Mediterranean Diet for Diabetes


A Mediterranean diet is known for its heart-healthy effects, but what if you have diabetes? As it turns out, a Mediterranean diet pattern can be a great choice for controlling blood sugar. Here is the scoop on what a Mediterranean diet could do for you and how to follow one.

 

A Mediterranean Diet Explained


What exactly is the Mediterranean diet? Actually, it is not the Mediterranean diet. It is a Mediterranean-style diet pattern. It’s a type of diet that is characteristic of traditional eating patterns of people around the Mediterranean. If you know your geography, you know that includes a wide range of people from Italians to Greeks to Spaniards to Moroccans. 

If you know your culinary history, you know that these cultures have quite a range of signature dishes. Consider Greek salad, Syrian hummus, Spanish paella, and Moroccan tagine. Still, these traditional diets tend to have some similarities that make them healthy.

  • High intakes of nutritious olive oil, seafood, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and nuts.

  • Regular intake of seafood, poultry, and low-fat dairy.

  • Low intake of red and processed meats, butter, and sweets.

 

Mediterranean Diet for Diabetes Prevention and Management


You may think of heart health when you think of a Mediterranean diet, but this eating pattern can help with blood sugar, too. People who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes who follow this diet pattern can have lower blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin (A1C), and reduced insulin resistance. The diet is even linked to fewer diabetes complications.

The heart-healthy benefits of a Mediterranean diet can be even more important in diabetes because having diabetes puts you at risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Not surprisingly, the diet pattern lowers cardiovascular risk in patients with diabetes. People with diabetes who follow a Mediterranean diet pattern may have a lower risk for peripheral arterial disease and other cardiovascular conditions, as well as lower blood pressure and lower mortality rates. It can have anti-inflammatory effects, which means it can lower risk of other chronic conditions. 

 
 

Weight Loss and Health on a Mediterranean Diet


Losing weight if you are overweight can lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity. A Mediterranean diet pattern can help you lose weight for a few reasons.

  • It is high in dietary fiber and protein, which are both filling nutrients. They can keep you full for longer after you eat so you do not get as hungry before the next meal.

  • It encourages vegetables, which are low in calories and filling.

  • It discourages certain high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, such as fatty meats and sugary foods and beverages.

  • It recognizes the benefits of enjoying food, which can help you eat slower and prevent feelings of guilt.

 

Carbohydrates on a Mediterranean Diet


A diabetes diet can include healthy carbohydrates in moderation. Carbohydrates on a Mediterranean diet pattern are consistent with recommendations for healthy carbohydrates for people with diabetes.

These are some basic guidelines when choosing carbohydrates.

  • Look for high-fiber sources. These include vegetables, whole grains such as oatmeal, unsweetened whole-grain cereal, and brown rice, berries and other whole fruits, legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils, and nuts.

  • Look for less-processed instead of more-processed carbohydrate sources. Examples include fresh fruit instead of juice or dried fruit, whole-grain bread and pasta instead of refined white, and raw vegetables instead of packaged veggie chips.

  • Choose foods and beverages without many added sugars. Beware of sweets and sweetened baked goods, and soft drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee beverages. Also watch out for sugar-sweetened flavored foods, such as granola bars, sweetened cereals, and flavored yogurt.

The amount of carbohydrates is as important as the type when it comes to weight loss and blood sugar. A serving size may be smaller than you think. 

Number of Carb Servings Food
1
2 tangerines, 1 orange, 1 cup strawberries or watermelon

Small taco shell, slice of bread, small granola bar, ¾ cup Cheerios

Cup of milk

Fried chicken
2
English muffin, medium tortilla, 1 packet oatmeal, hamburger bun

Large apple, banana, or pear, 1 cup fruit juice

½ acorn squash, small order of fries, 1 cup pea soup

Can of soda or flavored coffee beverage

6-oz. container of low-fat flavored yogurt

Slice of pizza
3
Bagel, ½ cup grape-nuts cereal

Bottle of soda

Cup of ice cream

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
4 or more
Burrito, pasta, fried rice, or noodles from a restaurant

Bottle of soda

Smoothie or milkshake

Muffin, coffee cake, pie

1 cup granola, 1 cup oatmeal with raisins

½ cup of raisins

A good goal for each meal is 2 to 3 servings of healthy-carb foods. Keeping your carbs consistent throughout the day can help prevent hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Try to include a source of protein at each meal to stabilize blood sugar.

