Breakfast Ideas for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Sugary cereals, bagels covered in cream cheese, and high-fat bacon breakfasts are the subjects of many food fantasies. However, they are all poor choices for people with diabetes.

Diabetes management requires attention to sugar and carbohydrates. To optimize heart health, people with diabetes should also steer clear of high-fat foods that have little nutritional value.

This does not mean that people with diabetes have to have dull breakfasts. A number of classic breakfasts are excellent choices. A few minor tweaks to traditional breakfasts can make many of them healthful even for people with type 2 diabetes.

Classic breakfasts for type 2 diabetes

Breakfasts high in fiber, but low in added sugar, carbohydrates, and salt are excellent choices for people with diabetes. Nutrient-dense foods support feelings of fullness, which can help stop people snacking on unhealthful options.

Some healthful breakfast options include the following:

Smoothies

[blueberry chia seed smoothie]
Smoothies with berries and chia seeds are a delicious and nutritious way to start the morning.

Fruit juices contain rapidly absorbed sugar and, sometimes, artificial sweeteners that can either trigger blood sugar spikes or affect insulin sensitivity and gut bacteria. Smoothies offer the same sweet taste as juice but contain lots of nutrients that help fight hunger.

There are many ways to include different nutrients in a smoothie. Load up on the fiber by using spinach, kale, or avocado in a smoothie. Layer on sweetness by adding frozen berries, bananas, apples, or peaches.

Make sure to include some fat or protein to make the smoothie as filling as possible. This will also slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates.

Adding a scoop of a protein powder or one-half of a cup of Greek yogurt can make a smoothie even more satisfying.

Try this diabetes-friendly smoothie:

  • Blend two cups of frozen raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries with an avocado, and one-half of a cup of kale.
  • Add water to thin the consistency.
  • Use chia seeds to add good fat and extra fiber to the smoothie. They won’t change the taste when balanced with fruit or yogurt.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is rich in fiber, which means it can slow blood sugar absorption, ease digestion, and fight hunger. It also contains almost 5.5 grams (g) of protein per cup of cooked oatmeal, making it a nutrient-dense breakfast option.

Sprinkle with cinnamon for flavor, but avoid loading oatmeal with honey or brown sugar. Instead, sweeten the oatmeal with raspberries, blueberries, or cherries. Fresh fruit is best.

Walnuts can add omega-3 heart healthful fats, protein and texture for an even more nourishing breakfast.

Eggs

A large-sized boiled egg contains about 6 to 7 g of protein. Eggs may also help fight diabetes. According to a 2015 study, middle-aged and older men who ate the most eggs were 38 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who ate the least eggs.

Another study found that people with diabetes who ate eggs daily could reduce their body fat and BMI, without increasing hemoglobin A1c levels.

A hard-boiled egg seasoned with black or cayenne pepper is an ideal on-the-go breakfast snack. To increase fiber intake, people with diabetes can try a spinach or kale omelet.

Poached eggs are also a good option, and can be layered on sweet potato “toast.” People with diabetes who crave toast can use sprouted grain bread.

Instead of seasoning omelets and other egg breakfasts with salt, people should try peppers, such as cayenne or diced jalapeños instead.

Cereal

Many popular bowls of cereal are incredibly high in sugar, including those that are marketed as “healthful.” Muesli with unsweetened almond milk, however, offers a fiber-rich, low sugar alternative. Use the 5-5 rule when navigating the cereal aisle: aim for at least 5 g of fiber and less than 5 g of sugar per serving.

Yogurt

[greek yogurt and berries]
People who like sweet foods can try adding berries to their greek yogurt.

Unsweetened yogurt is a perfectly healthful breakfast for people with diabetes. Greek yogurt, which contains about-about 10 g of protein per 100 g, is even better. For those people who prefer sweet foods, sprinkle on some raspberries or blueberries and some pumpkin seeds. This is a protein-rich breakfast that also offers some fiber and some good fats.

Fruit

Fruit can be a good option for breakfast, but large quantities of fruit can cause blood sugar spikes. On its own, most fruit isn’t very filling either.

