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Benefits Of Mediterranean Diet For Diabetes

Every year, the month of November is observed as the Diabetes Awareness Month - celebrated globally to raise awareness about both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The theme of World Diabetes Day and diabetes awareness month 2019 is 'Family and Diabetes'.

Diabetes Awareness Month 2019 also aims to focus on the link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. On this awareness month, let us take a look at the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet could have on a diabetic.

Diabetes, something we all are aware of, is a disease that causes your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. The sugar level, that is, the glucose level in your blood is attained from the foods you consume. Therefore, it is increasingly significant that you direct your diet with extreme care and caution. When an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, his or her body lacks the ability to effectively process the blood glucose. That is, the insulin production in your body is directly linked to the development of diabetes [1] .

Sugar intake is a big no-no if you are suffering from diabetes. And almost all of the food products, vegetables and fruit have a good amount of sugar. Likewise trans fat, carbohydrates etc., are to be avoided if you are diabetic [2] ; pointing out that it is tough to figure out what to eat and what not to eat when you are suffering from diabetes.

Also read: 16 Surprising Benefits Of The Citrus Fruit, Pomelo

Diabetes And Daily Diet

In the current day scenario, more than 10% of the population suffers from diabetes. Over the last ten years, there has been an 18% rise in the number of people suffering from diabetes [3] . According to the data revealed by a 2011 study, it was pointed out that over the last thirty years, the number of men with diabetes rose from 8.3% to 9.8% and women rose from 7.5% to 9.2%.

The extensive shift in the lifestyle and eating habits of people are to be pointed out as being the central reasons for the colossal hike in the number of diabetic individuals. Eating healthy is critical for one to maintain a healthy lifestyle[4] . It is increasingly significant when you are diagnosed with ailments such as diabetes.

A healthy diet for an individual suffering from diabetes is not only aimed at keeping diabetes at bay but also to improve their energy and mood. A person's health is directly impacted by their emotions and moods. So, it is equally important to follow a healthy diet [5] to maintain one's energy and mood.

If you are suffering from diabetes, picking the right food will help lower the sugar levels as well the various health risks associated with it. It is necessary that have an understanding of the impact each type of food has on your blood sugar levels. Whole grains, baked sweet potato, fresh green vegetables, fresh fruits, low-fat dairy, seafood, chicken breast are some of the best choices you can adapt to your daily diet [6] . And avoid foods such as white bread, fries, canned vegetables, jam or jelly, pork bacon, deep-fried fish etc. [7]

Mediterranean Diet For Diabetes

Various studies have been conducted to explore the benefits of adopting the Mediterranean diet and it has been asserted as being beneficial for weight loss [8] , blood sugar control and reduced risk of depression. Basically, the Mediterranean diet is the diet followed by the people of the Mediterranean and has been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a low-risk factor for heart attack and stroke and Alzheimer's disease [9] [10] .

The Mediterranean diet, unlike the other types of diets, is not just focused on the types of food but the way in which you eat the food as well, as a significant component. The diet involves taking time to enjoy food in the company of others, drinking plenty of water, getting the right amount of exercise, focusing on in-season and plant-based foods[11] , using extra-virgin olive oil as your main source of dietary fat, consuming fruits, reducing the consumption of red meats and sweets and so on [12] .

Being attentive to your daily diet is extremely necessary, especially when you are suffering from any health condition. Inclusive of fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, herbs and spices, healthy fats, fibre, whole grains, tubers, legumes, nuts and seeds and fresh produce - the Mediterranean diet is packed with amazing benefits[13] .

Various research has been conducted for years to study the positive impact the diet has on individuals with diabetes. It has been proven with credible scientific proof that the Mediterranean diet is helpful in fighting diabetes [14] . The diet helps a diabetic fight off type 2 diabetes through the incorporation of healthy foods that combat diabetes, and it also aids in eliminating the unhealthy food habits you follow (which increase the risk of diabetes). The diet limits the intake of sugar, which is a direct relief to your body suffering from diabetes. Following the diet can help improve the blood sugar control and also aids in weight loss [15] .

Also read: Insulin Plant: Does It Cure Diabetes? Benefits, Dosage & Risks

The studies have compared the Mediterranean diet with other diets such as vegan, vegetarian, high-fibre, low-carbohydrate, high-protein etc., in order to analyse its applicability and benefits it would reap when adopted by an individual suffering from type 2 diabetes [16] . The diet revealed great promises in benefiting individuals with high blood sugar levels. It is the incorporation of foods that have high fibre content and rich in monounsaturated fat that makes the diet so healthy, as the mentioned components can lower the cholesterol and blood sugar levels in a diabetic person. Likewise, the individuals who adopted the Mediterranean diet showed reduced chances of cardiovascular health risks, along with a healthy loss in weight[17] .

On exploring the deluge of studies conducted on the importance of the Mediterranean diet, it was asserted that people who follow the diet or a diet close to this have 23% reduced chance of developing type 2 diabetes. And another pointed out a 53% reduced chance. Individuals who were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes also benefits from the Mediterranean diet as it helped in improving their blood sugar levels, weight loss and cardiovascular health [18] .

