Diabetes and Diet
Why fiber is fabulous for preventing and controlling Type 2 diabetes
If you’re among the more than 30 million Americans living with Type 2 diabetes, you already know that a diabetes healthy diet and a good weight management program can have tremendously positive impacts on how you feel and how well you live with the disease.
You may have even heard people talking about fiber being particularly beneficial to those with Type 2 diabetes. What you might not now, however, is how and why a high-fiber diet just might make all the difference in the world when it comes to controlling your blood sugar level, lowering cholesterol, preventing heart disease and keeping those excess pounds away. If you’ve been diagnosed as prediabetic, a high-fiber diet can help you delay or even avoid the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
Fiber is, indeed, fabulous for individuals living or trying to prevent Type 2 diabetes. The USDA recommends consuming 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories of food you eat. This adds up to about 21-28 grams a day for most people. However, recent studies have shown that for those with Type 2 diabetes, increasing fiber intake just a little bit past these recommendations can lead to substantial blood sugar and overall heath improvements.
The benefits of a high-fiber diet for those with Type 2 diabetes
As someone with Type 2 diabetes, you probably test your blood sugar multiple times a day. The reason you do it is to make sure you’re maintaining that target blood glucose level, and a high-fiber diet can help you do this - and a lot more.
Here are just a few benefits of a high-fiber diet as it relates to diabetes.
- One of the biggest advantages of fibers is that they slow down the absorption of blood sugar, which makes fiber a natural way to help prevent dangerous spikes in blood glucose.
- Studies have also shown that fibers can improve the body’s insulin sensitivity, which can lead to reduced medication requirements.
- Fiber inhibits the absorption of certain fats, as well as cholesterol, which can help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels.
- Foods that are rich in fiber tend to make us feel full and satiated – a nice advantage for those with Type 2 diabetes who are trying to lose or manage weight.
- Fiber promotes healthy digestion and bowel movements, again important for weight management.
- Studies have also shown that a high-fiber diet can have cardiovascular and other heart-health benefits, including lowering blood pressure.
The proof: fiber study by the American College of Cardiology
A study presented in 2019 by the American College of Cardiology points to some impressive reasons and provides some concrete proof as to why those with Type 2 diabetes might consider adding a little more fiber to their diet. The study cites results found after tracking 200 participants with Type 2 diabetes who were given diets with just 20-25% greater amounts of fiber than the recommended daily allowance for a “high-fiber” diet. The results were rather remarkable. On average, these individuals with Type 2 diabetes saw:
- 28% reduction in fasting glucose
- 15% reduction in systolic blood pressure
- 9% reduction in serum cholesterol
- 23% reduction in triglycerides
How to get more fiber in your diet
There are two types of fiber and they both deliver some big health benefits. Soluble fiber helps increase the body’s insulin sensitivity and can actually lower blood sugar levels. It also reduces the absorption of bad LDL cholesterol, which is particularly beneficial to those with Type 2 diabetes who are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as individuals without diabetes. Insoluble fiber does the body right by promoting healthy digestive function, speeding up the transit of food through the body, preventing constipation and removing waste effectively.
While you’ll find a host of fiber supplements on the market, the best and most reliable sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber are plant-based foods - in other words, eat your fruits and vegetables! Here are some of the best.
10 great sources of fiber for those with Type 2 diabetes:
How much fiber do I need if I have Type 2 diabetes?
As we mentioned previously, dietary guidelines recommended that the average person consumes 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. For most people, this totals somewhere between 21-28 grams of fiber on a daily basis.
However, studies have shown that those with Type 2 diabetes can see dramatic benefits by simply increasing their recommended daily allowance of fiber by 20-25%.
To make this a little easier to digest (no pun intended), let’s look at it with some real examples. Let’s say we want to boost our standard intake of 25 grams of fiber by 20% each day. That means we’re shooting for about an extra 5 grams of fiber each day. Here are some easy ways to get there.
- 1 cup of shredded wheat contains 5 grams of fiber
- ¼ cup of cooked yellow or navy beans contains close to 5 grams of fiber
- ½ cup of rolled oats contains about 4 grams of fiber
- 1 pear contains about 6 grams of fiber
- 2 cups of berries contain about 6 grams of fiber
- ½ cup serving of artichoke delivers close to 5 grams of fiber
- • 3 cups of popcorn will give you about 2 additional grams of fiber
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to up your fiber intake just enough to see some great benefits.
However, and we cannot stress this enough, it’s important to remember that diet and diabetes must be managed together. For instance, many sources of fiber also contain calories and carbohydrates, which you need to be aware of before you consume these foods. Some, like pears and other fruits, have natural sugars that can impact blood glucose levels. Again, you need to be aware and make adjustments. That’s why the first step to adding a little more fiber to your diet is sitting down with your diabetes physician and care team.
Before making any changes to your daily diabetes meal plan, talk with your doctor about the possible benefits of adding more fiber-rich foods to your diet. Everybody with diabetes is different and your doctor will be able to assess your individual situation and help you make the right choices.
For those managing Type 2 diabetes, fiber is an important component of a diabetes healthy diet. In fact, science is showing that going beyond the recommended daily allowance and consuming a few more grams of fiber each day can have added benefits in managing blood sugar levels and promoting heart health. You don’t need a drawer full of supplements and you won’t have to make drastic dietary changes. Fiber is found in so many foods that are diabetes friendly. A slight adjustment in diet, once approved by your diabetes physician, is all it takes.
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