What is the Best Diet for Diabetics?
Diabetes is a disorder of insulin and blood sugar (glucose) levels in the body. If a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, this means that the body is not able to effectively produce and/ or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is induced by the pancreas and is responsible for lowering blood sugar by moving it out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells. The key is keeping your blood sugar level under control. The good news is that this can be done with a careful diet and discipline. Eating certain foods and limiting the consumption of others can help people suffering from diabetes manage their blood sugar levels as naturally as possible.
I will give better insight into the different types of diabetes, the food one must avoid when diagnosed with diabetes, as well as answering a commonly asked question, what is the best diet for diabetics?
So, let’s jump right into it.
Types of Diabetes:
Ever heard of the saying “Arthur or Martha”? Being unsure of something or someone, in this case the type of diabetes, and what it means. Many would have heard of type 1 and type 2 but have no real idea what the difference really is. Let’s look at the two different types:
Type 1: Typically presents in younger people, but medical experts are baffled by the cause and assume it may be caused by environmental factors like viruses. It is also believed to be influenced by genetics. It is associated with the body’s immune system fighting against itself destroying its own insulin. Type 1 diabetes means that you are most likely to be insulin-dependent and it is classed as an autoimmune disease. If a Type 1 diabetic does not eat, the sugar levels in the blood drop dramatically causing hypoglycaemia. You may faint or fall into a diabetic coma. Should you indulge in food too quickly after not eating for some time, this could result in a negative outcome and a spike in sugar levels. Regulating the condition with food intake is a matter of life and death.
A person suffering from type 1 diabetes needs to ensure that their meals match their insulin doses. They also need to consume foods with a low glycaemic index because this helps meal timing. Foods with a Low-Glycaemic index raise blood sugar levels slowly and at a steady, controlled rate which allows enough time for the body or insulin dose to respond.
Type 2: Most commonly affects the older generation and those who are overweight. This type of diabetes may have presented previously in the history of the family but can also be caused by environmental factors and the overall health of the person affected. Type 2 means that the person is insulin resistant and the body is resistant to the insulin it is producing, or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Diet is the key factor to maintain control of this disease and keeping the glucose levels stable is of utmost importance. If you are a Type 2 diabetic you can manage the disease by practicing a healthy, active lifestyle, and by following a natural diet.
Many type 2 diabetics have a pre-conception that they can manage this disease by having a “quick fix” when they have been over-indulging and eating the wrong foods, and only relying on prescribed medications (such as Glucophage). Unfortunately these so called “quick fixes” are exactly as it states , they act as a band aid – never solving or eradicating the problem and often resulting in other serious health complications, that in the end could have been avoided.
It must be understood that the sugar in the blood comes from two places: The Liver and the food we consume. Unfortunately, we cannot control the amount of sugar the liver produces, but one can control the foods we consume, and pay special attention to foods low in carbohydrates and sugar – but more on this later. The type of food being eaten must be monitored, as well as how much, and how often too.
Can the one become the other?
Type 2 diabetes is not likely to turn into type 1 as they are very different diseases. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease and type 2 is that of a lifestyle issue.
Although type 2 diabetes cannot become type 1, it is possible that someone who initially received a diagnosis of type 2 can receive a separate diagnosis of type 1 at a later stage. Type 2 diabetes is life-threatening and generally a long-term condition, however, if it treated carefully and the right diet is implemented, then it can be managed more easily and may even be reversed.
Because type 2 is typically associated with obesity, a well-managed low-fat diet combined with frequent exercising can help patients lose fat and potentially reverse type 2 diabetes. The sooner this is done, the more likely it is that remission can be achieved. But don’t worry, even if you have been a type 2 for years, you can make positive lifestyle changes that will allow for a happier, healthier, and longer life. A low-carb diet is essential to reverse type 2 diabetes because it reduces the need for medication and improves biomarkers in people with type 2 diabetes. Low-carb diets reduce haemoglobin, blood pressure, and triglycerides. It also increases “good” HDL cholesterol.
Foods to Avoid – The “NO-GO” Zone!
Managing diabetes and implementing a diet suitable for the condition means that some foods need to be included in the diet and some foods need to be avoided. One way to manage diabetes is to incorporate a diet that is the right balance between high- and low-GI foods. High-GI foods increase blood sugar levels in the body more than those foods that are low-GI.
If high-GI foods are consumed, then the portions need to be limited and paired with protein or healthy fats to reduce the impact on blood sugar levels and help the person feel fuller for a longer period.
The following foods are high-GI foods:
- White rice.
- White pasta.
- Puffed rice.
- White bread.
- White potatoes.
