Healthy Diet


8 Ways To Manage Diabetes With A Healthy Diet

This is yet another article I wrote when the Free Fitness Tips blog was just a baby. It is also another article which I have decided needs a rewrite. Partly, because I feel it could be written with a lot more detail and partly because some of the statements were just plain wrong. In particular, this one sticks out;

“Specifically, diabetics need to avoid refined sugar which is found in candy, cookies, cake, chocolate and donuts. Refined sugars enter the bloodstream and release insulin, which causes your glucose levels to go sky-high. Unfortunately, if you are diabetic then these foods will be on your list of things to avoid. ”

At the time I thought this was true because (as I discussed in my previous article on the causes of diabetes) a common misconception is that sugar can cause diabetes. Being a beginner I failed to do my research properly and did not check if this rumour was true. Now I am a little more experienced at blogging and I have properly researched the topic I know that diabetics can have sugar and in fact sometimes need it if they are experiencing hypoglycaemia. Anyway, the article has now been rewritten and should not contain any more blatant, factual errors (fingers crossed). Please read on and enjoy the new, improved version of ‘Manageing Diabetes with a Healthy Diet’…

One of the most effective ways to manage your diabetes (whatever the type) is through a healthy eating plan. The food you eat can have a major influence on your blood sugar levels and because of this diet is a key way to keep your diabetes under control. A common misconception regarding diabetes diets is that they have to be restrictive and complicated. However, the reality is that you can eat a variety of foods as part of a diabetes diet, so long as they are eaten in moderation and regular meal times are adhered to. In fact most parts of a diabetes diet are identical to a normal healthy eating plan. In this article I am going to explain the key role food can have in controlling your diabetes and help you create a healthy diabetes diet.

As I mentioned in the above paragraph, what you eat can have a large impact on your diabetes both in the short term and the long term. Eating too much food at once can cause your blood sugar levels to rise and potentially cause hyperglycaemia (higher than normal blood sugar levels). Contrastingly, going too long without food can make your blood sugar levels drop dramatically causing hypoglycaemia (lower than normal blood sugar levels) (for more information on hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia you can read my article on diabetes symptoms). In the long term, what you eat also has an impact on your overall body fat levels. Controlling your weight is a key part of controlling your diabetes (particularly type 2 diabetes) because fatty tissue increases your body’s resistance to insulin. So to summarise, by eating poorly you can potentially cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate massively, aggravating your diabetes in the short term and further increase your body’s resistance to insulin in the long term. However, by eating more healthily you can stabilise your blood sugar levels, reduce your body fat levels, (allowing your body to become more receptive to insulin) and keep your diabetes under control in both the short term and the long term.

So you are now probably wondering what exactly constitutes a healthy diabetes diet? Well to be honest there is no exact answer to this question. A common belief used to be that controlling your intake of carbohydrates was the key to controlling your diabetes. However, this idea neglected the fact that protein and fats can be converted into glucose and therefore have an impact on blood sugar levels too. It is now believed that eating a healthy, well balanced diet is the best way to combat diabetes and you can do this by sticking to the following guidelines:

1) Eat Smaller Meals more Frequently

Just as eating mini meals frequently can boost your metabolism it can also help control your blood sugar levels. When we eat food it is converted into glucose which is then released into the blood stream. Eating a lot of food in one sitting causes a surge in blood sugar levels. Non-diabetics can get away with this surge because their bodies can produce additional insulin (a hormone which helps the body convert glucose into energy) to cope. However, diabetics do not have this safety mechanism. By eating smaller meals you can avoid any rapid increases in blood sugar levels and by eating more frequently you can stop your blood sugar levels getting too low (because the food will give your body a regular supply of glucose). The combination of these factors means that blood sugar levels remain much more stable when eating small, regular meals instead of less frequent, large meals.

2) Control Your Daily Calories

A part from controlling your blood sugar levels it is also important to keep your weight under control if you have diabetes. According to Dlife excess body fat can aggravate your condition further because fat cells have fewer insulin receptors than muscle, fat cells interfere with the breaking down of blood sugar and the more fat cells you have the greater number of cells your pancreas has to supply with the limited amount of insulin available. Therefore, minimising your body fat levels can greatly reduce the severity of your diabetes.

To begin this process you first need to see your doctor and ask him what the ideal weight is for your condition. Once you have your ideal weight you then need to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) (which you can do using this BMR calculator). Your BMR will tell you approximately how many calories are required to maintain this ideal weight.

