As we age, our chances 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 a number of foods that have been identified as beneficial and even helpful for individuals living with diabetes.
- Beans – beans of any kind are considered to be a diabetes “super food”, since they pack a ton of nutrition in small amounts. Beans are full of fiber, magnesium, and potassium, and also provide huge amounts of protein while also being low in fat, something that distinguishes beans from most types of meat. To make sure your beans are as healthy as possible, individuals should consider buying their beans dry and in bulk, and soaking them to prepare them for consumption. However, canned beans are also healthy in a pinch – just make sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove any 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.
- 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, especially because they have some incredible nutrients to offer. Unfortunately, most processed grains, like 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 incredible health benefits for individuals, especially because of the calcium it contains, which is incredibly important for older individuals. However, buying full fat dairy can come with some health dangers, like high amounts of fat and cholesterol. To still get the benefits of dairy without the negative health effects, buying low-fat or non-fat products, like milk and yogurt, can be 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 high 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 that you might initially expect. Sugar sneaks its way into so much processed food that it’s almost impossible to precisely regulate your sugar intake without eliminating most if not all processed foods.
- Salt – like sugar, salt sneaks its way into 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 2,000 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.
- 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.