If you are diabetic your doctor will likely recommend that you see a dietitian to help you make changes to your eating patterns that will control your blood sugar (glucose) level and manage your weight. Rely on a registered dietitian to help you put together a diet based on your health goals, tastes, and lifestyle.
When you eat an excessive amount of calories and fat, your body responds by raising your blood glucose level. If your blood glucose level isn’t controlled, it can lead to more serious problems such as hyperglycemia or chronic complications, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage. A diabetic must monitor their food intake to ensure that the blood glucose level stays within a safe range.
For most people with type 2 diabetes, losing weight also makes it easier to control blood glucose and offers a host of other health benefits. If you need to lose weight, a diabetes diet can provide a nutritious way to reach your goal safely.
Some recommended foods for a healthy diabetic diet include the following:
* Healthy carbohydrates. During digestion, sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood glucose. Try and eat 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 lower the risk of heart disease and help maintain the proper blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole-wheat flour and wheat bran.
* Fish. Eat the proper type of 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 swordfish and king mackerel.
* 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.
The following foods should be avoided as they increase your risk of heart disease and stroke 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.
There are a few different approaches to creating a planned diabetes diet that keeps your blood glucose level within a normal range. With a dietitian’s help, you may find one or more of the following methods that will work for you.
* Counting carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates break down into glucose, they have the greatest impact on your blood glucose level. It’s important to make sure your timing and total intake of carbohydrates are the same each day, especially if you take diabetes medications or insulin. Otherwise, your blood glucose level may fluctuate more. A dietitian can teach you how to measure food portions and become educated at reading food labels, paying special attention to serving size and carbohydrate content. If you’re taking insulin, he or she can teach you how to count the amount of carbohydrates in each meal or snack and adjust your insulin dose accordingly.
* The exchange system. A dietitian may recommend using an exchange system, which groups foods into categories such as carbohydrates, meats and meat substitutes, and fats. One serving in a group is called an exchange. An exchange has about the same amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat and calories and the same effect on your blood glucose as a serving of every other food in that same group. So, for example, you could exchange, or trade, one small apple for 1/3 cup of cooked pasta, for one carbohydrate serving.
* Glycemic index. Some people who have diabetes use the glycemic index to select foods, especially carbohydrates. Foods with a high glycemic index are associated with greater increases in blood sugar than are foods with a low glycemic index. But low-index foods aren’t necessarily healthier, as foods that are high in fat tend to have lower glycemic index values than do some healthier options.
If you have diabetes, it’s extremely important that you consult with your doctor and dietitian to create an eating plan that works for you. Healthy foods, portion control and scheduling are necessary to manage your blood glucose level. If you stray from your prescribed diet, you run the risk of fluctuating blood sugar levels and more-serious complications.
Here are some links to some more good information about Dieting for the Diabetic: