You know that diet plays a huge role in your treatment and care. But so does cooking.

Hold the crust

For years, nutrition experts have advised people with diabetes to bake, broil, or grill food instead of frying it.

At high heat, however, even preferred cooking methods can create crispy edges, such as the grill marks on meat or crust along the edges of the brownie pan. That crust is full of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), chemicals associated with aging, inflammation, and other cell damage. As a person with diabetes, you are particularly susceptible to the effects of these chemicals.

Abundant in Western diets, AGEs proliferate when foods are heated, pasteurized, dried, smoked, fried, or grilled. These harmful substances influence insulin resistance and can even contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes in the first place.

Evidence suggests that AGEs are important pathogenetic (capable of causing disease) mediators of almost all diabetes complications. For instance, AGEs are found in retinal vessels of diabetic patients at levels that correlate to severe retinopathy (diabetic-related eye disease).

AGEs and insulin resistance

In a study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, researchers randomly assigned people with type 2 diabetes to either a standard diet or an AGE-restricted diet.

Those in the restricted diet experienced a decrease in insulin, leptin (the hormone that says you are full), blood plasma levels, AGE serum levels, and tumor necrosis factor-α (which helps regulate immune cells). Researchers concluded that food-derived AGEs may contribute to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and suppress some protective mechanisms.

How to stay away from AGEs

Doctors recommend that you consume fresh foods, cooked at a low heat and surrounded by water or humidity. Boiling and stewing are the best options. Consider these thoughts when grocery shopping and preparing meals:

  • Fatty foods and meat products contain the most AGEs
  • Carbohydrates are relatively low in AGEs
  • Higher cooking temperatures and longer cooking times increase AGEs
  • Cooking food in the presence of liquids reduces AGEs
  • Natural or homemade foods have fewer AGEs than processed foods