World Diabetes Day Refocuses Efforts on Dietary Awareness and Education
What you eat is an important part of the recommended lifestyle changes for diabetes. Small positive changes in food choices can add up. The basics of healthy eating with diabetes are similar to healthy eating recommendations for just about anyone: eat regular, well-balanced meals and snacks, include a variety of healthy foods and keep an eye on portions. Smart snacking can be the bridge between meals to help curb overeating. Nuts like pistachios make a good choice, because they offer nutrients the body needs, are satisfying and can be incorporated into a weight management plan – and they taste good.
It's not nutrition unless you eat it
Finding healthy snacks that you enjoy will make it easier to stick to a healthy diet, an important part of living with diabetes. Pistachios are a great fit. They're a fun, delicious, and wholesome snack that offers a balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, plus a bundle of beneficial nutrients. "It's the small, sustainable food choices that we make on a day to day basis that can have a big impact on improving our diets for better health," says David Heber, MD, PhD, founding director at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
Snack on nuts instead of muffins
A preliminary 3-month study suggests that choosing nuts over muffins may have benefits for blood glucose control, as measured by HbA1c after 3 months. Pistachio nuts have a very low glycemic impact on their own, as measured by relative glycemic response (RGR), with values ranging from 4 to 9, where white bread is 100. In a very small, preliminary study involving healthy participants, when pistachios were eaten together with high glycemic index foods, such as parboiled rice and pasta, the total glycemic response after that meal was 20-40% less than for the high glycemic foods alone. These results were seen even though the pistachios added a small amount of additional carbohydrates. Although this study did not look at the effect pistachios have on diabetes specifically, or show long term results, these initial findings lay the foundation for further research.
More reasons to love pistachios: heart and body
Pistachio nuts are also winning favor as one of the lowest fat, lowest calorie snack nuts. In fact, a reduced serving of 30 pistachio kernels contain about 100 calories – compare that to just 14 for almonds, and 11 for cashews. Pistachios are also unique in that they are a commonly consumed in‐shell snack nut. In‐shell pistachios take longer to eat, so the consumption time is slowed.
Two very preliminary studies suggest that empty pistachio shells may serve as an important visual cue about the amount consumed, potentially encouraging "mindfulness" as one eats and reduced calorie intake. Further, when compared to portion-controlled pretzel snacks, an equal portion (by calories) of pistachios better supported weight management among obese subjects on a 12-week weight loss program. Total calories were the same in both groups, and both groups lost weight; however, on average, the pistachio group's BMI went down slightly more.
The bottom line
You already know pistachios are tasty, fun, convenient and heart-healthy. Now there are more reasons than ever to include them in a healthy diet. The growing weight of research supports the recommendation made by the American Diabetes Association and Dietary Guidelines for Americans to include healthy foods like pistachios in the diet because they are a good source of protein and healthy fats, and offer nutrients like dietary fiber, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin B6 and thiamin.