Do you have diabetes or prediabetes? You’re not alone. It is estimated that in the U.S., half the population is affected by prediabetes (36%) or diabetes (14%). This is bad news for your physical and mental health, as high blood sugar and diabetes are associated with increased risk of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- Accelerated aging
- Smaller hippocampus (involved in mood, learning, and memory)
- Anxiety and depression
- Eating disorders, such as binge eating.
- Decreased cerebral blood flow on SPECT scans
Getting your diet right is critical for managing or preventing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Most people with this condition are instructed to reduce their intake of simple carbohydrates to help stabilize blood sugar levels. With this in mind, can you follow the Brain Warrior’s Way diet even if you have T2DM? Yes! The principles of this brain healthy eating plan can be beneficial for anyone with diabetes or prediabetes.
For example, one of the 10 principles of the Brain Warrior diet is to “Eat smart carbohydrates (low-glycemic, high fiber).” This falls right in line with the common recommendation for people with high blood sugar levels to eat a low-carbohydrate diet. Here’s why.
The fastest way to balance blood sugar is to decrease the amount of high-glycemic, low-fiber carbohydrates you eat—think cookies, pancakes, and doughnuts. This doesn’t mean eliminating all carbs. Instead, it’s best to focus on smart carbs, which I define as low glycemic (meaning they do not quickly raise your blood sugar levels) while being high in fiber (such as those found in vegetables and lower glycemic fruits like blueberries, pears, and apples).
Go Low (Glycemic)
It’s a good idea to get to know the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) of the foods you eat. The GI rates carbohydrates according to their effects on blood sugar from a 50-gram load. It is ranked on a scale from 1 to 100+ (glucose is 100) with the low-GI foods having a lower number (which means they do not spike your blood sugar, so they tend to be healthier) and the higher GI foods having a high number (which means they quickly elevate your blood sugar, so they are generally not as healthy). In general, I like to stay with foods that have a glycemic index rate under 60.
GL is actually a more valuable number. There are two problems with using the GI as a guide to eating. One, it only applies to a food eaten alone. In other words, a banana is not the same as a banana eaten with almond butter. Two, and more importantly, the GI doesn’t take portion size into account. Carrots have a moderate GI index (47), but a low GL. You would have to eat a pound and a half of them to raise your blood sugar. GL takes both size, portion, and blood sugar into account all at once.
You can find a table of carbs with low, moderate, and high glycemic load in The Brain Warrior’s Way book.
Go High (Fiber)
Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate that impacts digestion, starting from your first bite. High-fiber foods generally require longer chewing time, which slows down your eating. This gives the hormones of satiety time to communicate with your brain. In the stomach, fiber absorbs water and creates bulk, which can increase the time it takes for food to move out of the stomach. As a result, you’ll feel full longer and are less likely to experience the rapid spikes in blood sugar that occur when food digests quickly, and glucose is dumped into the blood.
High-fiber foods include broccoli, berries, onions, flax seeds, nuts, green beans, cauliflower, celery, and sweet potatoes (the skin of one sweet potato has more fiber than a bowl of oatmeal!).
By sticking with smart carbs, you can help stabilize blood sugar levels to reduce the risk of diabetes or to help manage it if you have the condition.
Note: It’s always important to speak with your healthcare provider about any changes you are making to your diet so that if you are on any medications they can be monitored accordingly.
For more on healthy nutrition, order a copy of the The Brain Warrior’s Way book. You can take 21% off your order when you enter TANA21 at checkout.