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The DASH Diet And Diabetes

By Stacy Ostrager, Nutritionist, M.A., M.S.

It has been well established that following a healthy diet is critical to stopping or reversing progression of diabetes.  There are many studies on which diet is most beneficial for diabetic patients, and there are many diets, so choosing a plan that will keep your blood glucose in check can be confusing.

The Dash Diet And Diabetes

The Dash Diet And Diabetes

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has been touted by most doctors as the optimal choice for patients who are trying to lower their blood pressure and control glucose levels. Scientific clinically proven evidence has found that following the DASH diet has one of the highest success rates in addressing these medical concerns and reducing patients’ weight. 

  • DASH offers a structured eating program that will prevent and help manage  diabetes and heart disease.
  • The DASH diet guidelines encourages a reduction in the amount of sodium in your diet and to eat a variety of nutrient rich foods.  This plan will aide you in   making choices which will reduce blood glucose levels. 
  • The diet is low in calories, high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains.      and promotes increased number of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products     which have been associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. 
  •  This is NOT a pre-packaged, fad diet, with expensive ingredients and recipes  that are difficult to follow. 

How Can the DASH Diet Help Me Control My Diabetes?

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes may be viewed as a wake-up call to change your lifestyle.  In most instances both diabetic and hypertensive patients are eating a high sodium, high fat diet, and consuming too many calories. The association of excess weight and high blood pressure puts them in a higher risk category for additional medical complications:

  • Hypertensive patients are predisposed to the development of insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • People with diabetes are likely to have a higher incidence of stroke and heart disease. 

You CAN reverse or alleviate these complications by choosing to change your lifestyle with the DASH program.

  • One of the key features of following the DASH diet is that your blood pressure and weight will decrease.  You can avert negative health consequences by choosing the low cholesterol and reduced sodium foods that are on the DASH plan.
  •  Foods included on the DASH diet are full of nutrients such as magnesium, calcium and protein which help with insulin resistance. Remember, lowering your glucose levels is a critical component in the development of type 2 diabetes.
  • The diet in combination with an exercise program proves more beneficial for patients’ weight and fasting insulin levels.  Patients achieved improvements in glucose metabolism while on the DASH diet plan.
  • The DASH diet may lower homocysteine levels and help reduce inflammation. Diet and exercise reduce stress and inflammation as well. Both are important elements to control the complication by damaging blood vessels for diabetics.  

If you are ready to make the DASH work for you, you can take these steps to prepare yourself and get your kitchen ready:

  1. Keep track of what you are currently eating,  and then you will be able to replace your preferences with healthier options.
  2. Make a shopping list and try not to buy anything else. Focus on the DASH guidelines and meeting your goals.  A good place to start is by looking at the nutrition labels of the foods going into your cart.  Try to find items with less sodium and fat.  Look for “sodium-free” items.
  3. Shop the perimeter of the store and look for a variety of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Aim for organic, whole-grains and lean meats, wild fish, and skinless chicken.
  4. Change the way you prepare foods at home.  Try not to add salt when you are cooking and experiment with spices and other flavors.  Rinse canned foods to wash away extra salt.  Modify your recipes and don’t be afraid to try new foods.

 Your Good Health is Worth Making the DASH:

Following the DASH diet requires some effort but over time this lifestyle will likely reduce health risks associated with diabetes.  Your efforts to stay on track will be worthwhile. Imagine throwing out your medications and not having to check your sugars. You can reduce stress, expenses, and avoid major medical problems with this lifestyle.  The DASH dietary pattern is a comprehensive plan that may be used as a non-pharmacologic intervention for blood pressure control and insulin action. The DASH diet offers protection against the development of type 2 diabetes.

Stacy R. Ostrager has over 15 years experience in the health care field. She has worked in leading teaching hospitals and co-authored numerous consulting projects for doctors and private medical groups. She is currently working in private practice. Stacy has a Masters degree in Health Administration as well as a Masters in Nutrition.

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