Have you just learned you have diabetes? Or have you been living with the condition for years? In either case, you probably know how important what you eat is to managing your blood sugar.
Diet is the mainstay of all Diabetes Management. In order to ensure compliance, the prescribed diet should be individualized. It must be realistic, flexible, and also take into consideration the likes and dislikes of the patient, to as large an extent as possible and must suit the life style.
Our Indian diets, with slight modification are close to what is considered as Ideal Diabetic Diet.
Good nutrition is one of the most important part of healthy life with diabetes. If you manage to eat healthy, you will be far less likely to suffer from many common problems caused by diabetes.
Nutrition means eating well balanced meals. Regular well balanced meals may help to improve overall health. Eating healthy food in the right amount and keeping weight under control may help in diabetes management.
The main nutrients in the food are – Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins & minerals. These nutrients help your body work right and make young bodies grow.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the diet of a diabetic. If you are a diabetic, you may have been subjected to a lot of free advice from friends, family members and well wishers. Most of this advice may be wrong or partially correct. I am sure this leads to a greater confusion about disease and its treatment. I commonly hear from the patients saying that “my friends said not to eat this and not to do that etc.
What you need to realize is that diabetes can be well controlled if only you can modify and discipline your lifestyle i.e. eating on time, eating the right kind of food and keeping yourself fit with regular exercises and taking your medicines well on time.
Manage your weight
When you’re overweight, your cells don’t respond as well to insulin. Insulin is necessary to shepherd sugar (glucose) from your bloodstream into your cells. Losing weight will improve your body’s response to insulin— either your body’s own insulin or the insulin you inject.
One way to control calories is to base your diet on exchange system. Foods in the exchange system are grouped into vegetables, starches, meats, fruits, milk (products) and fats. Within each group, foods are portioned so that you’ll know how much you can eat of each and get the same amount of calories, carbohydrates and other nutrients.
An exchange is basically one portion of a food type. You can exchange or trade foods within a group because they’re similar in nutrient content and the manner in which they affect your blood sugar.
Your dietitian will recommend a certain number of exchanges from each food group based on your personal needs and preferences. You and your dietitian will decide how to spread out the exchanges during the day to manage your blood sugar and to avoid eating too much or too little at a meal.
Carbohydrates turn into glucose and thus supply energy to the body.
1 gram of CHO = 4 kcal.
Sources – Cereals, breads, rice, corn, pasta, fruits, fruit juices, sugar, honey.
Starches (simple Carbohydrates) are bread, cereals – rice, maida, starchy vegetables like potatoes, arbi, zimicand.
Complex carbohydrates – brown bread, atta with bran, oats.
Some people with diabetes use the glycemic index (GI) as the basis for selecting foods, especially carbohydrates, for their meal plan. GI is a measurement of the effect that a food has on blood sugar — specifically the ability of a food to raise blood sugar within two to three hours after eating. Foods with a high GI cause your blood sugar to rise higher and quicker than do foods with a low GI.
Tips for capitalizing on carbohydrates are:
- Aim for 50 percent to 60 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. Depending on your calorie needs, that might include six or more servings of starches, two servings of fruits, two to three servings of milk or milk products, and three to five servings of vegetables.
- Emphasize high-fiber carbohydrates. The more fiber the food contains, the more slowly you digest it and the more slowly your blood sugar level rises. Aim for about 25 grams of fiber each day, the same amount recommended for all adults.
Control serving sizes. If you eat more carbohydrates than usual, you may not have enough insulin available to transport the excess sugar into your cells, causing an increase in your blood sugar level. Controlling your serving sizes will also allow you to manage your calorie intake and weight.
It is necessary for growth, tissue growth & muscle maintenance. It is also used for supplying energy when glucose stores are depleted.
1 gram of Proteins = 4 kcal.
Sources – milk & milk products like paneer, curd, meat, poultry and eggs.
Pulses – all types of dals.
- Select proteins that are lower in fat. Examples include fish, poultry without skin, lean meats, low-fat or fat-free cheeses, and legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils. Limit or avoid fatty meats, eggs and high-fat cheeses. Eating too much fat can lead to heart disease and obesity.
Fats insulate the body; protect the organs supplies essential fatty acids& helps in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
1 gram of Fat = 9kcal.
If it is consumed in large quantities it may result in weight gain.
There are different types of fats:
Saturated fats – They come from animal sources and are solid at room temperature
Sources – desi ghee, butter, cream, vanaspati.
They elevate the cholesterol levels.
Unsaturated fats – They come from vegetable origin
Sources – corn oil, safflower, sunflower, peanut oil.
Only polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats should be used for cooking.
Omega 3 fatty acids – found in fish oil helps in lowering cholesterol & triglycerides levels.
Because diabetes places you at a higher risk of heart disease, keep fat below 30 percent of your daily calories and limit cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams daily. To do this:
- Eat no more than 3 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish per meal
- Use low- or reduced-fat dairy products
- Remove all visible fat from meat and poultry before you cook
- Don’t eat fried foods
- Use nonfat cooking spray on cooking utensils
- Get about 20 percent of your daily calories from fat. Include less than 10 percent of saturated fat in your total daily calories.
Fats are the most concentrated source of food energy, providing 9 calories a gram but little nutritional value.
Meat, poultry, fish, cheese, salad dressing, whole milk and many desserts and snack foods contain fat. Butter, margarine and oils are 100 percent fat
Fiber is the indigestible portion of plant food & provides no calories.
There are 2 types of fiber:
Soluble fiber – it dissolves in water & helps in lowering blood sugar.
Sources – oat bran, barley, legumes, fruits, & vegetables like cauliflower.
Insoluble fiber – it does not break down in the body and passes thru the digestive system unchanged. It provides fullness & helps in reducing weight and relieving constipation.
Sources – whole grain products, wheat, corn bran, vegetables like carrot, peas, beans and cabbage.
Normally after eating a meal, your blood sugar rises rapidly. But when you eat a meal containing soluble fiber, your blood sugar rises more slowly. You may not need as much insulin. Oats, barley, fruits and vegetables contain soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber provides bulk or roughage to your diet, but you don’t digest it. Insoluble fiber has little effect on how rapidly your blood sugar rises after eating. Wheat bran and the skins of fruits and vegetables are sources of insoluble fiber.
Fruits give energy, vitamins & minerals and fiber. Vitamin C, betacarotene, fiber and carbohydrates are the key nutrients of fruits. These foods are best eaten as whole, raw and fresh food.
A diabetic should take about 100 – 150 grams of fruits per day
Fruits like apple, papaya, watermelon, melon, guava, orange, mausami.
Choose any 2 fruits in a day.
Sweets include sugar, honey, syrup, jaggery, and foods containing any of these
Sugary foods have calories and do not have much nutrition. They significantly raise the blood sugars.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER FOR DIABETICS
- Choose a wide variety of food.
- Eat foods from each group to get all your vitamins & minerals.
- Eat enough starches, vegetables, fruits & low fat milk & yogurt.
- Eat small meals at regular intervals.
- Eat fewer fats, oils and sugary foods.