Diabetes and supplements: Preventing/managing diabetes can be as easy as what you eat

By Alethea Price

Contributing writer

November is diabetes awareness month. I know I normally share tasty recipes and kitchen hacks but this is important — and diabetes is something I should talk to you about since it deals with what you eat.

This disease can be controlled easily with a healthy diet. I’ve heard of so many people who made changes to their diet and improved their quality of life. A diagnosis of diabetes or even prediabetes isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a healthier lifestyle.

Diabetes is a condition that affects the way the body uses energy. More than 29 million Americans are affected by diabetes and close to one-quarter of them do not know they have it. An additional 86.1 million Americans have prediabetes. Many people believe they can prevent or control these disease by taking various dietary supplements, but that may not be the case.

A wide variety of supplements may claim to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, help you better manage the disease or prevent it all together.  Some of these supplements include chromium, herbal supplements, Chinese herbal medicines, bitter melon, milk thistle, aloe vera, magnesium and vitamin D. Thus far, numerous studies in this area have been inconclusive on the effects of these supplements on diabetes, and further research is needed.

Taking these medications to try to control or prevent diabetes may actually do more harm than good.  Some herbal supplements can interact with medications you are taking and produce undesirable results. Some dietary supplements could present serious side effects. If you have diabetes, it is important for you to check with your health care provider before taking dietary supplements.

It is helpful to know there is a way to manage diabetes or reduce your risk of developing the disease. There is strong evidence that eating a healthy diet, and engaging in physical activity, monitoring blood glucose and taking medicines as prescribed by a doctor is the solution for managing and reducing the risk of diabetes. Many of the dietary supplements that people take to reduce the risk of or manage their diabetes can be found in eating a well-balanced diet with the right amount of whole grain foods, vegetables, fruits, low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products, lean cuts of meat, fish or poultry and beans each day; and by paying attention to portion sizes.

Basically all you have to do is eat. Sounds simple right? Well, I guess I should explain a little further on what you should eat so we are on the same page.

Make all your grain choices whole grains. Brown rice, whole wheat or multigrain bread, whole wheat pasta are all great choices to add to your diet. Lean meats are great, such as chicken and beef. Get some fish in your diet too. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Don’t just stick to lima beans and corn. If my dad — a picky-eater and  diabetic — can try eating new vegetables so can you. Limit your sugar-sweetened beverages. Try to drink water and milk. Limit your intake on pop, sweet tea and fruit juices. Added sugar is not your friend.

Here are some recipes to get you started.

Classic beef stew

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds top round, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and quartered

4 cups reduced-sodium, low-fat chicken broth, divided use

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 large russet potatoes

3 medium carrots, peeled

1 cup frozen peas

1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the all-purpose flour with the Italian season. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Dredge the beef cubes lightly in the flour mixture and add the beef, in batches to keep the beef in one layer, until well browned on each side.

Remove the beef from the pan and deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup chicken broth. Add in the mushrooms and sauté for about 4 minutes until well browned. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and deglaze with another 1/4 cup of the broth. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes. Return the beef to the pot, add the remaining chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Partially cover, lower the heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Peel and cut the potatoes into 3/4-inch pieces. Cut the carrots into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the potatoes and carrots to the stew and continue to cook for another 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add in the reserved mushrooms, peas, and thyme. Season with red wine vinegar and black pepper.

Choices/Exchanges: 1 Starch; 2 Nonstarchy Vegetable; 3 Protein, lean

Apple cider chicken

*Master chicken sear

1 1/2  teaspoon olive oil

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced

1/4 cup minced shallots

2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme

1/2 cup apple cider

1/2  cup fat-free, low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Sear chicken as in Master Recipe (*see below) using chicken breasts or thighs, boneless or bone in.

Add the oil to the pan on medium heat. Add the apples, shallots and thyme to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the apple cider and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes.

Return the chicken and juices to the skillet and reduce to low. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add in the sour cream and parsley and serve.

*Master chicken sear

Season 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.

In a 12-14-inch heavy skillet, preferably cast iron or stainless (NOT nonstick), heat 1 1/2  tablespoons olive or canola oil over medium-high heat.

Add the chicken and sear until well browned on both sides for 3-4 minutes per side for the breasts, 2-3 minutes for the thighs.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil.

Choose and prepare one of the sauce recipes.

Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the skillet and simmer gently until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.

For bone-in breasts and thighs: Follow step 1, but instead of removing the chicken to a plate, transfer the chicken to a baking sheet. Roast the chicken at 375ºF for about 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add back to the skillet with the sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

Chef Tip: If you can’t find fresh cider, substitute unsweetened, unfiltered apple juice.

Choices/Exchanges: 1/2 Fruit; 3 Protein, lean; 1 1/2  Fat

Recipes from From “The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection” by Robyn Webb, MS

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at thekitchenagent@gmail.com.

Dear readers,

Don’t forget to get some physical activity in daily. My dad, who’s diabetic,  walks a lot and that keeps him fit and

his numbers down. Find what works best for you. For more tips, recipes, and info about

diabetes call the Boyle County Extension Office at (859) 236-4484.

Live and eat healthy!

— Alethea,

the Kitchen Agent