Avocados are a major exception, offering about-about 10 g of fiber per cup. Rich in heart-healthful fats, these hearty fruits offer a filling breakfast. People with diabetes can try filling an avocado with low-salt cottage cheese or an egg.

Diabetes-friendly takes on classic breakfasts

Sizzling bacon and sausage might smell great, but they are high in cholesterol and salt. This makes them bad choices for people with diabetes.

White bread toast, English muffins, and bagels are low in nutrients, but high in carbohydrates. Gooey cinnamon rolls can lead people to diabetes to a sugar-induced crash.

If someone with diabetes is craving an indulgent breakfast, they can try one of these options instead.

Bacon and sausage alternatives

Meat substitutes such as tofu and other plant-based proteins taste surprisingly similar to bacon and sausage, especially when mixed into another dish. Before trying a meat alternative, however, people with diabetes should check the salt content.

For a modern take on the classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato breakfast sandwich, people can try layering vegetarian bacon and ripe tomatoes on sprouted or whole grain bread.

Bread

Not all bread is bad for people with diabetes. The problem is that white bread is low in nutrients, and can elevate blood sugar. Sprouted grain and sourdough bread are the best bread choices for fiber, probiotic content, and digestibility. However, some people with diabetes may find that any type of bread spikes their blood sugar levels

[almond butter]
Almond butter will increase the nutritional value of having the toast for breakfast.

To increase the nutritional value of bread, people can consider one of the following breakfasts:

  • Avocado sweet potato toast: Slice a sweet potato long-wise into one-quarter inch thick slices. Fully toast the slices and spread the avocado, adding a poached egg on top if desired. Increase the flavor by adding jalapeño slices or cayenne pepper.
  • Bagel substitute: Try toasted sprouted grain bread with peanut or almond butter. Raspberries or walnuts taste great on top.

Pastry alternatives

People with diabetes who love pastries can find a number of sugar-free alternative recipes online. With these, it is important to check the ingredients carefully and keep portions small.

When diabetes is otherwise well-controlled, it’s fine to enjoy small pastries as an occasional breakfast treat. People should balance a sweet breakfast with foods that are high in fiber and, or protein, such as avocado or almonds. This will help control blood sugar.

Simple breakfast rules

A healthful breakfast for people with diabetes does not have to be limited to a small number of recipes. A few guidelines can help people to eat well no matter what their taste preferences are:

  • Maximize protein intake. Protein can help people feel full. It also enables the development of healthy tissue and muscles. Nuts, legumes, and animal products, such as dairy and meat are excellent sources of protein.
  • Fiber can combat blood sugar spikes, support feelings of fullness, and encourage digestive health. Most vegetables, many fruits, nuts, seeds, wheat bran, and oat bran are rich in fiber.
  • Sugar isn’t just found in food, be careful of beverages too. Water is a more healthful choice than juice and other sweetened drinks. Sodas and sweetened coffees and teas can cause blood sugar to surge, so limit sweeteners.
  • Eating two smaller morning meals 2-3 hours apart can reduce blood sugar level changes while supporting a healthy weight. Many people with diabetes thrive on a diet that includes five to seven small meals a day.
  • High-sodium diets can undermine heart health and elevate blood pressure. People with diabetes should be especially cautious about salt intake. Most salt comes from packaged foods, so it is better to stick to fresh and home-cooked foods instead. Potassium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, beets, sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, and bananas will help to offset sodium’s effects on health.
  • Watch portion size. A healthful breakfast can cause unhealthy weight gain when consumed in large quantities. People with diabetes should read the package or label to determine appropriate serving size.
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Grapefruit Health Benefits

February was Grapefruit Month, and even if you missed it, it is still a great time to pay a little tribute to the virtues of this much-maligned fruit. It’s tangy, the citrusy flavor can serve as a reminder of the warm weather climates in which it grows, helping us get through the sluggish end of winter. Grapefruit health benefits offer plenty in the way of nutrition that helps with weight maintenance and will also help the body fight off the colds and assorted maladies that are so common this time of year.

