Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use or produce insulin, a hormone that comes from the pancreas, and aids in the conversion and absorption of sugars and starches to be used as energy. If you are a diabetic, a healthy diet can help you control blood glucose levels and maintain a healthy weight. Below are some guidelines to help you live a normal lifestyle and eat the foods you love, while also preventing health complications.
Variety & Consistency
The dietary goal for diabetics is to eat a variety of foods and select the most nutrient-rich foods. A plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat and low-sugar foods is the ideal diet plan to follow.
But just as important as what you eat is how often you eat and the portion sizes you consume. Your overall calorie amount should be selected with the goal of maintaining a healthy weight, and should be divided into multiple, small meals each day. Sticking to a consistent routine and never skipping meals is the best way to maintain your weight and keep your blood sugar from fluctuating, which is especially important if you are on insulin or other medications that put you at risk for hypoglycemia.
Limiting Bad Fats
Those with diabetes have a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke, therefore you should try to limit the amount of trans-fat and saturated fats in your diet. Choose low-fat or sugar-free substitutions when available. Nuts and oils, such as olive and sesame, contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which keep your heart healthy. Fish such as salmon and herring contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower blood fats called triglycerides. Eating heart-healthy fish a few times a week is the perfect replacement for high-fat meats.
Choose Your Plan
Counting carbohydrates and monitoring when you eat them is a good system for diabetics who use insulin at mealtimes. Learn which foods have a lot of carbohydrates to help determine your portion sizes and corresponding insulin dose. A good starting place is around 45-60 grams per meal, but this will vary for each person.
The glycemic index (GI) allows you to choose your meals based on the GI value (how the carbohydrate raises your blood sugar). Foods with a high GI tend to slow the digestion of starch, and slower digestion is responsible for preventing spikes in blood sugar. A balanced meal can still contain food with a high GI as long as it is combined with a low GI food.
An exchange list allows you to replace foods that may have an equal effect on your blood sugar; for example, a small piece of fruit could be replaced with a half-cup of rice if they each have the same effect on your blood glucose level.
Help from a Dietitian
A registered dietitian can help you come up with a plan that includes your favorite foods and works with any medications you may be taking, while still managing your weight and glucose levels and preventing any further health complications.
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