For those unaware, there are three main macronutrients in food — proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. And for diabetics, it is important to keep a check on carbohydrates. After all, carbohydrates directly affect your blood sugar levels. Here is a food guide that could help you understand what you should and what you shouldn’t consume.
Planning diabetes-friendly meals
Don't make planning your diet a complicated affair. Keep your anxiety levels low as you don't have to give up all your favorite foods; you just need to make smarter choices! You need to get your facts right and let the myths not cloud your mind. A few questions that are on every diabetic’s mind are:
- Do I need a special diabetic meal?
- Do I need a high-protein diet?
- Do I have to cut down on carbohydrates?
- Do I have to cut down on fats?
- Do I have to quit sugar completely?
- And most importantly, do I have to quit sweet fruits?
Now let’s get started by answering these – one at a time.
Diabetes and special meals
The core principles of eating for good health are the same for everyone. However, as a diabetic, you need to be more careful while making your food choices. A balanced platter is recommended for every diabetic – everyone needs proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the right proportion. The key here is to understand your body, know your food and eat right. Diabetics should aim to eat more natural food and stay away from processed food, packaged food and convenience foods.
High-protein diet for diabetes management
Protein is good for the body; however, excessive protein, especially animal protein, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes management. Once again, everything in moderation is good for the body whether you are a diabetic or not.
Diabetes and carbohydrates intake
While is it true that carbs management is extremely important for diabetics, it isn’t true that you should completely cut off carbs from your meals. Managing the type of carbohydrates that you consume, and moderating the serving size is important. You should prefer high-fiber, whole grain carbs that are digested slowly. You should avoid starchy carbs. For instance, you can replace your white bread with whole-wheat or whole-grain bread; instead of white rice, you could go for brown rice or wild rice; and instead of consuming white potatoes (including fries and mashed potatoes), you could switch to sweet potatoes and cauliflower mash. Last but not the least, keep an eye on the glycemic index (GI) in your foods. High GI foods spike your blood sugar rapidly, while low GI foods have the least effect on blood sugar. To summarize, carbohydrates have a big impact on your blood sugar levels (more so than fats and proteins) and the art of carbs management is essential in keeping your blood sugar levels even.
Diabetes and fats intake
All fats aren’t bad for your body; rather fats in an essential macronutrient. You need to understand different types of fats for preparing healthy meals; especially so if you are a diabetic.
- Healthy fats. Unsaturated fats that come from plant sources such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados are healthy. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids that are derived from flaxseeds and other sources are important to fight inflammation and to support brain and heart health.
- Saturated fats. Although not as good as healthy fats, there is no need to completely eliminate saturated fat from your diet. Experts suggest that saturated fats should be enjoyed in moderation. The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming no more than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat. Saturated fats are mainly found in tropical oils, dairy products and red meat.
- Unhealthy fats. Artificial trans fats are very unhealthy. Such fats are generally found in commercially-baked goods, fried food, packaged snacks, and anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil in the ingredients.
Diabetes and sugar consumption
A diabetic diet doesn’t eliminate sweetness completely. Even if you are a diabetic, you can enjoy a small serving of your favorite dessert occasionally. Moderating the portion and managing the frequency of consuming sugar in the key. A few important considerations and tips are as follows:
- Slowly reduce the sugar in your diet; this will not only reduce your cravings for sweets but also give enough time to your taste buds time to acquire a new taste.
- Switch to a natural sweetener such as TATA Nx Zero Sugar** that has low GI and is suitable for diabetics of all age groups.
- Adding healthy fat such as peanut butter, ricotta cheese, yogurt, or nuts to your dessert helps; your digestive process slows down and hence blood sugar levels don’t spike as quickly.
- Eat your dessert along with a meal, rather than as a stand-alone snack. When one eats sweet foods there is a spike in the blood sugar levels. When other healthy foods are present at the same time, the blood sugar won’t rise as rapidly.
- Cut down carb-heavy foods if you are likely to consume dessert. If you are eating sweets at a meal, balance your diet by not eating other carbohydrates at the same time.
- When you eat dessert, make your indulgence count! Eat slowly and truly savor each bite. You’ll enjoy it more, plus you’re less likely to overeat.
Diabetes and fruit consumption
For those unaware, fruits also contain carbs. However, planning your fruit platter shouldn’t be all about counting the carbs. One needs to take into account the beneficial nutrients certain fruits provide. Whole fruits are rich in fiber and are a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage and are important to reduce inflammation caused by oxidative stress that could contribute to complications of diabetes. Diabetics should note that fruit juice aren’t as good as they lack high fiber content that whole fruits provide.
Once again, just the way you monitor and balance your dessert intake, balancing fruit with proteins and other sources of healthy carbohydrates is the key. We are listing high-antioxidant fruits out here that are considered good options for diabetic – Grapes, Apples, Berries, Citrus fruits, Pineapple, Mango, Papaya, Cantaloupe and Apricots. To summarize, diabetics should go for colorful, flavorful fruits of all varieties in moderation. And consume whole fruits with the skin or peel still on, rather than a fruit juice.