Friday, May 13, 2011

Healthy Diabetic Breakfasts

Creating healthy diabetic breakfasts is a tough nutritional challenge. But with a little flexibility, most diabetics can find food that tastes good and is good for them.

First, let's start with what you can't have.

It's not a big surprise that diabetics can't have donuts, is it? Likewise, a big bowl of sugar-sweetened breakfast cereal, flapjacks with syrup, or what my Georgia-bred all-American mother would have called a "bate" of biscuits and gravy just won't work. Some diabetics who do heavy physical work or who do intense exercise routines immediately after breakfast might get away with some of these foods, but most diabetics just have to leave them alone.

Then there are maybe-foods for a healthy diabetic breakfast.

Eggs do not, as often advised, raise cholesterol. And they don't raise blood sugar levels, unless you happen to be allergic to them. The activation of the immune system causes the liver to release sugar stored as glycogen in allergic reactions. Egg allergies are more common than most people think, so here's a test. If you eat eggs for breakfast, try skipping them for 2 or 3 days. See if there is a difference in your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugars are improved, then make a habit of saving them for special occasions.

If you are allergic to apples, by the way, you are probably allergic to eggs. And if you are allergic to eggs, you are probably allergic to eggs. Try avoiding both foods for a while and see if you feel different or you note changes in your blood sugar levels.

Pork products are a bugaboo for a number of reasons. Observant Jews and Muslims, of course, never eat them. And there is no such thing as vegan pork bacon.

The problem with pork is that it is pro-inflammatory. Of all the commonly consumed meats, pork is the highest in arachidonic acid. This essential fatty acid gets turned into two especially potent inflammatory hormones, leukotriene B4 and prostaglandin E2. The production of these hormones is faster when insulin levels are higher (as in, when your poor pancreas is trying to cope with your eating two jelly donuts before your sausage biscuit).

The effect of arachidonic acid on the pancreas is minimal, but inflammation can certainly pack water weight around the belly and raise blood pressure. And there are some foods that can counteract the effect:
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Turmeric
  • Licorice whips (if they are made with real licorice)
The problem with having bacon and sausage and eggs and Raisin Bran and prune juice gets back to the total amount of carbohydrate you can eat at one time. Prunes and raisins, however, not only alkalize the urine, they also offset some of the ill effects of pork.

What about those other easy breakfast favorites, wheat toast and hashed browns? Even if you eat them in small amounts, not raising your blood sugar, I'd still call them a no-no. The problem with potatoes, wheat, and oats is that they activate pro-inflammatory genes in belly fat. More inflammation, more fluid, larger fat cells, more fat, poorer circulation. You can avoid this effect by eating small amounts of sourdough wheat products and, better, rye bread or rye crisps. Even if the amount of carbohydrate is not a problem, the amount of lectins in potatoes, wheat, and oats is.

Where does this leave diabetics seeking a hearty breakfast? I suggest thinking outside the cereal and Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit boxes. Here are some foods that are safe in moderate amounts:

  • Fish. 
  • Salads--try them, you might like them. A spinach salad has special benefits.
  • Quinoa, easy to cook, high in minerals, complete protein, interested side dish to your protein food
  • Fresh, whole fruit, but only one piece.
  • Meat other than pork.
  • Miso, tofu, or edamame, in small amounts.
  • Beans, in small amounts.
  • Rye crisps and cheese spreads or cheese, again, in small amounts.
  • High-protein bars (make your own, they are a lot cheaper that way).
  • Grits or polenta, in small amounts.
  • Soup, if you make a simmered soup ahead and reheat for breakfast (don't use canned, too many carbs, not enough simmered food particles to blunt your appetite).
  • Any food you would eat at any other meal, in moderate quantities,
Do you get the impression that not eating too much is key to a healthy breakfast for diabetics?

If you eat absolutely the same thing every morning, then it probably is worthwhile to see how changing your breakfast selection changes your blood sugar readings. And it's also helpful to avoid food that cause allergic reactions that raise your blood sugars. Not only are eggs and apples a common pairing of allergies, but:
  • Corn and bananas, 
  • Pork and black pepper,
  • Juniper (called "mountain cedar" in Texas, where it is abundant) and beef,
  • Ragweed and milk, and
  • Elm and milk.
If you are allergic to one you are probably allergic to the other. And what about a nice, tall glass of milk for breakfast?

Here again, allergies may be a bigger problem than carbohydrate content. If you have been using cow's milk products for years, try goat's milk. If you grew up on goat's milk or sheep's milk, try cow's milk. Or almond milk, low in carbs, high in calcium. The more variety you have in your breakfast beverages, the more likely you are to get good nutrition while keeping blood sugars in control. In a diabetic breakfast, coffee is usually OK.


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