Pink grapefruit provides 80 percent of your daily vitamin C needs in a typical serving of half the fruit, is proven to bolster the immune system, can detoxify the body, and even slow the growth rate of tumors. It is also chock full of lycopene, which is an antioxidant that has been found to lower the risk of both bladder and prostate cancer. And pink grapefruit provides you with 6 percent of the RDA of vitamin A, another valuable nutrient that helps maintain the health of the retina, particularly important for our vision in lower light.

Yellow grapefruit is no slouch, either, in the vitamin and nutrient department. Just under its more colorful cousin, the yellow grapefruit health benefits include 73.3 percent of your vitamin C quota for the day, as well as an impressive 23.7 percent of vitamin A.

In addition, grapefruit is a great choice for weight maintenance. And keep in mind that while 100 percent grapefruit juice will deliver nutrients to your body, it will not give you fiber. But as long as you eat the fruit rather than drinking the juice, you will get 0.8 gram of fiber, which fulfills nearly 6 percent of your recommended daily allowance. It is also high in pectin, which helps move things along in your digestive tract to both keep your bowel movements regular and lessen the amount of time potentially damaging fecal matter hangs around in the colon. In addition, that fiber will keep you feel satiated longer, while only serving up a mere 30 calories. And studies have shown that the pectin may be strongly anti-carcinogenic–particularly with regard to colon cancer.

Grapefruit has been found in numerous studies to confer disease protection as well. In a 2006 study, a team of researchers from universities in Israel, Singapore, and Poland split participants into three groups. All of them ate healthy, low-fat diets, but one group had a red grapefruit each day, another had a yellow grapefruit each day, and the third ate no grapefruit. Both groups of grapefruit eaters experienced reduced levels of total cholesterol as well as LDL, the “bad,” cholesterol. The red grapefruit eaters enjoyed the additional benefit of lowering their triglyceride levels too.

So, with all these health benefits, why has the media labeled grapefruit a danger? Simply put, grapefruit can enhance the risks already inherent in pharmaceutical drugs. Upwards of 85 medications have been found to interact with grapefruit. Those research and development departments at pharmaceutical conglomerates keep busy by constantly rolling out new drugs, so needless to say, the incidence of problems experienced by grapefruit eaters has risen in recent years. And, despite the known interactions, many doctors don’t think to ask patients if they eat grapefruit or mention that it is a contraindication.

Grapefruit itself is not harmful. Certain pharmaceuticals for pain, heart disease, schizophrenia, and cancer, on the other hand, have been found to be problematic when combined with grapefruit. The danger comes from the fact that grapefruit inhibits the CYP3A4 enzyme in the liver that helps the body metabolize the pharmaceutical. Therefore, the medication is much stronger as it enters the system, and its effects are magnified, sometimes to the point of causing an overdose.

But the key issue to remember is that the toxicity is inherent in the pharmaceutical drug, not the grapefruit. The problem, once again, is that grapefruit can enhance that toxicity–particularly that of statin drugs. If you are prescribed pharmaceuticals, it is essential to discuss with your doctor whether grapefruit is safe to consume for the duration of the medication. And if you are not taking any kind of prescription medicine, dig right into this citrus delight because, for most of us, grapefruit is nothing but healthy.

Eating Fruits and Vegetables Reduces Lung Disease Risk

Research, published this week in Thorax, finds a link between eating greater quantities of fruits and vegetables and lung health. They found it lowered the risk of developing a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in former and current smokers.
[Lungs colored X-ray]
Consuming more fruit and veg might stave off lung disease.

The health benefits of eating a range of fruits and vegetables are well documented; reams of research has already made this clear.

For instance, increasing their consumption helps reduce cardiovascular risk, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and stave off cancer, to name but a few.

Recently, there have been a number of studies demonstrating that consuming fruit and veg might also protect lung health.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a range of conditions characterized by a narrowing of the airways, including emphysema and bronchitis. Worldwide, COPD currently affects more than 64 million people.

The major risk factor for COPD is smoking, and the World Health Organization (WHO) predict that, by 2030, it will become the third leading cause of death on a global basis.

COPD and dietary factors

Some earlier studies have found that dietary factors might play a role in COPD. To delve into this question in more detail, a group of researchers tracked the respiratory health of more than 44,000 Swedish men. Aged 45-79 at the start of the trial, the participants were followed for an average of 13.2 years, up to the end of 2012.