 

What to Eat on a Mediterranean Diet for Diabetes


Aside from choosing higher-fiber, less-processed carbs, how do you follow a Mediterranean-style diet? Following these guidelines can help you get the benefits.

  • Choose olive oil instead of butter, shortening, or lard for cooking and salad dressings. Avocados, nuts, peanuts, and seeds are also healthy sources of fat.

  • Limit processed meat. Try peanut butter, cheese, hummus, tuna or chicken breast for sandwiches, and ground turkey or tofu instead of bacon or sausage for breakfast.

  • Choose lean proteins. Skinless chicken, eggs, beans, and fish are healthier than fatty meat.

  • Enjoy reduced-fat dairy products. Low-fat cheese and plain yogurt are great choices.

  • Use plenty of spices and herbs. They provide antioxidants and let you use less salt in your cooking.

 

Sample Menu


You can try this menu on your Mediterranean-style, diabetes-friendly eating plan. As always, talk to your doctor before making changes to your lifestyle that could affect your health or blood sugar.

Sample Menu Day 1

Meal Foods
Breakfast
1 toasted whole-grain English muffin (2 halves) spread with ¼ cup pureed avocado and topped with halved grape tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
Lunch
2 small falafel served with hummus and a side salad with feta, and 1 small pear.
Dinner
Toss salmon with balsamic vinegar, dill, oregano, garlic, pepper, and olive oil. Bake and serve with ½ cup whole-grain farro or couscous tossed with roasted red peppers, zucchini, and sweet potato.
Snacks
1 cup raw vegetables plus 2 tablespoons hummus

1 oz. almonds plus 1 cup strawberries

Sample Menu Day 2

Meal Foods
Breakfast
4 egg whites (or 1 egg and 2 whites) scrambled with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon milk, 1 cup spinach leaves, 1 oz. feta cheese, ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved, plus 1 large banana.
Lunch
Salad with tuna, white beans, parsley and/or basil, and crushed garlic, served over a bed of greens mixed with ¾ cup raspberries and mixed with dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano.
Dinner
Stew chicken breast with onion, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, black pepper, oregano, and thyme. Serve over brown rice cooked in low-sodium broth.
Snacks
1 small apple and 1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 container plain Greek yogurt plus 1 cup cucumber sticks
 

Help with a Diabetes Diet


It is easier to form healthier eating habits when you have support. Lark Diabetes helps you choose healthier foods to control blood sugar and lose weight in a personalized program that also includes aspects of diabetes management such as staying active, taking your medications, and checking blood sugar. You can chat with your Lark coach anytime of day or night to make diabetes management easier.

 
 


Reference

  1.  Georgoulis M, Kontogianni MD, Yiannakouris N. Mediterranean diet and diabetes: prevention and treatment. Nutrients. 2014;6(4):1406-23. Published 2014 Apr 4. doi:10.3390/nu6041406

  2.  Benson G, Pereira RF, Boucher JL. Ratio nale for the Use of a Mediterranean Diet in Diabetes Management. Diabetes Spectrum 2011 Feb; 24(1): 36-40. https://doi.org/10.2337/diaspect.24.1.36. http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/1/36

The Skinny on Smoothies: Use with Caution!


Smoothies can be delicious, refreshing, and convenient. They can deliver protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They can get you to eat a wider variety of vegetables and other superfoods than you might otherwise choose. They could even help you lose weight.

Smoothies are often the choice for people who are dieting or on a health kick, but are they healthy?

Smoothies are sort of healthy, sometimes. They can deliver the benefits listed above, but they have the potential to go very wrong, too. With just one or two wrong decisions about your smoothies, drinking them can be one of the fastest ways to gain weight and spike your blood sugar. 

That is why Lark suggests eating whole foods instead of making smoothies when you can. Here are the red flags of harmful smoothies, ways to keep smoothies from doing damage, and a few recipes to try if you still want to whip up a smoothie every so often.

 

Smoothie Red Flags


1. Calories

The smallest-sized smoothies from smoothie shops and restaurants tend to have about 200 to 400 calories. A medium or large-sized order can have well over 1,000 calories, which is probably more than half of your daily goal if you are trying to lose weight. Homemade smoothies are not automatically better, though. Concoct a seemingly reasonable blend of banana, peanut butter, vanilla yogurt, honey, and orange juice, and you could also be looking at a mega-meal’s worth of calories.

