Diabetics are often confused as to what to eat and what to avoid. What is the right diabetes diet? What to do if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
You have been diagnosed with diabetes and feel as if the sky has fallen down upon you. Blame it on your poor dietary habits and a sedentary lifestyle, diabetes is a dreaded word, and nobody wants to be a diabetic. Unfortunately, the rate at which diabetes cases are rising, it is a cause for serious concern. But now that the verdict is out and you have joined the league of diabetics, what next? What should you eat and what not?
Well, the right diet for diabetes is one that
- does not cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels
- is slowly absorbed and digested
- is rich in fiber
- has a low glycemic index
- is healthy and balanced
- supports your metabolism
- is a healthy blend of carbs, protein, and fat
What is a Diabetes Diet
Living with diabetes is all about making the right food choices and eating the right portions, because what you eat can impact your cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, and weight.
By eating a healthy, balanced diet for diabetes and exercising regularly, you can positively affect your fitness levels and wellbeing. No single food has all the essential nutrients, so it is important to consume foods from different food groups to make a complete balanced meal comprising carbs, fat, and protein.
Count Your Carbs for A Healthy Diabetes Diet
Carbohydrates have a significant impact on your blood glucose levels. So it is a good idea to replace simple or refined carbs with complex carbohydrates in your diabetes diet. Also known as slow-release carbs, complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The body digests them slowly. Slow digestion ensures the controlled release of sugar.
When it comes to making healthy food choices for diabetics, your focus should be on including fiber-rich complex carbs in your diabetes diet.
Some of the healthier sources of complex carbs include oatmeal, whole grains, green leafy vegetable, and legumes. While a diet for diabetes should include complex carbohydrates, it is important to limit the amount you eat, because carbs directly raise your blood glucose levels.
Be Smart About Sweets, Less is More
Perhaps sugar is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of diabetes. But does eating a diabetic diet mean eliminating sugar altogether?
Well, depending on your blood glucose control, you can enjoy a small serving of your favorite dessert once in a while. The key to a healthy diabetic diet lies in moderation and not in the elimination of a specific food.
Of course, you should be smart about hidden sugar in packaged foods. Avoid packaged, processed foods that do not clearly speak of the sugar content on the food labels. You should not be swayed away by foods claiming “no added sugar.” Check the ingredients carefully to see if there is any sugar alternative in that food.
Add Healthy Fat, Choose Wisely
The body slowly digests fat, which means blood glucose levels do not spike when you eat fatty foods. But does that mean you should reach out for all the deep fried and butter-laden stuff? Perhaps, not! Opt for healthy fats, such as nut butter, Greek yogurt, and ricotta cheese. Substitute unhealthy saturated and trans fats with these good fats.
Derived from plant sources, unsaturated fats are relatively healthy fats. Nuts, olive oil, and avocados are unsaturated fats.
Your body needs omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation and support brain and heart health. Flax seeds are good sources of omega-3.
No, you do not need to eliminate saturated fats from your diet, which raise LDL or bad cholesterol. But moderation is the key. Cut down on your intake of bad fat commonly found in red meat, cheese, butter, and tropical oil. According to the American Diabetes Association, a person should derive less than 10% of daily calories from saturated fat.
Trans fats are the most harmful fats for both diabetics and non-diabetics. These are made by blending hydrogen with vegetable oils. Hydrogenation hardens the oil to a semi-solid state. Trans fats lower good cholesterol and raise bad cholesterol in the body. Packaged food, deep-fried stuff, commercially baked goods use hydrogenated oil, which makes them a dangerous addition to your meals.
How To Reduce Fat in Diet
Here’s how you can reduce fat in your diabetes diet:
- Consume low-fat dairy products
- Use skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
- Remove fat and skin from poultry
- Use lean meat
- Replace saturated fats with moderate amounts of unsaturated fats
- Choose cooking methods that consume less oil, such as steaming, poaching, grilling, or stir-frying with a little amount of oil.
All in all, a diabetes diet is a healthy blend of carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, and fat.
The USDA makes the following recommendations for a healthy family meal planning for diabetics and non-diabetics:
- Make fruits and vegetables a major part of each meal
- Low-fat dairy products are better fat choices
- Protein and whole grains should make a quarter each per meal
- Lower the intake of sodium, refined sugar, and saturated fat
- Base your calorie intake on your age, size, gender, and fitness regimen
By making healthy food choices, you can effectively manage your weight and blood sugar levels. Besides, combine a healthy diabetes diet with an active lifestyle to improve your insulin sensitivity. Walk 30 minutes a day to keep your blood sugar levels in check and manage weight.