Can nuts replace carbs to help keep T2s fit?

A study published June 29 in Diabetes Care suggests that nuts, such as pistachios, are a healthy food choice for people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital found that people with type 2 diabetes, who ate about two ounces of tree nuts in place of carbohydrates, improved their long-term blood sugar control and lowered their cholesterol levels.

“There are two important factors in caring for diabetes: blood sugar control and heart health,” said Dr. Cyril WC Kendall, study co-investigator. “This study found that eating two ounces of nuts, such as pistachios, daily as a replacement for carbohydrates improved both blood sugar (glycemic control) and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) in people with type 2 diabetes. This is a very exciting and promising finding about the treatment of the disease.”

Here are a few tips to trade out carbohydrates for pistachios:

* Curb the crackers. If your go-to afternoon treat consists of crackers, pretzels or chips, get your crunchy fix instead with pistachios. Not only will you get that satisfying crunch, but cracking open the shells will slow you down, naturally helping you eat less.
* Swap out sweets. Instead of reaching for an after-meal and carb-loaded cookie or slice of cake, grab a handful of pistachios. As one of the lowest calorie nuts, pistachios are a delicious, nutrient-packed option.
* Tote a tasty snack. Keep a bag of pistachios in your purse or work bag as a handy snack option. Experts agree you should steer clear of the vending machine or drive-through lines and instead enjoy heart-healthy pistachios. You can have 49 nuts per serving, more than any other tree nut.

About the Study

The study, conducted by the University of Toronto and led by Dr. Cyril CW Kendall, is titled “Nuts as a replacement for carbohydrates in the diabetic diet.” The three-month study involved 117 people with type 2 diabetes who were randomized to one of three treatments. Groups were given about two ounces of mixed nuts, a healthy muffin control or half portions of both at about 450 calories per 2000-calorie diet. The primary outcome was change in HbA1c, a marker of blood sugar control over the previous three months. Notably, this change occurred even though they were taking medication to control their blood sugar. The study was funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation and the Peanut Institute.

This study shows yet another way that pistachios may help improve the diet of people with type 2 diabetes. A previous study conducted by Dr. Kendall also showed that pistachios, when eaten with carbohydrates, result in a lower than expected blood sugar level than when carbohydrates are consumed alone.

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