In another study conducted on individuals with type 2 diabetes, it was revealed that the Mediterranean diet, rich in fresh vegetables and whole grains aided the individuals in dealing with the disease without the prescribed medication [19] . The study was carried out in comparison to a low-fat diet. However, after a period of four years, although the individuals had a better glycemic (blood sugar) control, they were required to take the diabetes medications to control the blood sugar levels (but less in comparison to the people who followed other diets) [20] .

On dealing with diabetes, the diet is beneficial for three things such as controlling the blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The Mediterranean diet can help a person with type 2 diabetes in different ways. The scientifically proven benefits of the diet are as follows [21] .

  • The diet helps in improving the blood-lipid profile, as well as reduce the levels of bad cholesterol by acting along with statins (drugs).
  • The diet lowers your blood pressure.
  • It acts as a protective layer against cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke and reduces the risk of death.
  • It improves the blood glucose or sugar level control.
  • It helps in reducing the risk of developing microvascular complications that can affect your eyes.

It can be ascertained that the Mediterranean diet is extremely beneficial for the human body, especially for an individual suffering from type 2 diabetes. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the foods included in the Mediterranean diet helps your body in insulin resistance and the metabolic syndromes [22] . The diet pays attention to each and every aspect of diabetes prevention, from insulin control to weight management. By following the Mediterranean diet, not only can you prevent the onset of diabetes but also reverse it. It is critical to exercise while following the diet, so as to gain the optimum benefits [23] .

However, it has to be kept in mind that while adopting the Mediterranean diet to ward off diabetes, you must consult with your doctor. Because each and every diet works differently to different people. And to shift from one diet to other, especially when your body is not at its strongest - must be given extra attention [24] .

Replacing Your Diet With Mediterranean Diet

The first and foremost change to be adopted while switching to the diet is changing your oil. The diet demands the use of extra-virgin olive oil, which has rich quantities of monounsaturated fatty acids that can help improve the good cholesterol. Normal oils such as vegetable oil or coconut oil can cause negative impacts on your body, which can be dealt with the adoption of olive oil[23] .

Likewise, giving up desserts and sweets as a part of the diet to be replaced by fruits will do wonders to your body. Fruits are normally rich in fibre, vitamin C and other nutrients that can help improve your digestion and help in relieving any digestion-related issues [10] . Also, the diet requires you to chew the food slowly and thoroughly, so that your whole body becomes responsive to the food consumed. This helps in curing hunger effectively and also not raising the need to snack constantly.

Always keep in mind that while shifting from one diet to other, make sure that your body is accepting the changes. Consult your doctor or a nutritionist.

Change your protein - Replace the meat with protein-rich beans, nuts, and seeds. Add fish and seafood to your diet, at least two to three times per week and reduce or avoid red meat [25] .

Switch your oils - Forget your vegetable or coconut oil and shift to olive oil. Use olive oil instead of butter as well.

Eat more vegetables - Consume at least three cups of vegetables per day. Include green vegetables such as spinach, kale etc.

Eat more fruits - Consume at least two cups of fruits every day, add more colours and berries [26] .

Replace fried snacks with nuts/seeds - Every week, eat at least two handfuls of seeds and nuts, and avoid candied or salted nuts and seeds.

Eat whole grains - Choose whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa. When choosing bread or pasta, check and see whether it is made of whole grains.

Replace sweets with fruits - Whenever you get a sweet craving, satisfy it with fruits [27] .

Also read: Diabetic Ketoacidosis: Causes, Treatments and Prevention

A 7-day Mediterranean Diet Plan

Before adopting the diet into your lifestyle, make sure that you go through it extensively and discuss with your doctor or nutritionist [28] .

Breakfast: Greek yoghurt with strawberries and oats.
Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich with vegetables.
Dinner: A tuna salad, dressed in olive oil. A piece of fruit for dessert.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins.
Lunch: Mediterranean pasta salad.
Dinner: Salad with tomatoes, olives and feta cheese.

Breakfast: Omelet with vegetables, tomatoes and onions. A piece of fruit.
Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich, with cheese and fresh vegetables.
Dinner: Mediterranean lasagne.

Breakfast: Yoghurt with sliced fruits and nuts.
Lunch: Chickpea and tuna salad.
Dinner: Broiled salmon, served with brown rice and vegetables.

Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, fried in olive oil.
Lunch: Greek yoghurt with strawberries, oats and nuts.
Dinner: Crisp salmon salad

Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins, nuts and an apple.
Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich with vegetables.
Dinner: Mediterranean pizza made with whole wheat, topped with cheese, vegetables and olives.

Omelet with vegetables and olives.
Lunch: Kale and green lentil soup
Dinner: Grilled chicken, with vegetables and a potato. Fruit for dessert.

Also read: 14 Lesser Known Benefits Of Selenium For Health, Skin And Hair

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