Once you have this information you then need to formulate your daily eating plans around it. Now you do not have to count every single calorie that goes into every single meal. However, you do need to have a general understanding of the calories contained in the food you are eating. In the beginning it will be quite tough and you will probably have to keep a check on your calories BUT in a few weeks you will develop an understanding of how many calories are in everything you eat and you will start to know how much food you can eat each day.

3) Eat a Balanced Diet

This phrase is bounced around the weight loss community quite a lot and there are a number of different interpretations. In this instance I am referring to a balanced diet in the sense that it incorporates all of the three major food groups; carbohydrates, proteins and fats. According to Mayo Clinic a balanced diabetes diet should include:

  • Carbohydrates: 45%-65% of your daily calories.
  • Proteins: 15%-20% of your daily calories.
  • Fats: 20%-35% of your daily calories.

So for a person who has a BMR of 2000 calories it is recommended that 900-1300 of these calories come from carbohydrates, 300-400 of these calories come from proteins and 400-700 of these calories come from fats.

4) Moderate your intake of Sugar and Simple Carbohydrates

For a long time it was believed that sugar could cause diabetes and that diabetics should avoid sugar completely. However, research has shown that this is not the case. Even so diabetics still need to moderate their intake of sugars. This is because they usually have a very low nutritional value and could be better replaced with more nutritious complex carbohydrates. Futhermore, simple sugars are a much more concentrated carbohydrate source and therefore cause a sharper increase in blood glucose levels. Whilst there are exceptions to this rule (a diabetic may be suffering from hypoglycaemia and require some simple sugars) in most cases you should choose natural, nutrient rich carbohydrate sources such as fruits and vegetables.

5) Increase your Fibre intake

Fibre makes your bodies digestive system work harder which burns more calories and makes it easier to keep your weight under control. Furthermore, according to this study from the Internet Health Library a diet which is high in fibre can actually help control blood sugar levels. Participants in the study were put on a diet which contained a moderate amount of fibre (24 grams daily) for 6 weeks and then put on a high fibre diet (50 grams daily) for 6 weeks. The results showed that the high fibre diet reduced blood sugar levels by 8.9% more than the moderate fibre diet. Fibre also has many other benefits for your body so increasing your intake makes sense. Dietary sources of fibre include; whole grain cereals, fruits, nuts and vegetables.

6) Eat at least five portions of Fruit and Vegetables each day

A number of the above points have mentioned that you should try to make sure the majority of your carbohydrates have a high nutritional value. Well fruits and vegetables fit the bill perfectly here. Most varieties are packed with nutrients and they are also usually high in dietary fibre. By eating at least five different varieties of fruit and vegetable every day you will provide your body with lots of essential nutrients and find it much easier to keep your body fat levels under control.

Furthermore, new research suggests that fruit and vegetables may actually prevent diabetes. According to this study the Mediterranean diet (which includes a high number of fruits and vegetables) could be linked with the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Although, the results of the study were not conclusive it is highly likely that the fruit and vegetable component of the Mediterranean diet had an impact on the results and further suggests that fruit and vegetables are a valuable part of a diabetes diet.

7) Cut down on the Salt

According to the American Diabetes Association a high intake of salt is linked with hypertension (high blood pressure). Unfortunately, people with diabetes also have a greater chance of developing hypertension than non-diabetics. Putting the two together further increases the risk of high blood pressure developing. High blood pressure seriously increases your chances of heart disease and stroke, plus it can cause significant damage to all your major organs. Therefore, if you want to reduce your chances of developing this condition you need to cut back on the salt. The recommended intake is about 6g per day so you should try and stick to this.

8) Moderate your Alcohol intake

Alcohol is OK in moderation with some research even suggesting that moderate consumption can have a positive impact on your health. However, excessive consumption of alcohol can be damaging to your health and aggravate your diabetes. Most alcoholic beverages are full of sugar and simple carbohydrates and provide little nutritional value. Furthermore, alcohol reduces the level of glucose in your blood and can cause hypoglycaemia when consumed excessively. Men should try to limit their intake to 3 units per day or 21 units per week whilst women should stick to 2 units per day or 14 units per week.

Although the exact causes of diabetes are not fully known, it is universally agreed that diet has a large impact on both the development and management of the disease. A diabetes diet does not have to be restrictive, complicated and boring. In fact most of the suggested changes in this article are standard parts of a healthy diet. By making these changes to your diet you can take control of your diabetes and hopefully start to notice significant improvements.

Whilst every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative, it is intended for general information only. Diabetes is a medical condition and this article is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical practitioner. Before making any changes to your diet you should always seek your doctors advice. If you have any concerns regarding any form of diabetes then you should speak to your doctor right away.

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