Studies have shown that when people adopt a more westernized diet, their susceptibility to health problems such as diabetes and obesity increases.
In 2018, about 10.5 percent of the U.S. population had diabetes, a disease that is disproportionately higher among African Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Black Americans have a 77-percent higher chance of developing diabetes, mainly due to their genetic predisposition, environmental, socioeconomic, physiological, and behavioral factors, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Of the over 23 million adults diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S., 3 million are African American, with as many as a quarter of African American women over the age of 55 diagnosed with the disease.
The food a person consumes also plays a big role. High-cholesterol food containing saturated and trans fats, sugary food and most processed junk foods that are low in vitamins, minerals and fiber contribute to obesity, and eventually diabetes.
Healthy food traditions of Africa, the Caribbean and the Southern U.S. have both culinary and health appeal and have proven to naturally meet the nutrition guidelines of the American Diabetes Association.
For people living with prediabetes or diabetes, the difficult part is eliminating the foods they love and knowing the best alternatives that are just as tasty and satisfying.
Here are 10 foods that are recommended for Black Americans struggling with diabetes and obesity.
Whole grain meals such as oatmeal can help improve blood sugar control. Oatmeal is a classic American breakfast that is perfect for combating diabetes. The healthy properties of oats are largely credited to a unique type of fiber, beta-glucan, which slows digestion and boosts satiety. Oats also supply magnesium, a mineral that plays a role in the metabolism of glucose and insulin. Oatmeal brands such as Nature’s Path Organic, Simply Balanced, and Quaker Oats can be bought almost anywhere, including Target Stores and on Amazon.com.
Olives are perfectly OK for anyone with diabetes and prediabetes. They have various health advantages and are useful to control diabetes. They are great additions to most meals to make them tastier and more nutritious. Olives are low in carbohydrates and do not affect the body’s glucose level, which could lead to an imbalance in blood sugar. Consumption of extra virgin olive oil is also associated not only with a decreased risk of diabetes, but some research suggests it may also improve glucose usage by cells thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects.
Salmon has abundant Omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for diabetics. Patients need good fat in their diet, and fish reduces inflammation and coronary risks common in diabetes.
But one should be careful about which type of salmon to consume. Several studies have revealed that farmed salmon has exceptionally high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and chlorinated pesticides, which are harmful to humans and are linked to the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Wild salmon has lower levels of total PCBs than farmed, and the PCBs from wild salmon are more water-soluble and less toxic. Wild salmon can be bought at Lummi Island Wild, which operates out of the Salish Sea, just northwest of Seattle, and is focused primarily on salmon, with numerous varieties to offer.
Chicken can be a great option for people with diabetes when prepared in a healthy way with healthy ingredients. Chicken battered and fried, coated in a sweet glaze, or swimming in a sugary sauce is bad news for diabetics who want to limit their intake of carbs and sugar.
While all cuts of chicken are high in protein and many are low in fat, de-skinned chicken breast is particularly good because it has lean protein and is also a good source of vitamins B and D, calcium, iron, and zinc.
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Beans are a superfood for diabetics since they are low on the glycemic index and can help manage blood sugar levels better than many other starchy foods. The American Diabetes Association advises people with diabetes to add dried beans or no-sodium canned beans to several meals each week. Beans also contain protein and fiber, making them a healthy two-for-one nutritional component to every meal.
Brown rice is safe for diabetics in moderation since it’s high in carbs. Its fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are good at improving blood sugar control and helping manage diabetes. Its intake, however, needs to be measured and paired with other healthy foods such as lean proteins or healthy fats to help keep blood sugar levels in check.
Compared to white rice, brown rice is much healthier and more tolerable for people with diabetes. A study in the British Medical Journal found that people who eat high levels of white rice may have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Brown rice, wild rice, and long-grain white rice include more fiber, nutrients, and vitamins than short-grain white rice.
Yogurts that contain a total carbohydrate content of 15 grams or less per serving are ideal for people with diabetes. While most yogurts have added sugars that are not good for diabetes, options that contain 10 grams of sugar or less are considered safe. It is better to choose a plain product and add in the desired toppings yourself. That way, you can control the serving size and added sugars.
Granola is a common breakfast food made from oats, nuts, seed and oil. In most cases, it is sweetened with sugar or maple syrup. For diabetics, sugar-free granola is better. Still, as granola can be high in calories, you should be mindful of your portions, especially if you’re watching your weight.
Even though they taste great, past and spaghetti are considered some of the worst foods to eat for diabetics. Many are told to avoid pasta at all costs because it can lead to weight again, spikes in blood glucose levels, and spiking excessive insulin. Non-starchy veggies like cauliflower that contain complex carbs can be used as a substitute for those who are diabetic. It actually contributes to your energy and will keep you fuller for longer.
Consuming unsalted cashew can help improve cholesterol levels among those with diabetes and prediabetes and lower the risk of heart disease. Cashews contain less fat than other nuts. Moreover, they have no negative impact on the blood glucose level or weight.