Top 8 Rules to Eat Like a Diabetic

What can I eat if I have diabetes? Should I pick one diet or should I mix and match from the vast array of diets available, like  Ketogenic diet,  Atkins diet, the Zone diet, Vegan diet, the Mediterranean diet, the McDougall diet and so on. While it’s difficult to measure the pros and cons of one diet with respect to another, in relation to diabetes, it is easier to create diabetic meal plans around a balanced diet. The five must-have nutrients in a balanced diet are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals and a diabetic diet is no different from it.

1.Carbohydrates: To be or Not to be

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body. But consumption of carbohydrates particularly processed carbs and sugar causes a surge in both the blood sugar and insulin levels. This leads to a condition called insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the receptors of cells stop responding to the signals of insulin. Consequently, the pancreas produces more insulin so that cells respond to the cue and begin absorbing sugar from the bloodstream. High insulin causes higher absorption of glucose by the cells, which will make the person hungry quickly. This creates a vicious cycle of high blood sugar, high insulin, and high carb intake. To break this vicious cycle, a diabetic should give preference to complex carbohydrates and keep the consumption of simple sugars and carbs to a bare minimum. However, the inclusion of carbohydrates with low glycemic indexes like whole wheat, red rice, brown rice, barley, and millets helps to control blood sugar levels as the intestine breaks them down more slowly.  Vegetables and fruits also have a similar effect on the blood sugars.

For people suffering from type 2 diabetes, their overall consumption of carbohydrates should be around 25-30  percent of overall calorie intake.

2. Gluten: Whether to join gluten-free bandwagon

Gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, is another area of concern for many people suffering from diabetes. It has almost become a fad to avoid gluten without understanding the real reason. Gluten needs to be avoided only by people with either gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease are autoimmune diseases and may have a similar genetic basis. Hence, it is a good idea for people suffering from type 1 diabetes to rule out celiac disease before consuming gluten. Also, people suffering from type 1.5 diabetes need to get checked for gluten as their diabetes have features of both type 1 & 2. For others, gluten poses no threat. Large use of pesticides on wheat has given gluten a bad name. Going organic is a better way of ensuring pesticide-free food on your plate.

3. Protein: Excess consumption harmful for diabetes

Many believe that a protein-rich diet will help control blood sugar better. Unlike, carbohydrates protein does not cause an insulin spike. Though, complex carbs will raise insulin slowly, but not as slow as protein. The slow absorption of protein may control sugar levels in the short term. But in the long term,  protein diet in excess of 25 percent of daily calorie requirements will stress your kidneys as they have to work harder to get rid of extra nitrogen taken in along with protein. The liver also gets stressed out in processing excess amino acids (the building blocks of protein), resulting in the buildup of ammonia to toxic levels. Also, protein should come from plants and lean meats.  Animal protein especially red meat is not only harmful to your liver but also for your diabetes.

4. Fat: Transition from villain to hero

Fat has been considered to be a villain for the past fifty years. Starting from the United States, the trend of high carbohydrate- low-fat diet spread to most parts of the world resulting in obesity and diabetes epidemic. Body fat has an important role to play in your well being. It is your strategic calorie reserve to protect against starvation. Fat tissues also respond to and emit a multitude of chemical signals and neural messages, helping fine-tune metabolism and immune system. It is only recently that scientific studies are highlighting the role of fat in maintaining an active metabolism. This does not mean you go on a fat gorging mission. It means that you include high-quality fats rich in omega-3 acids in your diets. Nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, avocado, coconut oil, ghee, and butter need to be included in your diet. As fat intake has little effect on the insulin and blood sugar levels, it is a good idea to increase the consumption of high-quality fat in your diet.

5. Milk: To drink or abstain  

Milk and dairy products are other areas of concern for many. While veganism advocates total shunning of milk and dairy products, Ayurveda recommends milk even for people suffering from diabetes as it is an important source of Vitamin B12.  As a general rule, you must assess how you feel after consuming dairy. You can also track your sugar levels. If you feel fine, do continue consuming them. If in doubt, take an allergy test that would tell you whether you suffer from lactose intolerance. In case you are lactose intolerant kindly refrain from dairy

6. Vitamins: Important in managing diabetes

People suffering from diabetes are generally deficient in water-soluble vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, Biotin, and Folate as they pass greater amounts of urine. That is the reason diabetics need to increase the intake of these vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E, and K need fat in the body for long-term storage so consumption of good quality fat helps in effective absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Various studies have shown that Vitamin K increases the insulin sensitivity. Vitamin D is also vital for diabetics. It is better to get the supply of vitamins through natural food. Include vegetables, fruits, and dairy products for vitamins. Take supplements only in case of deficiency. Go out and soak the sunlight for 10-15 minutes daily.

7. Minerals: Critical for regulation of blood sugar

Like vitamins, minerals play an important role in glucose metabolism. Chromium is the most important mineral for diabetics. Chromium helps not only in glucose metabolism but also in the regulation of insulin. Insulin works more effectively with chromium.  Other minerals like manganese, magnesium, and zinc are also important for diabetes management.

8. Make friends with fiber

A fiber-rich meal slows the release of carbohydrates in the blood. As a result, insulin levels do not go up drastically. Moreover, fiber comes in a nutrient-dense package of vitamins and minerals in fewer calories.  Fiber also helps in fat-loss because it binds with cholesterol and other undesirable ingredients in the digestive tract and eliminates those. Fibre, more than any other dietary component, affects bowel function, causing an increase in stool output, and a faster rate of passage through the gut. It also helps in the colonic metabolism of minerals.

In nutshell, you need to know how to eat like a diabetic. Many people have successfully reversed diabetes by following a balanced diet approach. Calorie counting doesn’t work much in diabetes. What works is the understanding of food and the impact it has on your body. As a general rule, a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, high-quality fats would be able to meet all your dietary requirements.

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