If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, your first thought may be that you’ll have to give up the food you love most. This is bound to trigger negative feelings, as you wonder how your diet will have to change.
But it does not have to be that bad. In fact, you can still enjoy some of your favorite foods. The trick is to do so in moderation, as part of a nutritious and healthy diet. Managing the type and amount of food, as well as the timing of your meals will greatly help you to control your blood sugar and manage your diabetes.
Food provides your body with the nutrients and calories that are essential for its normal function. But not all foods are created equal, in terms of nutrient content. Excess calories can be harmful to your health. If you live with diabetes, you’ll need to control the amount of calories you take in, focusing more specifically on the types of carbohydrates you include in your diet.
Carbohydrates turn into glucose (or sugar) after digestion and cause blood sugar levels to rise. They are found in many foods:
- cereal grains/flours (wheat, barley, oats, rice, rye)
- breakfast cereals
- fruits and fruit juice
- milk and yogurt
- starchy vegetables (winter squash, potatoes)
- legumes and pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
When you eat these foods, carbohydrates are released as sugar in your blood. But not all carbohydrates have the same effect on blood sugar levels. Refined carbohydrates from sugar, white flour and processed foods cause blood sugar levels to spike quickly, whereas complex carbohydrates from pulses and beans are more slowly absorbed and can help keep blood sugar levels stable. This is because these foods also contain a good amount of fiber, which slows their absorption. So, in order to prevent high blood sugar, you need to control the type and quantity of carbohydrates in your diet. Avoid foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugars, and opt instead for complex carbohydrates in the form of natural foods. Checking your blood sugar before and after each meal will give you a clearer idea of the food’s effect and will help you decide on the right amount for your body. You may find it helpful to work with a dietitian to figure out which carbs are right for you, and when to eat them.
Healthy Diabetics Diet
The second most important step in diabetes management is getting your weight within a healthy range and losing any excess body fat. Aside from ditching the refined carbohydrates in favor of natural complex carbohydrates, there are several steps you can begin taking today to start your weight loss journey and manage your diabetes:
- Replace high calorie foods (such as salty and sweet snacks) with foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients and fiber (like fresh or cooked vegetables and whole fruits). Fiber plays a particularly important role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and helps control blood sugar.
- Limit the fat you eat and use in food preparation. Because fat provides the body with more calories than other nutrients, it is important to control your intake of oils, butter and ghee. Avoid deep frying and limit the oil used in your recipes.
- Avoid trans-fat/hydrogenated fat, and saturated fats. These fats are particularly dangerous if you have diabetes because they can lead to blockages in your arteries, further increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease. Trans fat are found in processed food like margarine, biscuits, cakes, chips, and saturated fat are found in fatty meat, butter, ghee and full fat dairy products.
- Reduce your portion sizes—put your fork down between bites and savor your food. You’ll find a smaller serving is often enough to satiate your hunger.
- Reduce your salt—this helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and protects your body from the complications of diabetes. Be mindful of the amount of salt you add while cooking, and hidden sources from ready-made and processed food.
- Avoid late night snacking and eat dinner earlier—your body’s metabolism slows down in the evening in preparation for sleep, meaning there is less energy for digestion and absorption of nutrients. Swap your late night snack with a cup of peppermint tea.
Your dietary habits have a significant impact on your overall health and how easily you can manage your diabetes. Reduce processed foods, trans fats, sugar and increase natural whole foods and fiber with special focus on which carbohydrates you choose to add to your plate. Take charge of your diabetes, and your health, today.
Disclaimer: It is strongly advisable to speak to a dietician before making changes to your diet, and monitoring these changes by regularly checking blood sugar levels.