If you are a diabetic, you already know the importance of maintaining a healthy diet when it comes to managing your disease. What you eat can have a profound impact on your blood glucose levels, and make the difference between successfully managing your disease and experiencing significant complications.
Many diabetics tend to focus most of their energy on what they shouldn’t eat, and avoiding the foods that can cause spikes in blood sugar. However, there are certain foods that diabetics should eat regularly, as they can have significant benefits when it comes to not only managing blood sugar, but also controlling some other potentially complicating factors, including cholesterol.
One of the food types that all diabetics should make a point of adding to their diets is nuts; assuming no nut allergies, of course. When consumed in conjunction with medication designed to control blood sugar and insulin, different types of nuts offer a wide array of benefits.
Stress is a fact of modern life — and for Type 2 diabetics stress can raise blood pressure and cause other vascular restrictions. However, a recent Penn State study found that Type 2 diabetics who eat two servings of pistachios per day, amounting to about 150 nuts, had lower blood pressure and peripheral vascular resistance both at rest and during stress tests than those subjects who did not eat the nuts.
The results suggest that pistachios can be beneficial to Type 2 diabetics who are struggling with maintaining their blood pressure — a common ailment, considering the number of diabetics who are also overweight. It’s important to note, though, that the subjects in this study only ate food that as provided by the researchers, and that the pistachios comprised approximately 20 percent of the patients’ overall daily diet for the duration of the study. Still, the positive impact on blood pressure indicates that diabetics shouldn’t hesitate to snack on the nuts.
Tree nuts encompass a wide variety of nuts, including cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans. According to 12 clinical trials conducted in Toronto, just two servings of tree nuts each day — the equivalent of half a cup nuts — can help lower and stabilize blood sugar when eaten in place of carbohydrates. Best of all, while nuts are high in fat, the participants did not gain weight during the trials.
Other studies confirm these findings. More specific benefits apply to different kinds of nuts:
Walnuts. Type 2 diabetics who added an ounce of walnuts to their low-fat diets each day saw a significant reduction in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol after six months as opposed to those patients who consumed a low fat diet without walnuts.
Cashews. Cashews offer a double whammy of reducing triglycerides and blood sugar. Type 2 diabetics often have high triglycerides (sugar converted to cholesterol by the liver), and the monounsaturated fats in cashews can help lower overall cholesterol. In addition, lab tests show that cashew nut extract administrated orally can lower blood sugar for up to three hours.
Pecans. Pecanscontain the same oleic acid as cashews, making them a good choice for lowering cholesterol.
Almonds. Almonds can help reduce the blood sugar spikes that are common after eating. In patients tested four hours after eating, those who consumed almonds in addition to meals consisting of protein, carbohydrates and fat had much lower blood glucose and insulin levels than those who did not have almonds.
Incorporating Nuts Into Your Diet
While most of the studies involving nuts and Type 2 diabetics involved subjects eating plain nuts as a snack or alongside a meal, there are a plenty of other ways to add nuts to your diet. Some of the most delicious options include:
Adding a sprinkle of nuts to your salad instead of croutons.
Add nuts to no sugar added yogurt and fruit to add crunch.
Add some cashews or almonds to your favorite stir-fry recipe.
Add nuts to chicken salad to add some flavor and texture.
Nuts are delicious in oatmeal, and give your breakfast an added nutritional boost.
Pack some nuts along to enjoy a handful when the afternoon munchies hit.
It’s important, though, to pay close attention to the actual nuts you’re consuming, as not all nuts are created equally. Stick to the least processed versions possible; a little salt for flavor is okay, but too much salt can negate the nuts’ benefits to your blood pressure. And since you need to be mindful of your sugar and carbohydrate intake, avoid nuts that have been processed with honey, chocolate or other sugary additives. Trail mix is another potential pitfall. Many trail mixes appear to be healthy, with nuts and dried fruit, but you need to be mindful of the sugar content. Dried fruit, for example, is often one of the most sugary foods that one can eat.
Type 2 diabetics hear a lot about what they shouldn’t eat, but nuts are one of the few foods that are truly beneficial. Try noshing on some today, and see for yourself the effect they can have on your blood sugar and overall health.