Should you be eating MORE healthy fats for diabetes and healthy blood sugar balance?
If you’ve been eating a “Standard American Diet” or following a low-fat regime, then the answer is YES.
In fact, a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet has been proven – time and time again – to produce healthier outcomes for diabetics.
But before we look further at fats, lets take a look at…
Why a Low Fat Diet is Disastrous (And How Healthy Fats for Diabetes Help!)
By definition, a low-fat diet displaces calories from protein and fat in favor of carbohydrates.
And that means bad news for your blood sugar.
When you eat carb-rich foods, your blood sugar rises. To shuttle the sugar into muscles cells for fuel, insulin is released. When your muscle cells have taken all the sugar they can hold, sugar gets shuttled somewhere else… to your fat cells! This is why insulin is known as the “fat-storage hormone”.
Not only does this cause weight gain, but it can also lead to (or worsen!) insulin resistance and diabetes.
Healthy fats, on the other hand, have negligible effect on blood sugar levels. And despite their bad rap, fats are essential for nutrient absorption, regulating inflammation and even balancing blood sugar and fostering weight loss.
That is, if you’re eating the right type of fat.
Let’s take a look at the research on healthy fats for diabetes and its related complications:
Omega-3 Fats: The “Essential” Healthy Fat for Diabetes Diets
In the United States, 80% of the fats we consume are omega 6 fats. And that’s a dangerous thing because omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils like corn and soybean oil) increase inflammation and other disease processes related to diabetes.
Omega-3′s are vital to health, and especially important for people with diabetes.
Omega-3s on the other hand, supply the antidote. Not only do these healthy fats (found in cold water fish like wild salmon, mackerel and sardines, plus flaxseed, walnuts and chia) provide potent anti-inflammatory action, they can also improve the control of blood sugar, reduce triglycerides and the risk of cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death among individuals with diabetes.
Here is why it’s important to know your numbers:
- More Omega-3′s Equals Less Heart Disease: A prospective study followed 5,100 women with type-2 diabetes, who were free of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Researchers found that higher fish intakes (associated with omega-3) were associated with decreased risks of heart disease over a 16-year follow-up period.
- Omega-3′s Promote Fat Loss and Blast Belly Fat: Recent research published in the journal Lipids found that marine omega 3 fats may help reduce accumulation of body fat by promoting fat-burning and reducing the number of cells in fat tissue. When researchers induced weight gain with a high-calorie diet, they found that those animals whose omega-3 consumption increased from 1 to 12% of total fat gained significantly less fat, particularly in the abdominal region. What’s more, omega-3′s were also found to genetically program the body to shed fat!
- Omega-3′s Reduce Risk of Death from Heart Attack: A large Harvard study found that getting just one gram per day of omega-3 fatty acids over a 3.5-year period in people who had survived a heart attack lowered their risk of dying from heart disease by 25%.
- Omega-3′s from Walnuts & Flax Slash Heart Disease Risk by 50%!: U.S. women who ate more walnuts and flaxseed, which contain a compound known as ALA, nearly cut their risk of fatal heart disease in half in a 10-year study.
- Reduce Fatal Heart Attack by 60%: A study in China that followed more than 18,000 men for 10 years found that those who consumed more than 7 ounces of fish or shellfish weekly reduced their risk of fatal heart attack by almost 60% over those who consumed less than two ounces weekly.
- Eating Omega-3 Rich Fish Once a Week Reduced Heart Disease Death by Up to 34%! In the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 84,000 women for 16 years, death from heart disease was 29-34% lower in women who ate fish at least once a week compared to women who ate fish less than once a month.
- Eating Omega-3 Rich Fish Twice a Week Reduced Stroke Risk by 52%!: In a study that followed more than 79,000 women for 14 years, the women who ate fish at least twice weekly had a 52% lower stroke risk than those who ate fish less than once monthly. Likewise, a study of 43,000 men reported that those who ate fish at least once a month reduce their risk by 43% over those who lacked this healthy habit.
Monounsaturated Fats: Healthy Fats for Diabetes (a Flatter Tummy Too!)
Monounsaturated fats- like those found in avocados, avocado oil, macadamia nuts and macadamia nut oil as well as other nuts- help balance blood sugar, reduce belly fat and protect against heart disease.
Go ahead – drizzle some golden-hued extra virgin olive oil, nosh on a handful of nuts and indulge in a silky-smooth avocado. These staples of the Mediterranean diet won’t just keep you satisfied – they just might be your prescription for a diabetes-free life.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. And healthy fats are an integral part of a healthy diabetes diet plan.