Each participant completed a food frequency questionnaire that collated how often they ate 96 different food items in 1997, the first year of the study. Other factors were also collected, including height, weight, education level, physical activity, and alcohol consumption.

The participants were asked how many cigarettes they smoked, on average, at ages 15-21, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, and 51-60. Overall, 63 percent had smoked at one point in their life, 24 percent were current smokers, and 38.5 percent had never smoked.

Occurrences of COPD were registered across the time period; there were 1,918 in total. The rate of COPD in those who ate fewer than two portions of fruits and vegetables per day was 1,166 per 100,000 people in current smokers and 506 per 100,000 in former smokers.

However, for those eating five portions per day, the equivalent numbers were 546 and 255, respectively. This means that individuals eating five daily servings of fruits and vegetables had a 35 percent reduced risk of developing COPD compared with those eating two or fewer portions. When the reduction in risk was split into current and former smokers, the percentages were 40 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

Each extra serving of fruits and vegetables was associated with a 4 percent lower risk of COPD in former smokers and an 8 percent lower risk in current smokers.

Compared with individuals who had never smoked and who ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables, current and former smokers who ate fewer than two daily portions were 13.5 times and six times more likely to develop COPD, respectively.

The authors conclude:

“The present findings confirm the strong impact of cigarette smoking on the development of COPD and also indicate that diet rich in fruit and vegetables may have an important role in prevention of COPD.

Nevertheless, nonsmoking and smoking cessation remain the main public health message to prevent development of COPD.”

Which fruits and vegetables reduced COPD risk?

As part of the analysis, the researchers assessed which particular foodstuffs were most effective at reducing the COPD risk. They found that green leafy vegetables, peppers, apples, and pears had the strongest influence on reducing risk.

However, berries, citrus fruits, bananas, root and cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and green peas did not exert a significant effect.

Because smoking increases oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are potentially involved in COPD, the antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables might help reduce their negative impact.

Although the study was conducted on a large scale, it still needs replication. An editorial, released in the same publication, written by Dr. Raphaelle Varraso and Dr. Seif Shaheen, argues that because this study is observational, no firm conclusions can be drawn regarding cause and effect; however, they write:

“[I]t could be argued that there is nothing to be lost by acting now. We would argue that clinicians should consider the potential benefits of a healthy diet in promoting lung health, and advocate optimizing intake of fruits and vegetables, especially in smokers who are unable to stop smoking.”

So, although more research will be needed before conclusions can be definitively drawn, quitting smoking and eating more fruits and vegetables is still the best course of action for overall health.

Eating 10 Portions of Fruits and Vegetables Daily Best for Health

Eating five portions of fruits and vegetables daily is considered sufficient for good health. But according to a new study, the greatest benefits come from eating 10 portions a day.
[A colorful selection of fruits and vegetables]
Researchers say eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables daily is best for preventing disease and premature death.

From an analysis of 95 studies assessing the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption, researchers found that eating 800 grams of fruits and vegetables daily – or around 10 portions of 80 grams – was associated with the lowest risk of disease and premature death.

Apples, pears, green leafy vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables were found to be among the most beneficial for health.

Lead author Dr. Dagfinn Aune, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Current guidelines recommend that adults should aim to eat around five cups of fruits and vegetables daily – two cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables – to help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

While consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables daily is beneficial, Dr. Aune and colleagues set out to determine how many fruits and vegetables need to be consumed for maximum protection against disease and early death.

To reach their findings, the researchers analyzed the data of 95 studies that looked at the health benefits of fruit and vegetable intake.

In total, the studies involved almost 2 million participants and around 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and 94,000 deaths.

The team analyzed the fruit and vegetable intake of each participant, looking specifically at how much they consumed daily and the specific fruits and vegetables consumed.

Up to 33 percent lower risk of disease and death with 10 portions daily

One portion of fruits of vegetables was defined as 80 grams – the equivalent of a small banana, pear, or apple, or three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, or cauliflower.

