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The Role of Eggs and Dairy in Diabetes Self-Management

Two sources of high-quality dietary protein are eggs and dairy, and both have seen their share of controversy. For a time, eggs were outcasts due to their relatively high levels of cholesterol. But eggs have gained favor again as an excellent source of high quality protein, choline, riboflavin, folate, selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.

As much as one egg per day falls within current dietary cholesterol guidelines if dietary cholesterol from other sources is minimized. Egg substitutes, made from egg whites, are cholesterol-free because the yolk is not included, but whereas the protein content is the same, some of the egg’s natural nutrients have to be added.

Egg substitutes, or using two egg whites as equal to one whole egg, can help moderate cholesterol intake and keep you enjoying eggs.

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese are a complex mixture of food options. And, dairy products contribute all three macronutrients to your diet — protein, fat, and carbohydrate — with some notable exceptions.

One cup of whole milk, for instance, contains the three macronutrients in approximately the same proportion — 8 grams protein, 9 grams fat, and 12 grams carbohydrate. Cheese, however, does not retain significant amounts of carbohydrate.

The protein in dairy products is high-quality protein, easily absorbed by your body, and includes all of the essential amino acids that you can’t manufacture. So, dairy products are a great way to start your day.

The fat in dairy products is mostly saturated fat, but all commercially available dairy products are available in reduced fat versions. Nonfat or low fat dairy is your best choice. One cup of 1 percent low-fat milk reduces the fat content from the 9 grams in whole milk to only 2.5 grams, and skim milk is fat free, although many people find skim milk a difficult adjustment.

The carbohydrate in dairy is primarily lactose, or milk sugar, and a large percentage of adults can’t properly digest this carbohydrate — they are lactose intolerant. For those who can, the carbohydrates in dairy products need to be accounted for in your daily eating. The carbohydrate content of dairy products can vary significantly, from virtually zero in hard cheeses to more than 40 grams carbohydrate per cup for some yogurts with added fruit.

Dairy products can be a significant source of sodium, too, so get your reading glasses on and choose dairy products as follows:

  • Select nonfat or reduced-fat options for all dairy products — milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and sour cream.

  • Select reduced sodium options where available.

  • Check the carbohydrate content of yogurt — remember, you’re not avoiding carbohydrates in your diet, but if you can start your day with 15 or 20 grams of carbohydrate from yogurt instead of 40 grams, you have more room in your breakfast meal plan for whole grain toast or fruit.

  • If you’re searching for a good source of calcium, choose dairy products that provide at least 30 percent of the daily value, like one cup of 1% milk.

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