A focus on carb- and portion-control should be top priority, but that doesn’t mean the occasional treat is out of the question
A crucial tool in controlling diabetes is being vigilant about what you put into your mouth. But, some experts say, you don’t have to be a slave to the glycemic index or banish cake and ice cream forever.
The primary goal for diabetics is to regulate their blood glucose (sugar) levels because they can’t rely on their bodies to naturally produce enough insulin, the hormone that shuttles glucose from the bloodstream into the cells.
With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin, while with Type 2, the pancreas progressively makes less and less insulin or the body has difficulty using it (known as insulin resistance).
Studies show that if left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to long-term organ damage, resulting sometimes in heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure, foot amputation or death.
Anyone with diabetes should meet with a dietitian to formulate a meal plan tailored to their particular needs, experts say.
Carbohydrate-rich foods, which breaks down into glucose during digestion, are of principal concern in a diabetic’s diet. Those who use mealtime insulin injections — usually Type 1 diabetics and some Type 2 diabetics — typically have to count the grams of carbohydrates they eat at each meal so that they can give themselves the appropriate insulin dose.
But carbs are not the enemy or the only factor.
What matters most is how much the diabetic person eat. If a person cuts back on his or her total daily calories, regardless of the food source, generally their blood glucose levels decrease and some people lose weight, which also helps significantly. Eating anything in excess, even healthy food can be harmful.
It is generally recommended for people to eat less than 2,000 calories daily, though that depends on body size and level of physical activity.
Diabetics shouldn’t eliminate carbs completely, though they should limit them and choose nutritionally rich carbs (veggies, whole grains) over empty ones (sugars, refined grains).
Typically diabetics should aim to eat 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, and 15 to 30 grams per snack, so that they spread their carb intake throughout the day. Sometimes men and avid exercisers can handle more.
Counting carbs can be tricky, so rather follow the plate method described below.
Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables (carrots, broccoli, spinach), a quarter with lean protein (fish, chicken) and a quarter with high-fiber starches (brown rice, quinoa, beans). Add a piece of fruit (not fruit juice, which isn’t as filling and sometimes contains added sugar) and an 250ml glass of nonfat or low-fat milk. Cheese can be eaten in small amounts.
Avoiding saturated fats, such as fried foods and high-fat meats, is as important as watching carbs, as people with diabetes are twice more likely to suffer heart disease.
Diabetics can eat sweets on occasion — no need to deny yourself a slice of cake on your birthday — as long as they swap out another carb and stay under the total carb goal. So, leave the rice during dinner if you plan to eat cake for dessert. You can take the Manna Blood Sugar Support caplets with the slice of cake to lower the GI of the cake.
There is controversy about whether to take into account a food’s glycemic index, which is a measure of how fast a food causes a person’s blood glucose levels to rise within two hours. Research has been mixed on whether it makes a difference, and multiple variables can affect a food’s impact on glucose levels, including how it’s prepared and what it’s eaten with.
Once overall carb intake is under control, it could be worth it to pick foods with a lower glycemic index.
While eating healthy is important, diabetics can still fit favorite foods — including sugar — into their meal plans as long as they eat them in serving sizes that don’t significantly affect blood glucose levels.
The only foods diabetics must avoid at all costs are non-diet soft drinks, which contain “way too much” sugar. Diet soft drinks are just as bad, because it causes you to eat more than you need.
For an easy to follow Diabetic Menu Plan and recipes, download the FREE Manna Diabetic e-book from the website.
Taking the Manna Blood Sugar Support caplets with each meal helps to control blood glucose levels and also assist the body to require less insulin.