The researchers then calculated the association between fruit and vegetable intake and the risks of heart disease, stroke, CVD, cancer, and premature death.

The team found that, compared with no fruit and vegetable consumption, participants who ate just 200 grams of fruits and vegetables a day – the equivalent to around 2.5 portions – saw health benefits. These included an 18 percent reduced risk of stroke, a 16 percent reduced risk of heart disease, a 13 percent lower risk of CVD, and a 4 percent reduced risk of cancer.

Eating 200 grams of fruits and vegetables daily was also associated with a 15 percent lower risk of premature death.

However, the researchers found that the more fruits and vegetable participants ate daily, the greater the benefits.

Compared with subjects who consumed no fruits and vegetables, those who ate up to 800 grams – or 10 portions – each day were found to have a 33 percent lower risk of stroke, a 28 percent reduced risk of CVD, a 24 percent lower risk of heart disease, and a 13 percent decrease in cancer risk.

A 31 percent reduction in premature death was also associated with a daily fruit and vegetable intake of up to 800 grams.

What is more, the researchers calculated that if everyone ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables daily, then around 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented across the globe annually.

Which fruits and vegetables are best?

The team found that apples, pears, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables (such as chicory and spinach), and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage and broccoli) were best for reducing the risk of stroke, CVD, heart disease, and premature death.

The greatest reduction in cancer risk was associated with intake of green vegetables (such as green beans), yellow vegetables (such as peppers and carrots), and cruciferous vegetables.

Consumption of raw and cooked vegetables was associated with reduced risk of premature death, but the team did not have enough data to determine which specific fruits and vegetables reduced this risk.

While the study did not investigate the mechanisms behind high fruit and vegetable intake and reduced risk of disease and death, the team notes that fruits and vegetables have been linked to lower cholesterol and improved blood vessel and immune system function.

“This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold,” notes Dr. Aune. “For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”

Overall, the researchers believe their findings highlight the importance of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful diet.

“We need further research into the effects of specific types of fruits and vegetables and preparation methods of fruit and vegetables. We also need more research on the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake with causes of death other than cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet.”

Dr. Dagfinn Aune

Your 12 Best Organic Bets

When considering your produce, remember that nine out of ten Americans do not eat the recommended 2 portions of fruit and 2 1/2 portions of vegetables each day. So your first step might be to simply incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. However, with all the headlines about pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other food-safety issues, many people are considering organic options more often.While more research is needed for confirmation, “some evidence suggests that organic produce may contain more vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds than conventionally grown produce,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, the national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in Chicago. In any case, in addition to the advantage of lower pesticide levels, organically grown products is also Earth-friendly: sustainable organic farming enhances the soil and conserves water—a boon to all of us in the long term.

Get to know the top 12

Since organics often cost more to produce and therefore may cost shoppers more, those not up to buying organic everything can still benefit their families’ health by concentrating on where they get the most bang for the buck.

The Environmental Working Group—a Washington DC-based watchdog organization of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, and other professionals who review studies and data to expose threats to our environment and health—has compiled a list based on extensive analysis of contaminants in produce. The EWGclaimsthat you can lower your pesticide exposure by 90% simply by choosing the organic varieties of the following fruits and vegetables—presented from most to least important.

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Domestic blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Spinach, kale, and collard greens
  9. Cherries
  10. Potatoes
  11. Imported grapes
  12. Lettuce

You can start slowly and purchase just a few items each week. Make one out of every ten foods you buy organic. Pick one thing—apples, peaches, or potatoes, for instance. Environmentalists and health professionals agree: If we can get a lot of people to do a little, it will make a big difference!

15 low-risk favorites

The produce in this list does not appear to absorb pesticides as easily and is safe to consume in non-organic form, including:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi fruit
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet potatoes
  15. Sweet onions

Remember, the important thing is to get what fruits and veggies you can into your home. If they’re within reach—such as in your fridge or in a fruit bowl on the dining room table—you’re more likely to eat more. And eating more fruits and vegetables may well be more important to your health bottom line than avoiding pesticides. Counsels Blatner, “Consume the minimum recommended amount every day—no matter how it’s grown!”