Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, is the author of The Women’s Health Body Clock Diet.
With school in session and pumpkins popping up everywhere, you know fall is here. With the change of seasons comes a new harvest ready for new recipes to inspire optimal health. Eating with the seasons when you are living with diabetes is even more beneficial than I bet you can imagine.
Eating seasonally will benefit you as well as the earth. Without extra effort, you are automatically consuming a new variety of produce four times a year providing a plethora of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Eating what the earth provides ensures the food is whole and nutrient dense. There are no packages or processing, which guarantees greater bang for your buck. Yup, you get more nutrition when you eat local foods. Even better is the fact that you are supporting local agriculture, small farms, and helping to encourage sustainable living.
Diabetes and the benefits of seasonal eating
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, eating with the seasons helps to ensure you are eating a high-fiber diet since fruits and veggies are naturally high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber cannot be broken down by the body. This indigestible form of carbohydrate does not raise blood glucose! You can fill your plate with lots of plant foods, aka fiber, to help manage blood sugar balance while also helping to satiate your appetite. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men with type 1 diabetes needed less insulin when consuming a higher-fiber diet. Meanwhile, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that there is also evidence suggesting that a high-carbohydrate diet, high in plant fiber, helps to lower plasma cholesterol in adults with diabetes.
The benefits of eating seasonal produce are unlimited when you have diabetes.
Being that the fruits and vegetables are just picked and basically eaten soon after, they typically have a higher level of nutrients. These plant nutrients, specifically antioxidants such as vitamin C, can then be used to counter the free radicals that form as a result of elevated blood sugar.
And if you are a truly committed plant eater throughout the seasons, you may significantly improve your blood sugar and decrease your cardiovascular risk factors. In fact, diabetes is lowest in populations consuming a vegan diet. Evidence reported by the ADA from a randomized clinical study comparing individuals with type 2 diabetes following a vegan diet (∼10 percent of energy from fat, 15 percent protein, and 75 percent carbohydrate, ideally lower glycemic) versus a standard diet (15–20 percent protein, less than seven percent saturated fat, 60–70 percent carbohydrate and monounsaturated fats, and cholesterol ≤200 mg/day) showed a 43 percent decrease in medication, a .96 percent decrease in HbA1c, and a 6.5 kg weight loss. The vegan diet outcomes proved more beneficial than the standard diet.
What’s in your canvas bag?
Now that you are convinced to eat according to the time of year, what will be in your bag? Each season brings new produce. For instance, fall’s harvest brings in butternut squash, spaghetti squash, apples, tomatoes, kale, leeks, scallions, and more. Winter produce includes hardy choices such as cabbage and kale. Keep in mind, the harvest will vary depending on where you live.
- Fall: pumpkins, apples, corn, tomatoes
- Winter: garlic, spring onions, cranberries, asparagus
- Spring: fiddleheads, lettuces, herbs like parsley
- Summer: cherries, berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), watermelon
Save your dollars
While it may be expensive to buy organic grains and produce, it is typically less costly to buy local apples, corn, and tomatoes. Go straight to the source. This means purchase directly from the farmer, rather than the large chain grocery store. Even better, join or buy a share in a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) farm. Prices vary, but for $15.00 to $25.00 a week, one can get a small or large box of produce from Stoke’s Farm in Old Tappan, New Jersey. Now that’s a bargain benefitting your wallet and your blood sugar!