How does the DASH Diet help with Diabetes?
If there’s one subject that comes up over and over again among the diabetes community, it is diet. After all, what we put into our bodies has a huge impact on our blood sugar, as well as how effectively we can control it and avoid those unwanted spikes and lows.
You’ll find no shortage of dietary advice out there and the truth is most of it is pretty sound with recommendations revolving around lean proteins, good fibers, and fresh veggies with leafy greens being a priority. As always, we remind you to speak with your diabetes physician and care team before making any adjustments to your diet or diabetes management program.
That being said, in this post we’ll examine what’s called the DASH Diet. If you’re not familiar with it, DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and it was developed by the American Heart Association to help combat heart disease in the nation. It turns out, however, that this diet is also a pretty good one to follow for those living with diabetes.
DASH and High Blood Pressure
The primary goal of DASH is to lower blood pressure, a huge problem in the United States and certainly even more prevalent among those with diabetes. In fact, more than half of all adults with diabetes suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) and people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop hypertension as those without diabetes.
Suffice it to say, the link between hypertension and heart disease is well established, as is the connection between diabetes (particularly poorly managed diabetes) and the risk of heart disease.
The fact is Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure share very similar risk factors, including obesity, a lack of physical activity, high cholesterol levels and vascular inflammation. So, it only makes sense that a diet designed to curb hypertension would also be beneficial for diabetes.
What is the DASH Diet?
As you might imagine the DASH diet focuses on adopting healthy eating habits that revolve around whole foods and pretty much eliminate processed foods. The DASH eating pattern encourages foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol, and sodium, while being good sources of potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein.
The primary good stuff includes:
– Whole grains
– Lean meats, poultry, fish
– Low-fat or fat-free dairy
The stuff to avoid includes:
– Fatty meats (red meats)
– Full-fat dairy
– Sugar-sweetened beverages
– Candy and sweets
– High-sodium foods
– Saturated fats and trans fats
One of the stricter tenets of the DASH diet revolves around cutting back your sodium intake. Sodium, after all, is a blood pressure accelerator. The American Heart Association recommends staying under 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. That’s about one-half teaspoon of salt. However, following the DASH diet you can cut that back to about 1,500 milligrams per day or one-third teaspoon of salt. Cutting back on salt, as we know, is also beneficial for managing diabetes.
DASH and diabetes
Focusing on lean proteins, whole grains and veggies is both a blood-pressure and diabetes-friendly diet. Additionally, research featured in Diabetes Spectrum reports that the DASH diet, along with aiding in hypertension, may also improve insulin resistance, which is certainly beneficial when it comes to blood sugar control and diabetes management. Plus, there is no question that following a diet focused on lean meats and vegetables can help a person lose weight. Being that obesity is a major health concern and a known contributor to Type 2 diabetes, losing weight is certainly a big benefit of following the diet. Losing weight can mitigate the risk of experiencing other diabetes-related complications, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy, and diabetes-related nerve damage. Additionally, dropping excess pounds tends to lower insulin resistance and make it easier to properly manage blood sugar.
In fact, the diet’s positive impacts on insulin resistance and weight loss can also help those whose glycemic levels are still in the prediabetic stage avoid developing Type 2 diabetes. This is a big deal, since more than one out of every three Americans is prediabetic, and more than 80% of these individuals have no clue they are speeding toward a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
How Do I Start?
Perhaps the best thing about the DASH diet is that it’s really not a diet in the conventional sense of the word. This isn’t some crash program you adopt for a week or two and magically see incredible results. It’s not a quick fix or a false promise.
Rather, the DASH diet is really a lifestyle change and that means there’s no need to rush into it. In fact, you’re better off easing into the program in order to improve the chances you’ll stick to it.
Maybe you start by cutting out that afternoon soda or slicing up fresh vegetables to enjoy as healthy prepared snacks throughout the week. Maybe you make an extra effort to include veggies as a side dish with every meal. Maybe you ditch that saltshaker altogether and start substituting other spices or even a squeeze of fresh lemon (it’s great on avocado, poultry, and other foods).
The point is the DASH diet is a long-term program that gives you the flexibility of taking baby steps to gradually get into it and slowly develop a new dietary mindset. Need a little more help, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health offers DASH-friendly ideas and recipes.
Of course, before you jump in, talk about DASH with your diabetes physician and care team. They’ll know whether or not this is the ideal program for your diabetes lifestyle and management plan.
We hope you found this post informative and insightful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage blood sugar with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.