Main principles of diabetes diet


What is diabetes?

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a metabolic disease when the body cannot make or properly use insulin (the hormone that shuttles glucose from the bloodstream into cells) to process a form of sugar called glucose in blood.
There are two types of diabetes. With Type 1 diabetes the pancreas stops making insulin, while with Type 2, the pancreas progressively makes less and less insulin or the body has difficulty using it (known as insulin resistance). Researches show that left uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure, foot amputation, long-term organ damage or death.

Main principles of diabetes diet.

Right healthy diet and exercise can help Type II Diabetics to keep blood sugar level in the target range. But it doesn’t mean that they have to be slaves to the glycemic index (which is a measure of how fast a food causes a person's blood glucose levels to rise within two hours) or deny themselves a slice of cake on their birthday. Actually there is no single "diabetes diet." That means that the foods recommended for a diabetes diet to control blood sugar are good for everyone.
As a general rule to help your body with healthy eating limit foods that are high in sugar, alcohol, fat and salt and include in your everyday meals a variety of whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables.

But first of all you should remember that the total amounts of carbohydrates consumed each day have the greatest influence on blood sugar levels and must be monitored carefully. Particularly rich in the carbohydrate are such products as cereals, bread, pasta and sugar . Typically diabetics should aim to eat 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, and 15 to 30 grams per snack, so  they spread their carb intake throughout the day. However counting carbohydrates can be tricky, so generally it’s a good idea to follow the American Diabetes Association's plate method for devising a meal:
Fill half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables (carrots, broccoli, spinach), a quarter with lean protein (fish, chicken) and a quarter with high-fiber starches (brown rice, quinoa, beans). Add a piece of whole fruit (not fruit juice, which isn't as filling and sometimes contains added sugar) and an 8-ounce glass of nonfat or low-fat milk. Foods like cheese can be eaten in small amounts.

Diabetics do not have to exclude foods with sugar from their meal plans as long as they eat them in serving sizes that don't significantly affect blood glucose levels. Just check your blood glucose level two hours after your meal. If it's less than 140-180 milligrams per deciliter - your serving size was acceptable if not – reduce it.
As a practical rule remember that if you want to eat pie or sweets for dessert exclude the rice, bread or pasta and non diet soft drinks from the dinner.
For diabetics is also very important to avoid saturated fats, such as fried foods and high-fat meats. This measure reduces risk to suffer heart disease which is two times bigger for people with diabetes than for people without it.
What also matters is how much you eat. Reduce total daily calories generally decreases blood glucose levels, and some people lose weight, which also helps significantly.
If you have diabetes, think twice before drinking alcohol. Remember, most wine and mixed drinks contain sugar. Alcohol provides almost as many calories as fat and processed in the body the same way as the fat.  At least check with your doctor if drinking alcohol is acceptable for you.

Keep in check fat consumption and protein and take the medicines your doctor prescribes. Visit professional dietitian to tailor a personalized meal plan that takes into account your weight, medicines, lifestyle, and other health problems you have.
Exercise can help your weight loss efforts, and is especially important in maintaining weight loss. There is also evidence that regular exercise can improve your insulin sensitivity even if you don’t lose weight.

Recommended meals for diabetics

  • Healthy carbohydrates. During digestion, sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood glucose. Focus on the healthiest carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and low-fat dairy products.
  • Fiber-rich foods. Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can't digest or absorb. Fiber can decrease the risk of heart disease and help control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole-wheat flour and wheat bran.
  • Heart-healthy fish. Eat heart-healthy fish at least twice a week. Fish can be a good alternative to high-fat meats. Cod, tuna and halibut, for example, have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than do meat and poultry. Fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health by lowering blood fats called triglycerides. However, avoid fried fish and fish with high levels of mercury, such as tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel.
  • 'Good' fats. Foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — such as avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, olives, and canola, olive and peanut oils — can help lower your cholesterol levels. Eat them sparingly, however, as all fats are high in calories.
  • Other. Brown rice, barley, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, low-fat cheese, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, avocado, potatoes, spinach, carrots, cucumber, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms, red pepper, herbs and spices.

Foods to avoid with diabetes

Following foods increase risk of heart disease and stroke for diabetics by accelerating the development of clogged and hardened arteries.
  • Saturated fats. High-fat dairy products and animal proteins such as beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon contain saturated fats. Get no more than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat.
  • Trans fats. These types of fats are found in processed snacks, baked goods, shortening and stick margarines and should be avoided completely.
  • Cholesterol. Sources of cholesterol include high-fat dairy products and high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, shellfish, liver and other organ meats. Aim for no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day.
  • Sodium. Aim for less than 2,000 mg of sodium a day.

Robert Sommers
Certified dietitian