I am a type 2 diabetic. What should I be aware of?

As a type 2 diabetic, it is important that you keep in close contact with your doctor as you start this fitness journey. With diabetes, the biggest concern is regulating your glucose and insulin levels. The food you eat has the largest impact on these levels. Naturally, you regulate your levels by intelligently manipulating the macronutrients in your diet. While protein and fat have little or no insulin effect, carbohydrates do. However, the insulin and glucose effect can vary widely among the different types of carbohydrates. One way to determine this is to look up the glycemic load of a certain food. With these points in mind, consider the following:

Protein: Protein is necessary for maintenance and building lean mass, including muscle and bone. Critically, we need more protein as we age—our bodies become less capable of turning dietary protein into muscle protein. 

Fat: Our cultural fear of fat may be part of the reason we’re metabolically sicker than ever. As mentioned, dietary fat has no effect on insulin, which helps the body continue to burn fat as fuel. Avoid “vegetable” oils derived from seeds, which are all heavily processed. These oils are much more prone to oxidation, a process harmful to cells. This may explain why diets high in vegetable oils tend to have more adverse health effects than diets high in other sources of fat.

Keep in mind that natural fats, including meat, eggs, nuts, and fatty fruits (e.g., avocados, coconuts, and olives) are always best. 

Carbohydrates: Be starch smart—the more processed the carbohydrate, the more it will increase glucose and insulin and promote fat storage (and other undesired effects). Non-starchy vegetables are the cornerstone of a diabetes-friendly diet. Enjoy leafy greens and other vegetables that grow above ground.

Exercise: Exercise can also have a positive impact on your body. Being active makes your cells more sensitive to insulin. That alone is reason enough to include exercise in your diabetes-management strategy. It's also a great way to improve your A1C levels. It may not always be easy to stick with an exercise plan, but finding something you enjoy can make exercise easier. Try a dance or yoga class, or take music along with you on your daily walks. The more you enjoy an activity, the more likely you are to stick with it.

Interested in learning more about diabetes or prediabetes?

Check out our Diabetes Information Guide.


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Ramsden, Christopher E., Daisy Zamora, Boonseng Leelarthaepin, Sharon F. Majchrzak-Hong, Keturah R. Faurot, Chirayath M. Suchindran, Amit Ringel, John M. Davis, and Joseph R. Hibbeln. "Use of Dietary Linoleic Acid for Secondary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease and Death: Evaluation of Recovered Data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and UPdated Meta-Analysis," BMJ (February 2013), https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8707. 

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