Diabetic Concerns: The Important Role Of Fats In Your Diet

Fat can and should be part of healthy and balanced diabetic diets.

Diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas has difficulty with producing an adequate amount of insulin to maintain proper blood sugar levels. This condition is currently among the top killers of individuals worldwide. However, with proper nutrition, many of the negative effects of this disease can be arrested and, in some cases, reversed.

That is not to say that diabetes is curable; however, it is preventable. If you're past the point of prevention; then, diabetes is a manageable condition. Many diabetics are overweight. In fact, one of the risk factors for developing diabetes is obesity. Therefore, the connection between diabetes and diet is firmly established.

However, towards the second half of the 20th century, there was a huge movement in the United States. Some call it the "War against Dietary Fat". Unfortunately, as dietary fat consumption went down, body fat went up. The RDA requirements, which became the basis for the Food Pyramid cautioned Americans to eat fats only sparingly.

The rationale behind this was the high numbers of individuals who died from cardiovascular disease. Diabetics are also at an increased for cardiovascular problems so, naturally, diabetics were told to steer clear of fat.

The fat wars made all fats suspect. The problem with that all-or-nothing approach is that not all fats are bad for your health and a diet that is too low in fat or contains no fat is not healthy. There are certain fats that are essential to good health. Fats, along with amino acids, are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins fuel many body processes including vital brain and metabolic functions.

The bad fats are commonly found in red meat, some dairy products, and certain butters and oils. These are also known as saturated and/or hydrogenated fats. Saturated fats can cause the bad cholesterol (LDL) to rise as well as provide an increased risk in the development of certain cancers. Hydrogenated fats are manufactured fats. You can tell if a fat is hydrogenated if it hardens at room temperature.

These fats, which are often found in butter and shortening as well as some cookies, cakes and such are also known as transfats. Bad fats are evident in many oils that are used in cooking such as vegetable and corn oil. All of these products are also traditionally high in calories and low on nutrition. The benefits of these fats, if there are any, pale in comparison to their drawbacks.

Now, that begs the question - what are the good fats?

Well, good fats are most commonly broken down into two categories as well: essential and monounsaturated. Essential fats are called as such because the body can not make them by itself. The lack of these fats in a person's diet can actually contribute to weight gain, and decreased immune function, which aids in the development of certain autoimmune conditions such as diabetes.

Autoimmune conditions are those in which the body attacks itself. In diabetics, the pancreas does not recognize or produce enough insulin. The body, in some cases, may attack insulin if it is produced as well. Anyway, other problems that can occur as a result of improper intake of good fats include: constipation, dry skin, mental difficulties, and insulin resistance.

Good, or essential, fats aren't hard to find. They are in many delicious and healthy foods, most notably in certain nuts and seeds. Almonds, sesame seeds, peanuts, flax seeds, Brazil nuts and many other types of these foods as well as oils made from these products have a high relational content of the essential fats. High fat, cold water fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are also full of these types of fats.

If you don't enjoy eating fish, then you could certainly take a fish oil supplement in either oil, or capsule form. There are plenty on the market and, if you adhere to the packaging instructions, they can be a great alternative.

Good fats have a variety of benefits of course. Studies have shown that they can actually help a person to lose weight. Yes, it's true. Eating the good, essential fats can actually decrease fat in the body by burning it faster, slowing down fat production, and increasing energy, activity, and heat, all of which will help your metabolism run more efficiently. In turn, you will burn more calories.

Other benefits include shiny hair, strong nails, and decreased depression, due to an increase in the release of Serotonin, the "feel-good" chemical.

Monounsaturated fats go hand-in-hand with essential fats. Many of the foods that have monounsaturated fats also have essential fats. You can find monounsaturated fats in olive canola and peanut oil. They are also prevalent in many nuts and nut butters. If you learn to substitute monounsaturated fats for the hydrogenated and transfat foods, you could help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and keep your good cholesterol (HDL) from going up.

Balancing the diabetic diet certainly isn't easy; however, it's not impossible. Fats shouldn't be off-limits to the diabetic. Rather, diabetics, perhaps more than any other segment of the population, should learn to distinguish between good fats and bad fats. The choices you make could help keep your risk for developing cardiovascular disease low and prevent many other negative side effects of the diabetic condition.

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