offers a way to manage diabetes
  • weight loss
  • relief from rheumatoid arthritis
  • lower risk of breast and colorectal cancer
  • reduced depression
  • longevity

 

Type 1 Diabetics

Any significant dietary changes will affect blood sugars.

Before trying the Mediterranean diet talk with your diabetes health care team about your carb goals for meals and snacks.

If you are using insulin to carb ratio, pay particular attention to how the Mediterranean style of eating affects your glucose levels.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole, lower glycemic foods and this may cause you to see more “Lows” so checking your levels more frequently may be in order.

You may find you need less insulin at mealtimes, this is why it is imperative to work closely with your doctor.

As with any diet plan, portion control is important to pay attention to. Too much of anything is never good.

If you are already used to low carb eating you can focus on the fish, poultry, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Type 2 Diabetics

The Mediterranean diet can help type 2 diabetics lose weight and improve their blood glucose control while allowing them to enjoy a diet rich in healthy nutrients and abundant flavors.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and seafood as well as nuts and seeds.

These healthy choices make the diet rich in monounsaturated fat and fiber. Both of these are known to lower cholesterol and blood sugar in diabetics.

The Mediterranean diet has a positive effect on blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity.

Again I would suggest working closely with your diabetes health care team any time you are considering significant dietary changes.

You may be able to control your blood sugar without medication which makes working closely with your doctor imperative.

More frequent monitoring of blood glucose may be necessary.

Final Thoughts

To me, the many health benefits of following the Mediterranean diet make it a beneficial lifestyle change to incorporate into our lives.

While we don’t strictly follow the Mediterranean or any other diet for that matter, we do consume many fruits and vegetables, many of which are homegrown in our gardens.

Being on the east coast of Canada we have an abundant supply of fish and seafood.

When our grandson is with us he eats whatever we prepare for him. Because Alex’s parents have always fed him a healthy diet there is no struggle to get him to eat his veggies. In fact, veggies and dip(hummus) is a snack he often asks for.

He isn’t so fussy about the seafood but some fish and all poultry are favored.

The Mediterranean diet is very adaptable to different tastes so meals that suit everyone are pretty easy. Preparing those meals together is a great time for catching up.

Diabetic or not the Mediterranean diet is a very healthy way of eating to encourage optimal health and longevity and I highly recommend it for everyone.

“I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences.”

Thanks for dropping by. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. I will respond.


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2 thoughts on “Mediterranean Diet and Diabetics”

  1. What a great story! Your grandson is truly a blessing in your life, as all grandchildren are. But, Alex came with a special gift, the gift of making you rethink your eating habits. Many studies suggest that Mediterranean diet is among the healthiest in the world, and I am happy to hear your family made the hard but necessary decision for Alex’s sake. You are all very lucky o have each other. Very informative article, thank you!

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment Courtney. I agree we are fortunate to have all our grandchildren. Yes we are all so much healthier after changing our diets to be more healthy and Diabetes friendly or as we call it, ‘Alex friendly’. Take care.

      Reply

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