A Focus on Fiber
Caution: Consult your diabetes care team before starting a lower-carbohydrate meal plan. Diabetes medications such as insulin or oral drugs that stimulate insulin production (sulfonylureas or meglitinides) will need adjustment to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) when carbohydrate intake is decreased. In addition, meds might need to be decreased and blood glucose levels need to be checked more often.
Thanks to a growing body of scientific research, fiber is becoming a star nutrient in the quest for better health. Not only does it fill you up, keep you regular and help ward off heart disease, it also steadies blood glucose, which can minimize the need for anti-diabetes drugs.
New dietary guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommend that women get 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, and men 30 to 38 grams. Yet the typical American consumes only 16 grams a day. Even if you eat the recommended minimum of five servings of plant foods each day, you still might not be taking in fiber enough to meet these guidelines.
For people with diabetes, there’s often a fine line between controlling blood glucose and getting adequate fiber. As you step up your intake of grains, fruits, legumes or starchy vegetables for the sake of increased fiber, you have to be careful not to wind up with more glucose in your blood than is desirable, since that could result in the need for more medication or physical activity.
In light of the new guidelines and the latest research on fiber, the Atkins Nutritional Approach (ANA) now recommends a fiber supplement for everyone and at every phase of the program.
Supplement options include crushed flax seeds, oat or wheat bran sprinkled on food or psyllium husks, which are sold in powder, capsule and wafer form. Be sure that any ready-made supplements are sugar free.
Fiber Lowers Blood Glucose
One recent study looked at eight women and 12 men with type 2 diabetes. All were being treated with a sulfonylurea drug and following conventional dietary restrictions. For six weeks, subjects took 3.5 grams of an orange-flavored sugar-free psyllium supplement, mixed with water, four times a day. At the end of the study, blood tests showed that psyllium had significantly reduced blood glucose concentrations as well as total and LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol levels.
The Best Foods
Supplements may be necessary to meet your requirements, but whole foods should be your first source of fiber. To get the biggest bang for your glycemic buck, stick to those foods that are low in carbohydrates but high in fiber. (See “Best Picks” for some higher-fiber foods allowed during the earliest phase of the ANA.) A low-carb protein bar with no added sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber is another way to get an easy fiber boost.
The following very low carb foods contain a healthy dose of fiber:
|½ cup sauerkraut||3.0 grams|
|1 cup frozen, chopped, steamed spinach||5.8 grams|
|3 cups Romaine lettuce||3.0 grams|
|8 asparagus spears||2.0 grams|
|1 cup zucchini||2.0 grams|
|1 cup Brussels sprouts||4.0 grams|
|1 cup steamed cauliflower||3.4 grams|
|1 cup green beans||4.0 grams|
|1 cup cubed eggplant||2.5 grams|
|1 cup broccoli chopped, steamed||4.5 grams|
|½ Haas avocado||4.2 grams|