To successfully manage Type 2 diabetes, you may need to manage your misconceptions first.
Reality: Sugary treats can be OK, as long as you enjoy them occasionally and in small portions. Having a “forbidden food” mentality can actually be counterproductive. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that dieters who allowed themselves “cheat days” had similar success as those with a stricter plan. Assuming you eat a healthy, balanced diet, giving your appetite a free pass now and then may help you better control eating habits overall. But how many sweets should you allow if you have Type 2 diabetes? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 10 to 35 percent of your total calorie intake can come from sugar or starch without a negative effect on blood sugar. To be safe, stick to the one-in-10 rule: for every 10 calories you eat in a day, allow yourself one calorie from sugar. Consult your doctor before making significant changes to your eating habits.
Reality: Medication can’t fill the gaps left by an unhealthy diet. The good news is that you don’t have to eat a special diet — another common myth, by the way. The same diet that’s healthy for most adults is also recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes: one with plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean meat, low-fat dairy, whole grains and unsaturated fats.
Reality: According to the American Diabetes Association, many people with Type 2 diabetes are able to reduce their daily insulin injections or stop using insulin altogether after making lifestyle changes. What’s the most important lifestyle change you can make? Start exercising. During rest, the only way blood sugar can get from the bloodstream to the muscles is through insulin, which is a problem for people with diabetes. But during exercise, muscles can absorb blood sugar directly, without relying on insulin. The best exercise plan to improve diabetes, according to a 2007 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is one that combines aerobic and resistance training. Participants who got their heart rates up and built muscle saw the greatest improvements in blood sugar control. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Stand aside quinoa and kale. These superfoods are diabetes-friendly and dessert-worthy, too.
Blueberries have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. They also contain fiber, making them a smarter source of sweet than candy or baked desserts.
Cinnamon packs a serious punch of polyphenols, which boost insulin activity. A 2015 review of eight clinical trials published in the Nutrition Journal concluded that cinnamon may improve blood sugar response.
Dark chocolate is chock full of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that can improve glucose regulation, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Nutrition. Choose chocolate bars with the highest percentage of dark chocolate available.
Be careful to always check sugar content on all your foods.