Diet for Diabetics
It can be difficult to live with diabetes but proper management of this disease can vastly improve the situation. Diabetics will need to pay close attention to the types of foods they eat along with the portion sizes of their meals. Those who have this condition will have to adjust to lifestyle changes and modify their behaviors. Learning to measure and weigh food portions can benefit weight loss. Simple steps can have a big impact on your health. Guidance from a doctor or a nutritionist will help. Their recommendations should be sought when it comes to the creation of a diabetic diet that works for the individual.
There is a myth that people who have diabetes cannot eat sugar but that is not true. Diabetics need to monitor their glucose levels and limit the amount of sugar they eat. Having high blood glucose is a challenge and bad eating habits can cause complications.
Among the recommendations is for diabetics to strictly monitor their food intake. They should be conscious of the total calories, the percentage of macro nutrients, the glycemic index of each item, and their own blood glucose level.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index measures how quickly or slowly it takes for food to break down into simple sugars inside of the body. A food with a high GI will raise blood glucose more than a food with a low GI. The purpose of using a GI diet is to consume carbohydrate foods that are less likely to cause large increases in a diabetics blood sugar levels.
GI values are generally divided into three categories:
- Low GI: 1 to 55
- Medium GI: 56 to 69
- High GI: 70 and higher
There are Three Basic Forms of Carbohydrates:
Doctors have been asking their diabetic patients to regulate their meals since ancient times, as seen within records in Egypt and India. The strategies have been refined from generation to generation as more studies have been conducted by scientists. Although there are slightly differences in opinion among experts, there is a general consensus that diabetics should follow a diet that is low on sugar and refined carbs. They are also encouraged to consume items which are high in soluble fiber. There is also a school of thought that stresses the importance of the glycemic index. Some champion carbohydrate restriction at varying levels.
It has been observed that vegetarians have lower incidences of diabetes. As such, nutritionists typically recommend a diet that is rich in fiber with generous servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Great sources of soluble fiber include peas, soybeans, oats, chia seeds, avocados, prunes, berries, bananas, carrots, broccoli, artichokes, sweet potatoes, almonds, and flax seeds. Sources of insoluble fiber, on the other hand, include whole grains, wheat, cauliflower, zucchini, celery, grapes, kiwi and tomatoes.
Note that diabetics do not necessarily have to convert into vegetarians because of their condition. The consumption of meat and dairy can still go on, especially as these are also good sources of nutrients like iron and calcium. However, the intake of fat should be monitored as well to control weight and blood pressure. As for the carbohydrate percentage of the total calories, most experts will keep it between 20% and 45%. There are, however, some who will go as low as 16% and as high as 75%. This may depend on the individual's particular needs. Continuous consultation with a doctor is advised to come up with the best ratio.
Nutrient timing is just as important as the food consumed. Doctors will usually ask their patients to eat a long-acting carbohydrate before they go to sleep just to avoid the onset of night-time hypoglycemia. This is characterized by restlessness, headaches, cold sweat and nightmares. The insulin injections may also be adjusted if it occurs frequently.
Foods To Avoid
Alcohol should be avoided by diabetics because of its effects on the body. A healthy individual with normal blood glucose levels and insulin response will be able to process the substance fairly well if taken in moderate amounts. Diabetes, however, changes this. The problem is that alcohol has the effect of inhibiting glycogenesis inside the liver.
People can also experience severe low blood sugar levels. One way to reduce the danger is to eat before drinking as the food will be able to slow down the alcohol's absorption into the bloodstream.
Smoking is very dangerous for diabetics. Smokers have a higher risk of developing serious complications. The heart and kidneys are the ones that are badly effected. Nicotine is known to raise blood pressure while hardening the walls of the arteries and narrowing them. This is a perfect recipe for blood clots. The stress on the heart is immense and can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Some people experience reduced blood flow in their legs and feet. Their lower extremities do not get enough nutrients and become harder to use. They feel pain and get all sorts of infections. Over time, this can lead to amputation.
A Note on Exercise
While diet is a vital part of diabetes management, it is not enough on its own to keep the symptoms at bay. Patients are often asked by their doctors to engage in some sort of physical activity to help things along. This doesn't necessary have to be intense but it should be done on a consistent basis to control blood sugar levels. Those who have been leading a sedentary lifestyle may start by just walking around their neighborhood for half an hour each day. The level of intensity and difficulty can be gradually adjusted as a person become fitter. Indeed, there are professional athletes who are diabetic but manage to perform at the highest level.