Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
People with diabetes do not produce enough insulin or are not able to use it properly. This, in turn, shoots up the circulating levels of sugar in the blood, damaging one’s kidneys, heart, brain, nerves, eyes, and blood vessels. In addition to this, being even slightly overweight can increase insulin resistance , a condition in which your body can no longer use insulin properly. It is here that proper diet management is a must for people with diabetes. So how can one do that effectively in the most practical manner?
Veer Ramlugon, Founder of The Food Analysts, a human-powered calorie counting service, will help us in exploring the basic fundamentals of diabetes-friendly diet that all people with diabetes should follow.
Thumb Rules of Eating in Diabetes:
- Do not skip meals, especially breakfast
- Eat at short, regular intervals
- Count your carb intake
- Focus on carbs with a low glycemic index
- Combine proteins and essential fats with carby meals to lower the glycemic load of the meal
- Don’t eat fruits after 4 PM
- Go easy on sugary + fatty food combinations
- Exercise portion control when eating
- Check labels for all packaged foods to find out hidden ingredients and keep a tab on the portion: calorie ratio.
- Exercise for a minimum of 30 mins a day
- Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and foods
- Eat fruits instead of drinking them (avoid juices)
- Opt for low carb filler snacks such as nuts and oilseeds or dairy variety
- Keep the portions of protein maximum on your plate
- Use sweeteners instead of sugar
- Add veggies instead of potatoes and bread for sides
- Substitute high fibre grains instead of wheat flour
- Emphasise on non-starchy vegetables
- Choose dairy low in carbs
- Lower carb intake as day progresses
- Pair up healthy fats with your meals
- Count and track your carb intake with a macro-counter
We will expand on a few important points from the above Thumb Rules.
Consider glycemic load to avoid blood sugar spikes:
Glycemic load is an indicator of how much a carb-rich food will raise your sugar levels. When you consume high GL and GI foods, blood sugar levels spike, which causes a short-term feeling of fullness; but then the blood sugars come crashing down, which causes you to crave food again (especially carbs) and you ultimately end up consuming excess calories. This is something that directly contributes to weight gain and increased sugar levels. For optimal use of glucose, consume low GI foods and consume meals with a low glycemic load. You will feel fuller for longer while ensuring balance of sugar levels in your blood.
Exercise portion control:
Portion control will allow you to control the amount of carbohydrate you eat. This specifically will help in maintaining a sustained and controlled release of glucose in the blood. It also works to keep the weight off as the calorie intake is controlled, which in turn improves your body’s insulin sensitivity and leads to more balanced blood glucose levels.
Read more about portion control for diabetics here.
Decipher nutritional values when food shopping:
The food industry has come up with hundreds of healthy alternatives for people with diabetes. A natural sugar-lowering super-food is turned into a packaged version that claims to be diabetes-friendly, e.g. Ragi biscuits. But, a biscuit that is processed and refined can never replicate the nourishing properties of whole grain. In reality, it’s just a clever marketing strategy. For example, foods that are low fat are generally full of sugar and foods that are low sugar generally have fats; both are equally bad for people with diabetes.
Some foods claim to be rich in fibre; however, the amount of fibre they provide per serving does not even meet 10% of the daily recommended intake. Moreover, the uninformed common man is easily tricked by the hidden ingredients in the label due to lack of information on the purpose and alternative names of the ingredients. Thus, educating oneself on the information and technique of labelling and food processing methods is an important yet ignored aspect of eating healthy.
These are some of the basic concepts of healthy eating that will help you when you have diabetes. Start inculcating these behaviours and habits and you will see a great change in your eating patterns and your overall health.
Photo from: Pexels
- Barbara B. Kahn and Jeffrey S. Flier. Obesity and insulin resistance. J Clin Invest. 2000 Aug 15; 106(4): 473–481. doi: 10.1172/JCI10842, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC380258/