WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Raisins are the best snack food for individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) due to their ability to reduce fasting glucose levels.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Diabetes is a chronic condition that is characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. In non-diabetic individuals, insulin, a hormone, regulates blood glucose levels. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. Diabetes is the result of the pancreas failing to produce enough insulin or when there is a problem with how the body’s cells respond to it. Carbohydrates from foods, such as grains, potatoes, fruit, milk bread and pasta are converted to glucose, which is the body’s main source of energy. Once foods are digested, they are converted to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.
There are two types of diabetes: in the first type (type 1 diabetes), the pancreas can’t produce insulin or the cells don’t respond to insulin properly. In the second type (type 2 diabetes) the pancreas can’t keep up with the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Approximately 85-90% of people with diabetes are type 2 diabetics. It is referred to as ‘lifestyle disease’ because the main factors that lead to the onset of the condition are overweight, obesity and a lack of physical activity. Unlike type 1 diabetes, the onset of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by engaging in adequate amounts of physical activity and maintaining a nutritious diet.
MANAGING TYPE 2 DIABETES
It is crucial for those with type 2 diabetes to make changes to their lifestyle to ensure that their blood glucose levels are managed correctly. Diabetes can lead to other serious health complications, including:
- kidney damage (nephropathy)
- eye damage (retinopathy)
- nerve damage to the feet and other parts of the body (neuropathy)
- heart disease (for example, angina or heart attacks), strokes and circulation problems in the legs
- sexual difficulties, including erectile dysfunction
- foot ulcers or infections resulting from circulation problems and nerve damage.
Diabetes can be managed in many different ways. Suggestions include regulating diet, taking insulin daily by injections or by insulin pump, self-monitoring blood sugar levels, physical activity and exercise, medications, weight management, smoking cessation and regular checks for potential complications.
Certain types of foods have a low glycemic index, meaning that they do not cause sharp spikes in blood glucose levels. The glycemic index of food is a metric that reflects the food’s effect on blood glucose levels, and 100 percent represents an equivalent of ingested pure glucose. Diabetics can benefit from these types of foods because they keep blood glucose levels even, which is essential for diabetes management.
RAISINS, DIET AND DIABETES
Recent research demonstrates that snacking on raisins is an effective way for diabetics to reduce fasting blood glucose levels. In the study, which took place over the course of 12 weeks, participants were separated into two groups: one group ate 1 oz. of dark California raisins (90 calories per serving) and the other group ate a standard snack, such Keebler Cheez-It Crackers, Nabisco Honey Maid Cinnamon Roll Thin Crisps or Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Baked Snack Crackers (100 calories per pack). Both groups were instructed to eat the snacks three times a day before breakfast, lunch and dinner. Those who were in the raisin group did not experience any change in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol levels or fasting insulin. However, participants who consumed raisins had significantly reduced post-prandial glucose levels (blood sugar levels following a meal) by 23%. In addition, their systolic blood pressure was lowered by 7.5%! Despite their naturally occurring sugar content, raisins have a low-to-moderate glycemic index level, in addition to being full of fiber, antioxidants and potassium, making them an excellent snack food for healthy individuals as well as diabetics.
Managing diabetes takes effort, and the health benefits are well worth the time and attention invested. Healthy blood glucose levels can be reached by reducing the amount of foods high in refined carbohydrates and increasing the amount of fruits, veggies, whole grains and high quality proteins. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal, engage in daily physical activity and limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. Also, make raisins a part of your daily snacks and meals!
10 Ways to Increase Your Raisin Intake
- Toss raisins into your favorite bowl of whole grain cereal.
- Use raisins, nuts and apples in oatmeal for a warm, filling breakfast.
- Sprinkle raisins on salads.
- Add raisins to yogurt and parfaits.
- Prepare snack sized (1 oz.) baggies for when you’re on the go.
- Make your own trail mix: add your favorite nuts and dried fruits (including raisins!)
- Mix raisins into your favorite grain dishes for a subtle hint of sweetness.
- Try whole-grain raisin bagels and sprinkle extra raisins on top.
- Add raisins and berries to your pancakes instead of syrup.
- Sauté raisins with your favorite veggies.