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Best Diet for Seniors with Diabetes

Nov 16, 2022|Food

healthy chicken kabobs

Managing Diabetes with Good Nutrition: The Best Diet for Seniors

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting seniors and older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one in four adults 60 years and older have diabetes. Having the disease also increases the chances of developing serious complications.

If older adults with diabetes don’t manage their condition, it can lead to serious health problems like stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, hearing loss, blindness and nerve damage. Also, those living with type 2 diabetes may be at greater risk for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that diabetes is the nation’s seventh-leading cause of death.

Diabetes can be both exhausting and challenging to manage the older we get. This is why it is vital to understand how to adopt healthy behaviors that help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing other serious health issues associated with this disease.

What Is diabetes?

Diabetes affects how the human body turns food into energy. When you eat, food is broken down into sugar and released into your bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin, which controls how your body’s cells use sugar as an energy source.

In those living with diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin, too much blood sugar remains in the bloodstream, which can cause serious health issues over time.

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Is not caused or affected by lifestyle. The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown.
  • Is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body’s immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas, where insulin is produced. This stops the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin altogether.
  • Can only be controlled by taking insulin orally or by injection.
  • Symptoms present more rapidly.
  • There is no cure for type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

  • The body can’t produce insulin, or the insulin that is produced doesn’t work correctly.
  • Symptoms of type 2 diabetes occur slowly and can be easily missed.
  • Can be managed and put into remission with diet and exercise.

Managing Diabetes With Proper Nutrition

As we age, it becomes harder for our bodies to maintain a healthy balance of essential nutrients, especially for seniors living with diabetes. This can lead to instances of low blood sugar. But what is the best diet for older adults with diabetes? The ADA agrees that there is no one-size-fits-all diet, but they list the key ingredients to healthy eating as follows:

  • An abundance of fruits and vegetables
  • Lean meats 
  • Plant-based sources of lean protein (e.g., nuts, quinoa, chickpeas, soy, etc.)

What are the best foods for diabetics? Here’s a list from the ADA of the 9 superfoods for diabetics. These include leafy greens, tomatoes, whole grains, berries and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., salmon). Not only are these food options great for managing diabetes, but they are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive.

So, what should elderly people with diabetes eat? What foods should the elderly with diabetes avoid? Here’s what you should know.

Consume Healthy Carbohydrates

The human body needs carbohydrates for energy; what’s essential is getting nutrient-dense carbohydrates. Look for carbohydrates from non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and low-fat dairy products. These foods have the required nutrients you need to stay healthy, like calcium, vitamin D and fiber.

Choose Whole Foods Over Processed Foods

It’s vital to avoid carbohydrates from processed sources with added fat, sugar and salt like doughnuts, muffins or granola bars. Instead, indulge in these foods on occasion, but try to reach for smaller portions. Great sources of nutrient-dense carbohydrates include steel-cut oatmeal, homemade popcorn, brown rice and quinoa. If you love bread or pasta, look for whole-grain or whole-wheat varieties when grocery shopping.

Avoid Added Sugars

Cooking with sugar substitutes can be helpful. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that not more than 5% of adults’ daily energy intake adults should come from sugar. Adults, however, are consuming more sugar than ever before due to the introduction of processed foods.

Completely changing your diet can be difficult, so to make the transition a little smoother, start by using low-glycemic sweeteners instead of traditional sugar. Low-glycemic foods are those that have a low value on the glycemic index. Studies show that these foods on the low-glycemic index can provide an array of health benefits, including help with weight loss and managing blood sugar levels. This may also help lower the risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Living a Healthy Life With Diabetes

Diabetes is a demanding condition to manage, especially for aging adults. Helpful resources can educate and support older adults who choose senior living and who are managing the disease. For instance, diabetic seniors often find that eating healthier and exercising more can prove challenging; those who choose senior living will likely benefit from the community’s increased focus on wellness and proper nutrition.

Independent living communities like Hawthorn Senior Living communities offer numerous opportunities to learn how to manage chronic illnesses as well as fitness programs to boost health.

Make healthy food choices.

Food affects blood glucose levels, making food selection and the amount you eat very important. Independent living communities like Osprey Heights in Valrico, Florida, offer delicious, healthy meal choices, including options for residents with special diet considerations.

Be physically active. 

Exercise can help improve glucose levels in aging adults with diabetes. Independent living communities like The Savoy in Winter Springs, Florida, and Wilshire Estates in Silver Spring, Maryland, offer in-house fitness centers complete with fitness classes led by professionals who can customize exercise regimens to fit any skill level.

At Hawthorn Senior Living, we promote healthy eating habits in all our residents. At our independent living communities, residents can enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle and exclusive senior lifestyle programs. This includes full access to our dining rooms, where chefs prepare delicious meals that are nutritionally balanced and varied, meeting the needs of many different dietary preferences. Find a community near you and schedule a tour today!

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