Question: What are the best foods to eat for a prediabetic? My husband is borderline on high sugar. He is age 67. It runs in his family, he is active and his sugar is around 170-200 before eating. He’s doing less carbs and bread, sugar-free foods, no soda or pop and moderate lite beer. We invested in an air fryer, and we’ve added brussels sprouts and more greens into our diet. I’m looking for just a simple list of dos and don’ts. — Jenny
Dear Jenny, you have raised several important questions. Prediabetes is one of them. Prediabetes diagnosis means you have a high chance of developing type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes. You might be overweight or have a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes. Maybe you had gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. These are just a few examples of factors that can raise your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Uncontrolled diabetes can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and eye and foot problems. Prediabetes also can cause health problems. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be delayed or even prevented.
About one in three Americans has prediabetes. You won’t know if you have prediabetes unless you are tested. Some people call prediabetes “borderline diabetes.” Prediabetes is when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetic. We have a raging epidemic of diabetes in the country.
It seems your husband’s blood sugars need to be reviewed by his doctor. Research such as the Diabetes Prevention Program shows that you can do a lot to reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Here are some things you can change to lower your risk:
• Lose weight and keep it off. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your starting weight. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose about 10 to 14 pounds.
• Move more. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your doctor about which activities are best for you. Start slowly to build up to your goal. One simple physical activity of moderate intensity is walking briskly.
• Eat healthy foods most of the time. Eat smaller portions to reduce the number of calories you eat each day and help lose weight. You may want to check out “Plate Method” to get help in reducing portions and balancing the diet. Choosing foods with less fat is another way to reduce calories. Air fryer is a good idea. Some people benefit from a Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet consists of less animal-based and more plants-based foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and lean meats.
• If you are looking for a yes or no list, your husband may want to check a list of “glycemic index carbs” and choose low glycemic index carbohydrates. They help lose wight and lower blood glucose. Some folks achieve weight loss by reducing the frequency of eating, by taking a brunch and early dinner at 6 p.m. They eat within eight hours and fast 16 hours daily. For example, you may fast from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. There are many variations of doing intermittent fasting. Drinking water instead of sweetened beverages and limiting to occasional drinking of beer might help. A visit to the dietitian may be helpful. His doctor may have to supervise and customize some of the above activities.
• Most often, your best chance for preventing type 2 diabetes is to make lifestyle changes that work for you long term. Lifestyle changes may reduce your stress level. High mental stress may cause you to become hungrier, eat more and gain weight. Over a period, higher weight raises the blood sugar. You can find a CDC recognized lifestyle change program near you through diabetes.org/prevention. They may track you for a year and help bring about good changes. Your doctor may have to refer you to the program.
• Ask your doctor if you should take the diabetes drug metformin to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
• Your husband may have to learn a diabetic way of life to succeed in preventing complications of diabetes. I recommend that he may consider becoming a member of American Diabetes Association. They will send a very good magazine called Diabetes Forecast full of the latest information on diabetes regularly.
In summary: Diabetes is a serious, very expensive disease to treat. It is cheaper to prevent it. If you have it already, it is cheaper to prevent complications.
• Get checked for prediabetes on your next visit to the doctor. You can test your risk at diabetes.org/risktest.
• You can try to prevent it by becoming more active and losing some weight. You may live longer and enjoy a healthier retirement by preventing diabetes.
• Plan to lose weight.
• Track your progress.
Suman Kumar Mishr MD, Fellow of American College of Endocrinology, Cridersville