A Ohio State University study reveals that specific dietary goals with low glycemic-index foods are the best approach for Type 2 diabetics.
A study coming from Ohio State University and published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling has some good news for T2s: setting a specific goal to eat a number of daily servings of low glycemic-index foods can improve eating habits and lower long term blood sugar concentrations.
Low GI foods are ideal for diabetics
For this study, 35 Type 2 diabetics of ages 35 to 65 were asked to eat either 6 or 8 servings of low GI foods each day. Low GI foods are ideal for diabetics because they contain slow release carbohydrates that provide a steady energy supply throughout the day, without spiking blood glucose levels.
The glycemic index provides a measure of the readily available sugar concentration in foods and it is scaled from 1 to 100. Low GI food items will score 55 or less. This category includes most whole grains, raw starches, legumes, nuts, seeds, as well as fruits and vegetables with a low sugar content (grapefruit, apple, plum, cherry and apricot, but also broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, cabbage and lettuce).
Although low GI diets are known for lowering blood sugar levels and promoting cardiovascular health, the medical community has yet to agree upon a set of precise guidelines regarding their consumption. This is also the reason why most doctors assume that diabetics would have a hard time on a strict diet that requires daily adjustments. However, according to professor of human nutrition Carla Miller, who led the Ohio State study, goal setting is a very efficient technique in combating unhealthy eating habits and a great solution for diabetics.
Commitment to a goal is essential for success
Study participants were asked to modify their diets so as to include 6 or 8 servings of low GI foods per day. To do this, participants replaced about 500 calories from their regular diets with calories from low GI foods. Much to Miller’s surprise, it was later revealed that some participants were already on a regime that included daily servings of low GI foods, which made it easier for them to adjust to the new dietary demands. However, not everyone was able to meet the goal, which made the research team question the role of motivation in disease management. Dr. Miller pointed out that an individual’s commitment to the set goal is crucial in determining their odds for success.
“What we found is that those who felt more committed to the goal felt the goal was less difficult. And those who had a higher level of self-efficacy felt that the goal was less difficult, which makes sense because that means they felt more confident in their ability to meet that goal. Increasing levels of self-efficacy and increasing goal commitment are critical to achieving goal behavior”, explained Miller.
Consequently, the varying success rates for the participating Type 2 diabetics brought an interesting subject to the table: the role of goal-setting in diet regulation and how it may influence long term health. Miller believes that exploring goal-setting and substitution goals (which involve replacing unhealthy foods with healthier variants that satisfy the same craving) could help people plan their actions rather than give up at the first signs of hardship.
“One way to build self-efficacy is by helping people set a specific goal that is moderately difficult, action-oriented, and achievable in small successive steps. Then those people with higher self-efficacy feel the goal is less difficult, they are more committed, and they feel more satisfied in achieving the goal. That satisfaction helps them say, ‘Let’s set the next higher goal!'”, concluded Dr. Miller.
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