One of the key components of the Mediterranean diet is its reliance on monounsaturated fats or MUFAs (found primarily in olive oil, nuts and avocados) that provide powerful blood sugar balance and cardiovascular protection.
But don’t take my word for it:
- A MUFA-rich, Mediterranean diet reduces bad cholesterol: In 2005, Greek scientists studying more than 3,000 men and women found those eating a diet closest to the traditional MUFA-rich Mediterranean diet had 19% lower LDL “bad” cholesterol than those with the lowest adherence to the diet.
- Enjoy nuts to decrease cholesterol and risk for heart disease: A recent review in the journal Nutrition found that consumption of 50–100 grams per day of various nuts, including almonds, peanuts, pecans and walnuts, can significantly decrease total cholesterol and LDL – a risk factor for heart disease.
- Diabetes diet rich in MUFAs decreases belly fat: According to a study in Diabetes Care, a diet rich in monounsaturated fats helps reduce abdominal fat better than a carbohydrate-rich diet. When test subjects ate a carbohydrate enriched diet, they accumulated fat in the abdomen. When they ate a diet that had more MUFA, abdominal fat decreased (even without exercise!).
- MUFAs improve blood sugar, reduce risk for diabetes: A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found MUFAs have a profound effect on blood sugar: After six months on a MUFA-rich diet, fasting glucose dropped by 3%, insulin was reduced by 9.4% and the insulin resistance score was reduced by 12% — all good numbers in the fight against diabetes. Likewise, eating a breakfast rich in virgin olive oil decreased the post-meal rise in blood sugar and insulin, while increasing the beneficial HDL cholesterol compared to a carb-rich breakfast, according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Researchers agree that the healthy monounsaturated fats – from nutrient dense avocados, nuts and olive oil — were the primary fat source in the diets of our disease-free ancestors. And since our genes haven’t changed much since then, they should be a staple in your diet, too!
CLA-Rich Grass-Fed Beef, Bison & Wild Game
Grass fed beef contains CLA – a compound that benefits blood sugar levels and reduced leptin – a hormone that regulates body fat levels. (Learn about the diabetes leptin link here)
If mad cow disease and other meat scares have you wondering, “where’s the beef?” you’re not alone. Ninety percent of the beef we consume comes from factory farms where cows gorge on corn and grain instead of grazing on green grass. (Learn why you should ONLY choose grass fed beef here)
The result: meat that is high in inflammatory omega-6, saturated fat and calories. Not to mention the growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides.
But grass-fed beef is a totally different animal, so to speak.
Grass-fed beef has fewer calories, less inflammatory omega 6 fats and less saturated fat. Plus more omega-3s and nutrients – including one very special fat called conjugated linolenic acid (CLA).
In recent years, CLA has been recognized for benefits ranging from blasting belly fat to lowering “hunger hormones” and balancing blood sugar and even reducing the risk of cancer.
Let’s take a look at how CLA benefits diabetes:
- CLA helps regulate diabetes and improve health: CLA beneficially affects multiple biochemical processes that benefit diabetes. After an eight-week study, diabetics who added CLA to their diets not only had lower body mass and blood sugar levels, but lower levels of leptin – a hormone that regulates fat levels.
- CLA boosts weight loss: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that CLA inhibits the body’s formation of fat. Not only does it appear to reduce body fat, it also preserves muscle tissue. In the study, an average the group that took CLA lost an average of six pounds of fat, compared to a placebo group. The study found that approximately 3.4 grams of CLA per day is needed to obtain the beneficial effects on body fat.
- CLA reduces inflammation and improves heart health: CLA not only has antioxidant properties, but it also reduces inflammation, which can dramatically improve the health of your heart. If you enjoy red meat, you’ll be happy to know that Healing Gourmet ONLY promotes minimally processed grass-fed red meat. Not only will you get more CLA and antioxidant nutrients (including 400% more vitamin A and E), but less inflammation-promoting omega-6, fewer calories per serving, and no growth hormones or pesticide byproducts.
Cut the Carbs and Eat MORE Healthy Fats for Diabetes
When it comes to balancing your blood sugar, focus on a low glycemic, low carbohydrate, whole foods diet that’s rich in healthy fats. You’ll get more enjoyment out of your meals, and better health, to boot.
Need a little help getting started? Healing Gourmet offers thousands of low glycemic recipes and hundreds of menus designed for optimal blood sugar balance. Check these out:
- Low Carb Recipes
- Paleo Recipes
- Diabetes Recipes
Think you can’t enjoy your favorite desserts and breads while eating low carb? Think again. Most of our all-natural, gluten-free healthy dessert recipes contain less sugar than a quarter of an apple!