Food To Combat Diabetes

By Marsha Fottler

About 8% of the American population has diabetes and last year 1.9 million new cases were diagnosed in people aged 20 or older. This life-threatening and lifestyle-altering disease causes untold suffering and costs us all about $174 billion in direct and indirect ways of combating diabetes through research, diagnosis, preventative measures and treatment.

It’s well known that one of the best weapons in an arsenal to defeat diabetes is diet. What we eat and what we reject can literally mean the difference between a healthy life and a severely compromised diabetic one.

Recently, the American Diabetes Association released its list of Top 10 Diabetes Super Foods and here they are: beans, dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, berries, tomatoes, fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon), whole grains, nuts, fat-free milk and yogurt. These foods have a low glycemic index (GI) and provide significant amounts of of calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium as well as vitamins A, C and E. The glycemic index is a measure of how much and how quickly a particular food raises blood glucose. Eating foods with a low GI helps a diabetic to control blood sugar.

Cookbooks are coming to the rescue to provide help in menu planning and good-tasting recipes and one that I like is 250 Essential Diabetes Recipes edited by Sharon Zeiler, who is a respected professional working in diabetes education and nutrition. Besides tempting and easy-to-make recipes, her book includes strategies for managing diabetes and details on how to interpret and use the nutritional information that appears with each recipe. The book is divided into categories of appetizers, beverages, sauces, soups, salads, vegetables, meats, poultry and fish. She also has sections on one-dish meals, meatless dishes, breads, desserts and soft spreads that includes chutneys and pickles.

Besides recipes, the author provides kitchen tips and a box containing nutrients per serving for each recipe. Sharon Zeiler is Canadian and all recipes are printed with the proper ingredient measurement conversions for US eaters and Canadian ones. There are full color photographs with many of the recipes. This is a handy basic book for all kitchens where cooking for a diabetic is on the menu. Here are a few recipes from the book.

Four-Bean Salad (8 servings)

3 cups frozen cut green and yellow wax beans

1 1/2 cups frozen baby lima beans

1 can (14-ounces) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup thinly sliced sweet onion

1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper


½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup white vinegar

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch garlic powder

In a pot of boiling water, cook green and yellow beans and lima beans according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine green beans, wax beans, kidney beans, celery, onion and green pepper. For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Pour dressing over the bean mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least one day, to blend the flavors,. Drain off excess liquid before serving.

Fish Chowder (8 cups)

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 ½ cups cubed potatoes

½ cup coarsely chopped carrot

½ teaspoon dried summer savory or thyme

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound skinless fish filets, but into bite-size pieces

2 cups low-fat milk

In  heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onion and celery for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in potatoes, carrot, savory, salt, pepper and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in fish, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes easily when tested with a for. Stir in milk and return to a simmer. Do not let the soup boil at this point because the milk may curdle. Serve and enjoy.


Shepherd’s Pie (4 servings)

2  cups cubed peeled potatoes

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 pound lean ground beef, pork or lamb

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

2 cups low-sodium, store-bought beef stock

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables

1 cup sliced mushrooms

Place potatoes in a saucepan and add 6 cups cold water to cover. Add salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and boil gently for 15-20 minutes or until just tender. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons cooking liquid. Mash potatoes with cooking liquid until fluffy; fold in Parmesan cheese. Set aside. Meanwhile in a skillet, over medium-high heat, cook beef, breaking it up with the back of a spoon for about 8 minutes or until no longer pink. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a plate. Drain fat from skillet. In a jar, combine flour, celery salt, stock and Worcestershire sauce. Cover tightly and shake until thoroughly mixed.

Add stock mixture to skillet. Add onion, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add vegetables and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Return beef to skillet and stir in mushrooms; cook until heated through. Spoon beef mixture into a 6-cup casserole dish and spread potato mixture evenly over top. Bake in pre-heated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned and beef mixture is bubbling.

(250 Essential Diabetes Recipes by Sharon Zeiler. Rose Publishers. $24.95)

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