Once diagnosed with diabetes, many people get into a lot of confusion. You are told about medication, the need to exercise and how you can control the disease with your diet. You are told that most cases of diabetes (type 2) are preventable and some can even be reversed. You are also told about the complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes.
Many people are faced with so much fear. There is so much to take in all at once and the diagnosis may seem a bit overwhelming. Doctors are talking about exercise but it’s not very clear as to what they really are talking about. Healthy eating also becomes one of the topics every health care worker will emphasize. Many people will find themselves now wondering what the best diabetic diet is they can follow to maintain a healthy life living with diabetes. Our way of eating may prevent, control, reverse or worsen the disease. This is not only true for diabetes but also for other lifestyle diseases.
What is diabetic diet
A diabetic diet is a healthy eating plan that covers three very important aspects: healthy foods, in moderate amounts, eaten at healthy timings. It simply means eating healthy foods in moderate amounts sticking to regular meal times. It is a dietary plan that is rich in nutrients but low in fat and calories. Healthy diabetic meal plans include plenty of vegetables and limited processed sugars.
There is actually no such thing as a special diet that is exclusively for diabetic people. In fact, a diabetic diet is a healthy eating plan for almost every one of us. People living with diabetes are not the same and may have different needs. Their body structure, size, buying habits and co-morbidities are different. As such, there is no on-size-fits-all diet plan for diabetes. Making healthier choices of food is what is more important than a specific diet plan as it helps control the sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risks of complications associated with diabetes. Healthy choices do not only manage your diabetes also prevents other diseases associated with poor lifestyle choices
Why is it important
Unhealthy food choices creates and undesirable rise in blood sugar levels. Once this happens you start having symptoms of elevated glucose like feeling thirstier than normal, peeing more often, blurred vision etc. Once the sugar levels become too high for a longer period, it starts causing serious health problems. These include nerve damage, eye damage, kidney damage etc. It is also important to note that diabetes increases your risk of heart related diseases.
Once diagnosed with diabetes, often time people are sent home with an instruction to cut down on sugar. But what does this really mean? For us to understand fully, we need to know what the term Glycemic Index (GI) means. Carbohydrates do increase you blood levels of sugar. Some cause a lower and slower rise of the blood glucose whilst others will cause a higher and faster rise of the blood glucose levels. The Glycemic Index is a system of ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect the blood glucose levels. Those with a low GI value are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized resulting in slower rise of blood glucose levels.
Carbohydrates will also raise the blood sugar levels faster than proteins and fats would. Proteins provide constant energy with little effect on blood sugar, help curb sugar cravings and provide a feeling of being full after eating. Fats do not have a direct effect on blood sugar and can be useful in slowing absorption of carbohydrates.
Aim on choosing a variety. Choose healthy low GI carbohydrates, fiber-rich food and good fats. Ideally opt for fresh fruits rather than juices.
Healthy carbohydrates: fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans and peas), whole grains
Fiber rick foods: Fiber helps control your blood glucose levels by controlling how your body digests food. Examples include fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains
Smart fats: these are foods containing unsaturated fats which come from fish and plant sources. They help your cholesterol levels. Examples are fish, nuts, avocado, olive oil. Fish is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which are good in preventing heart diseases. It is important to note that fats also have high calories hence it’s advisable to eat in moderation.
High quality protein: legumes, eggs, dairy, lean meat and poultry.
Foods to avoid
Trans-Fats: These are also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. Most are formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, causing liquid oil to become solid fat at room temperature. Trans-fats are found in stick margarine, commercially baked goods, packed snack foods, processed foods like fried chips and fast foods.
Saturated fats: These fats are mostly solid at room temperature. They raise you blood cholesterol levels. They are found in high fat animal protein and dairy products. Examples include hot dogs, bacon, beef, full-fat cheese and chicken skin. Small amounts may be found in coconut oil. There is however no need to remove saturated fats completely from you diet but rather aim for 10% or less of you daily calories.
Sodium: As a diabetic, it is also critical to watch your salt intake. Eating more salt has been associated with heart disease and diabetic associated complications. It is generally advised that you aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Make sure to read labels and choose foods with less sodium. Examples of foods high in sodium include canned meat, smoked meats like bacon or ham, and frozen dinners like pizza.
Creating your own plan
The principles of eating are the same whether you have diabetes or not. Expensive diabetic foods don’t offer any special benefit. A diabetic diet doesn’t have to be complicated. One has to make smarter choices with their daily foods.
Eat regularly:Healthy eating is based on a regular meal schedule. The body is then able to regulate your blood sugar levels better. The recommendations are regular small meals of up to 6 meals per day.
Right portion sizes: Aim for moderate consistent portion sizes. Avoid over eating in one meal or skimping in another try to maintain roughly the same portions every day. . Low GI food doesn’t mean you can eat a larger portion of that food. The amounts of calories you take in are still important.
Keep a food diary: Follow a regular eating schedule and record what you eat. A written record will help you identify your problems foods, especially if you are checking your sugars regularly. It helps you take charge of your blood sugar levels. People who keep a food diary manage diabetes better and often lose weight faster and are able to maintain it
Make the right choices: Eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t eat foods that taste good. You just have to pay attention to some of your food choices. Check your blood sugar levels after meals and look for patterns between what you eat and your sugar levels. Opt for cooking instead of buying processed foods. Instead of frying, choose to boil, bake or stir-fry. Create your own salad dressings instead of buying.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.