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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of Americans have either pre-diabetes or diabetes. Anything that we can do to prevent blood glucose spikes after eating will reduce our risk for developing diabetes down the road.

Select healthy carbs to replace unhealthy saturated fats

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of Americans have either pre-diabetes or diabetes. Anything that we can do to prevent blood glucose spikes after eating will reduce our risk for developing diabetes down the road. Harvard researchers found that the quality of carbohydrate foods replacing artery-clogging saturated fats in the diet may or may not reduce future diabetes risk.

Saturated fats include:

  • Dairy fats (whole-milk, whole-milk yogurt and cheeses, and butter)
  • Fatty red meats
  • Chicken skin
  • Coconut and palm oils
  • Lard

Sometimes unhealthy carbohydrate foods that have a high Glycemic Index are replacements for the saturated fats, but research shows that these foods may be causing stress on the pancreas with glucose spikes. Down the road that can lead to diabetes. These foods include:

  • White bread, rolls, crackers, rice
  • Sugar-containing foods including cookies, cakes and pies
  • Processed white potatoes like instant mashed potatoes

The good news is that when the healthy carbohydrate foods with a lower Glycemic Index replace saturated fats, the risk for developing diabetes is lower because glucose spikes can be prevented. These healthy carb foods include:

  • Whole-grain breads, rolls and crackers
  • Brown rice
  • Barley, bulgur, quinoa
  • Vegetables
  • Fresh fruits, especially berries and apples

Sometimes we think just getting rid of the saturated fats is a good thing but we do not place enough attention upon the quality of the carbs that might be replacing those fats. The refined, processed carbs usually will spike blood glucose levels, placing stress on the pancreas; if that is done enough times the pancreas may be impaired, lessening its ability to make a sufficient amount of insulin. The result could be pre-diabetes and then diabetes down the road. The unrefined carbohydrate foods, which usually have a lower Glycemic Index, cause the glucose to rise more slowly after a meal; besides whole-grains this includes vegetables and fresh fruits. The addition of a healthy fat at a meal can also keep the glucose from spiking. So having an oil spread or salad dressing at a meal or using olive oil during cooking are all ways to include some mealtime fat, preventing glucose spikes.

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.