Diabetes Diet: Why Limiting Processed Foods Is A Healthy Choice

One way to help prevent or manage diabetes is limiting our intake of processed foods.

The phrase “processed foods” generally refers to products that are chemically processed, created with heavily refined ingredients, and contain a plethora of artificial additives.

Three Reasons To Limit Processed Foods

Limiting the intake of processed foods aids those with or at risk for diabetes three ways. It helps lower blood sugar levels and body fat, reduces the ingestion of weight-promoting empty calories, and cuts consumption of heart-unhealthy fats.

1. Sugars and Refined Carbs

Processed foods are generally high in sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup, and we know that eating too much sugar can lead to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Refined fructose, usually some form of corn syrup, is found in nearly every processed food product. This is a problem since fructose is primarily metabolized by the liver. Consuming too much fructose can overwork and damage our liver—just as imbibing a lot of alcohol can. Further, the liver metabolizes fructose directly into fat that goes immediately into our fat cells, increasing the likelihood of weight gain and obesity.

The simple carbohydrates found in processed foods (e.g., refined grains) can significantly elevate blood glucose. Refined carbs digest quickly and are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream as sugar. This causes glucose spikes, increased insulin levels, and may trigger insulin resistance.

2. Pleasurable Empty Calories

Many processed foods are full of taste bud tickling flavors that strongly stimulate our brain’s reward centers, making it easier for us to over eat. The stimulation can even override our gray matter’s “you’ve eaten enough” signaling mechanism. Some of these products are so rewarding that a craving for them can morph into an addiction.

Fresh, whole foods contain a stew of carbs, fats, fiber, proteins, and water that help us feel full and satisfied. By contrast, many processed food ingredients stimulate the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, so our sense of pleasure is heightened though the body’s nutritional needs are unmet. We tend to reach for brain-gratifying foods repeatedly because of the amplified pleasure dividend.

These same rewarding processed products also take fewer calories to digest. In one study participants burned twice the calories digesting an unprocessed food meal than one made from processed items.

3. Heart Un-healthy Fats

Not only are many processed foods low in fiber and essential nutrients - both necessary for a heart healthy diet - they tend to contain unhealthy fats. Though the FDA has ordered manufacturers to phase out the use of synthetic trans fats, these inflammation promoting fats are still found in processed foods.

Many refined products also contain high levels of omega-6 fats as processed vegetable oils. These PUFAs, or polyunsaturated fats, are chemically unstable and prone to oxidation. Oxidized fats are associated with inflammation and health issues such as atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Setting Limits: Tip

It's not difficult to limit processed foods if you start small. For instance, you might prepare one more meal per week with fresh, whole foods than you currently do. So, if all your meals are now processed-food based, plan and prepare one unprocessed dinner each week. If you already cook from scratch on Saturday and Sunday, add a third fresh meal creation on a weekday.

(NOTE: Minimally processed products such as plain frozen veggies, and grass-fed meats are generally considered healthy food choices.)

Source: Eat Local Grown; CNN
Photo credit: Dean Hochman

More Articles

Diabetic shoes are important as a common side effect of diabetes is "peripheral neuropathy," which causes loss of sensation in the extremities....

There’s something inherently playful about bouncing, which is why so many people enjoy rebounding. Rebounding, or exercising on a mini-trampoline...

Do not let pictures of yoga experts with their bodies twisted into bizarre, compact shapes fool you. Even people with stiff muscles, creaky joints...

One of the hardest parts about adopting a low-carb diet is giving up traditional baked goods and sweets. The good news, however, is that low-carb...

Insulin injections are a way of life for many people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but for some people, they can be a little intimidating at...

More Articles

Experts estimate that somewhere in the world a person with diabetes will lose a lower extremity every half minute due to a wound. One of the...

Anyone can develop a fungal skin infection, but people with diabetes are more prone to them. A common cause of fungal infections in those with...

Many diabetics struggle to control the sudden blood sugar spikes that can occur after meals. Knowing why blood sugar spikes happen and making...

Do not let pictures of yoga experts with their bodies twisted into bizarre, compact shapes fool you. Even people with stiff muscles, creaky joints...

People often get diabetes and hypoglycemia confused with one another, believing that they are two different names for the same condition. In...

Diabetes is a health condition that disrupts the body’s normal production of insulin. Currently, more than one million Americans are diagnosed...

Insulin injections are a way of life for many people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but for some people, they can be a little intimidating at...

With diabetes, it all used to be really simple: Type 1 diabetes was known as “childhood-onset,” and type 2 was “adult-onset” diabetes. The cause...

There’s something inherently playful about bouncing, which is why so many people enjoy rebounding. Rebounding, or exercising on a mini-trampoline...

Everyone from grandmothers to physicians tout oatmeal's wholesome goodness and health benefits. But, is oatmeal good for diabetics? Limited...

A common complication associated with diabetes is swollen feet. The swelling can...

Stomach aches and other gastrointestinal pains can be signs of a bigger problem. One such problem for diabetics is gastroparesis, or delayed...

Improving your A1C reading requires you to maintain consistently healthy blood...

The medical community relies heavily on the goodwill of its citizens, as giving blood and organ donations help save thousands of lives every year...

There are several misconceptions about Diabetes. Learn more about the top misconceptions vs. facts surrounding Type 2 Diabetes below.

86...