 

2. Sugar

Sugar is the biggest source of calories in most smoothies. They can have 50, 100, 200, or even more grams of sugar. In comparison, a can of soda has 35 grams of sugar. 

Most of the sugar in smoothies is natural, since it comes from the fruit or fruit juice. Milk and yogurt are also sources of natural sugars. These natural sugars come in a nutritious package – think about fiber and antioxidant from fruit and calcium and protein from milk and yogurt – but they still affect your blood sugar and weight. 

Added sugars are worse. They include white sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, and sugars in flavoring syrups. You might add these sugars to your smoothie directly, or get them from ingredients such as ice cream, flavored yogurt, or sweetened almond milk. Some types of added sugar drive up blood sugar more than others, but they all have an impact on your blood sugar levels, they have calories, and they add no essential nutrients to your smoothie.   

 

3. Gulping

Have you heard the term, “drinking your calories?” It is not a good thing! It refers to getting your calories in liquid form, like in a smoothie, instead of solid form, as in when you eat whole foods.

Drinking your calories is that it is linked to weight gain. One reason is that your brain takes a while to realize that you are full. By that time, you may already have finished your smoothie and gone back for seconds. Another reason is that drinking is not as satisfying as chewing and swallowing when you eat.

Consider a typical green smoothie with some fruit and protein. You can drink it in a few minutes and may not feel that you ate all that much. Now take those same ingredients and put them on a plate. You might have a green salad with carrot and avocado, an apple with peanut butter, and a container of yogurt. That feels like a full meal!

 

Smart Smoothie Strategies for Weight Loss and Health


Smoothies may not be the best choice all of the time, but they can fit into your healthy weight control diet occasionally. If you want to have smoothies sometimes, these tips can help you make the most of your choice.

1. Make your own.

Briefly put, it is easier to avoid a 1,000-calorie sugar bomb when you, not a stranger, are the one making the smoothie. You get to decide what goes in it and how much, so there are no nasty surprises for your waistline or blood sugar levels.

 

2. Replace, do not add.

Your smoothie is the meal or snack, not an addition to whatever you were planning to eat anyway. For most people, keeping snack smoothies to around 100 or 200 calories and limiting meal smoothies to 300 to 500 calories each is the right amount for losing weight. 

 

3. Watch the liquids.

How many perfectly good smoothies have turned into diet disasters with the addition of badly chosen liquids? Juice, juice drinks, sweetened almond and soy milk, and chocolate milk are high in sugar. They can easily double the number of calories in your smoothie when all you were doing was trying to thin it out. Ice, unsweetened nut milk, or a splash of soy milk can give you the consistency you are after without the extra calories.

 

4. Lower the glycemic index.

Lower-glycemic foods have less of an effect on your blood sugar. That is good news for your weight, health, and energy levels. You can lower the glycemic index by choosing lower-glycemic fruits, and by adding fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

Lower-glycemic fruits include berries, cherries, apples, pears, oranges, peaches, plums, and grapefruits. Pineapples, bananas, mangos, and figs have a higher glycemic index.

Good sources of protein for smoothies include tofu, plain yogurt, and non-fat cottage cheese. Nuts and seeds add protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and avocados provide fiber and healthy fats. You can add tons of fiber with vegetables.

 

5. Add superfoods.

Possibly the biggest benefit of smoothies is that they give you the chance to add a better variety of superfoods to your diet. Take advantage! Experiment with all kinds of fresh fruit when it is in season, and use unsweetened frozen fruit when it is not in season. Try leafy green vegetables and a rainbow of other vegetables, such as beets, pumpkin, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers. Some of the best sources of antioxidants are fresh herbs and roots, such as fennel bulb and ginger and turmeric root, as well as dried spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Chia seeds and flaxseed are also worth adding.

 

I Still Want My Smoothies!


Then go for it! Lark is here to support you in your weight loss and health journey. If smoothies are the right choice for you, then have at it! Here are a couple of recipes to get you going.

Creamy Raspberry Mint Smoothie


Ingredients

  • ¾ cup raspberries

  • ½ cucumber, in pieces

  • ½ cup plain yogurt

  • ¼ avocado

  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

  • A few mint leaves

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

 

Peachy Green Smoothie 


Ingredients

  • ¾ cup peaches

  • ½ cup tofu

  • 1 cup spinach

  • 1 tablespoon almond butter

  • ½ cup ice

  • ¼ teaspoon cloves

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!