The following should also be avoided:
Carbohydrates need to be kept at a minimum as they are broken down by the digestive system and manufactured into glucose (a simple carbohydrate composed of a simple chemical structure) which acts as any sugar composition, resulting in the elevation of blood sugar. Lowering your carbohydrate intake will minimize the chances of your sugar levels increasing dramatically.
Most fruits have a low GI level, however, melons and pineapples are high-GI and should be avoided because they increase blood glucose.
Saturated and Trans Fats:
Consuming “unhealthy” fats such as saturated and trans fats influences weight gain which can worsen the condition of diabetes. Foods such as processed foods, fries, baked goods, and chips contain these fats and may make a person with the condition feel worse and fatigued. Trans fats do not raise blood sugar levels directly, but they have been associated with increased inflammation, insulin resistance, and lowers the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Red meat is typically high in fats, especially saturated fatty acids. If red meat is consumed in excess, it may lead to poor weight control and to internal inflammation which contributes to insulin resistance in the body. Dietary recommendations suggest diabetics should limit their consumption of red meat to 1-2 times per week.
Refined Sugar and sugar-filled Beverages:
Refined sugar needs to be limited or avoided altogether. Sugar-sweetened beverages are loaded with fructose which has been linked to insulin resistance. High fructose levels can cause metabolic changes that can lead to belly fat and harmful levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Refined sugar and fructose may also increase the risk of diabetes-related conditions like fatty liver.
Foods to Include – The Winner’s Circle:
If you haven’t been following correct eating and lifestyle habits – this process of change will most likely feel like a “shock to the system”. But I’m sure after considering the facts and understanding that we are only given one body to look after – should you not treat it like a priceless possession?
The following foods (and liquid) should be included in a diet for diabetics:
A healthy human body requires, on average about two litres of water per day, as a diabetic, it is best to make sure you honour your water commitment as consuming water assists in controlling the body’s sugar levels. While hydration is imperative, it also encourages the natural cleansing process through the kidneys, resulting in the reduction of toxins from the body. Water re-hydrates the blood, in turn lowering your blood sugar levels. An interesting connection has been made between copper and alleviating the effects of diabetes. Often ‘copper treated water’ is suggested for diabetics because it may assist with the symptoms associated with diabetes. Copper has been proven to have success with digestion enhancement, inflammation reduction, and strengthening the human immune system.
Adding more fiber to the diet is highly effective in assisting with the control of sugar levels and helps slow down the process of digestion. Slower absorption of nutrients in the body helps maintain blood sugar levels. Fresh vegetables like broccoli, celery, carrots, and whole grains are essential.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which improve blood sugar control and blood lipids in people suffering from diabetes.
Walnuts are another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and contain alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). These omega-3 acids promote good heart health which is particularly essential for diabetics since they have a higher risk of stroke and heart disease. Walnuts also provide Vitamin B-6 which helps break down glucose in the body.
Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and have minimal impact on blood sugar levels. Spinach and kale are excellent sources of potassium, Vitamin A, and calcium. Vitamin A has recently been proven to improve insulin-producing β-cell´s function. Vitamin A also regulates metabolic pathways that have been implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetes and obesity.
Leafy greens such as cabbage, broccoli, collard green, and bok choy have high antioxidant content and starch digesting enzymes which are highly beneficial for diabetics.
Citrus foods such as grapefruit, lemons, and oranges are great for diabetics because they contain two important bioflavonoid antioxidants (hesperidin and naringin) that offer antidiabetic effects. Citrus fruits are also a rich source of Vitamin C which lowers elevated blood sugar levels and minimises spikes in blood sugar after meals. Vitamin C also offers a boost in immunity to help prevent disease in diabetics who may be suffering from a comprised immune system already.
Vitamins and Minerals:
Incorporating vitamin-rich foods that have Vitamin A and C are excellent for boosting immunity and managing blood sugar levels but face it – most fruit and vegetables are not as rich in vitamins and minerals as they used to be. While consuming the right foods or incorporating them adequately to your diet, it is important to include a variety of multi-vitamins and minerals too. If a diabetic is not getting enough vitamins and minerals from their diet then they should look for a natural supplement that includes NON-GMO vitamins and minerals so that the right nutrients are provided to the body to maintain regular body functions and to manage blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
Make the Right Choices Today:
Having diabetes does not need to be a life sentence or raise anxiety levels when trying to manage the disease effectively. If one makes healthy choices surrounding their physical activity and the foods they are consuming in their daily diet, then the disease can be managed appropriately. With the right adjustments to lifestyle, type 2 diabetes may even be reversed. Uncontrolled diabetes can increase the risk of many serious diseases, which makes it vitally important for those suffering from diabetes to be conscious of their diet and take the right NON-GMO vitamins and minerals daily. In the end, you can live your life knowing your choices might have just saved your life.