As we age, our chance of developing Type 2 diabetes increases, and many American seniors are now living with and managing this disease and its symptoms. While there are medications that people can take to help effectively manage the condition, there are also lifestyle and dietary choices that seniors can make to improve their health and keep their diabetes under control naturally.
Beneficial Foods for Seniors with Diabetes
Managing diabetes through lifestyle and dietary choices does not have to be only about excluding certain foods from one’s diet. In fact, there are several foods that have been identified as beneficial and even helpful for individuals living with diabetes.
- Beans – beans of any kind are a diabetes “super food”, since they pack a ton of nutrition in small amounts. Beans are full of fiber, magnesium, and potassium, and provide protein while also being low in fat and cholesterol free, a nutrition profile that distinguishes beans from most types of meat. To make sure your beans are as healthy as possible, consider buying beans dry and in bulk, and soak them to prepare them for consumption. However, canned beans are also healthy in a pinch – just make sure to rinse them thoroughly to help remove some of the added salt.
- Dark, Leafy Veggies – dark, leafy greens are a healthy addition to any diet for a number of reasons. These are especially safe for diabetics to snack on as they are low in calories and carbs. Plus, their antioxidant properties are a significant benefit for anyone.
- Berries – Like dark, leafy greens, berries are extremely high in antioxidants, making them a healthy addition to anyone’s diet. Additionally, berries are also high in numerous vitamins and are a great source of fiber, making them a perfect addition to a diabetic’s diet. Berries, like all fruits, are carbohydrates, since they have naturally occurring sugar, so be mindful of portion.
- Sweet Potatoes – for those who like the idea of having a starchy vegetable on their plate, sweet potatoes are a healthy, low glycemic index substitution for regular potatoes. Additionally, sweet potatoes are high in fiber and vitamin A, making them a smart and tasty choice.
- Whole Grains – grains themselves get a bad reputation, despite having incredible nutrients to offer. Unfortunately, most processed grains, like white bread and enriched pasta, strip out the healthiest parts of the grain: the germ and the bran. However, whole grains offer an incredible source of chromium, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids and folate. Additionally, some specific grains, like oatmeal, also are high in fiber and potassium.
- Low-Fat/Fat-Free Dairy – Dairy has major health benefits for individuals, especially because of the calcium it contains, which is important for older individuals. However, buying full fat dairy can come with some health dangers, like high amounts of fat and cholesterol. To get the benefits of dairy without the negative health effects, buy low-fat or non-fat products, like milk and yogurt. This is a great way to still get high amounts of calcium and vitamin D. However, make sure you check the label on any low-fat or fat-free products you buy, as some manufacturers add large amounts of sugar to make up for the flavor provided by whole milk.
- Nuts – nuts are a great way to curb your hunger and get a serious nutritional boost in the process. Nuts offer healthy fats to seniors along with magnesium, fiber, and in some cases, omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods for Seniors with Diabetes to Avoid
While seniors living with diabetes can still partake of the following foods in moderation, it is incredibly important for individuals with diabetes to monitor just how much of the following foods they consume, especially if they are trying to manage their condition without the help of medication.
- Sugar – sugar seems like the obvious candidate for this list, but the sad reality is that limiting sugar intake is a lot more difficult than you might initially expect. Sugar sneaks into so much processed food that it’s almost impossible to precisely regulate your sugar intake without eliminating most if not all processed foods. Check the nutrition label for added sugars and keep those as low as possible.
- Salt – like sugar, salt is added to processed foods in huge amounts, making it difficult for people to control their sodium intake. To be safe, individuals who are watching their sodium levels should cook at home as much as possible and consume a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium per day.Fat – while lowering overall fat intake is important for individuals with diabetes, it is especially important to lower the intake of trans fat and saturated fat. These are the fats that have the biggest negative impact on heart health.
- Alcohol – as much as possible, individuals with diabetes should try to limit their alcohol intake.
- Cholesterol – cholesterol can show up in processed and whole foods alike, and individuals with diabetes need to make sure they monitor their overall cholesterol and keep daily intake to less than 200 mg per day.
By paying attention to what they’re eating and limiting consumption of the above items, seniors can significantly improve their health and help manage their diabetes in a healthy, natural way.