Eating a healthy diet, helps control blood sugar, which is critical. Left unchecked, high blood sugar levels can lead to unfortunate complications.
Say Diabetes and the first thing that comes to our mind is ‘tasteless food’. We have been conditioned to believe that people with Diabetes should once and for all forget eating tasty food. However, this is a grave misconception. Yes, diabetes calls for a very strict, restrictive diet that needs to be adhered to diligently. But this does not mean their diet consists of bland food. It is in fact a healthy, nutritious diet with umpteen possibilities.
A HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET FOR DIABETES
Honestly, there is no specific diet – no fancy name. A balanced diet comprises food from the major food groups because not one type of food has all the necessary ingredients. However, how much we eat of a certain food type is very important. Portion size plays an important role to help keep your weight under control. And understanding what foods to eat more of and what foods to eat less of, keeps your diabetes under control.
To put it in simplified terms, a person with diabetes cannot produce insulin properly. This means their blood sugar is on the higher side. Eating a healthy diet, helps control blood sugar, which is critical. Left unchecked, high blood sugar levels can lead to unfortunate complications. In general a person with diabetes should consider the following while planning out his/her diet:
- Limit or exclude food high in sugar
- Eat smaller portions, spread out over the day
- Limit intake of fatty/oily food
- Use less salt
- Keep a check on carbohydrate intake
- Have whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables every day
- Avoid drinking alcohol
WHAT FOODS CAN BE EATEN WITH DIABETES?
If your blood sugar levels are not shooting through the roof, your doctor might allow you to continue to enjoy some of your favourite dishes even if they are higher in sugar and carbs – but you will have to half or quarter the portion size. Nevertheless, being aware of what you eat and how much, is absolutely important to avoid complications.
Make sure to cover all important food groups when charting out your diet. The main food groups being: Fruit & vegetables, Starchy foods(bread, pasta and rice), Protein foods (beans, pulses, nuts, eggs, meat and fish), Dairy and alternatives and Oils & Spreads.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
They are packed with a plethora of vitamins and minerals, so do not avoid them to cut down carbs. Eat in moderation but pick a rainbow of colours to get as wide a range of vitamins and minerals as possible. Fruits that are good for you include oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes. Green leafy veggies are said to be really good for those with diabetes. So get a good dose of spinach , collard greens, kale, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli into your diet. Carrots, peppers and tomatoes get the green light as well. Try to eat the fruit as a whole instead of juice to get the fibre part of it. (Diabetes friendly).
Starchy Foods need to be included in your diet. However, you must be careful to pick the kind that will not spike your blood sugar levels, because the carbohydrate content in them is broken down into glucose during digestion. Permissible starchy foods are whole grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, basmati, brown or wild rice, corn and green peas. The high fibre content in these foods keeps the digestive system healthy as well.
Protein rich food helps build muscle and keeps us strong. Beans are excellent on a diabetic diet because they are sources of plant-based protein and can help reduce carbohydrate intake. Kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, navy beans (mochai) and karamani (adzuki beans) are healthy beans options. For the non-vegetarian lean meat, skinned chicken/ turkey, fish and eggs are good choices.
DAIRY & ALTERNATIVES
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are rich in calcium and protein. However, be wary of the fat content. Choose dairy foods that have low saturated fat. Go for unsweetened yogurt as opposed to the flavoured ones available at the supermarket. Add a few pieces of fruits/ berries for flavour.
OILS & SPREADS
A certain amount of healthy fat needs to be included in our diet to keep the body functioning. Healthy saturated fats are found in olive oil, vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, spreads made from these oils, and nut butters. Avoid butter, palm oil and coconut oil – they tend to increase cholesterol levels in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease. Certain fish that are a rich source of healthy oils are: salmon, mackerel, sardines, albacore tuna, herring and trout. Certain nuts contain healthful fatty acids. For instance, walnuts are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids that are important for healthy heart. Since those with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease, it is important to include such heart healthy foods in their diet.
FOODS TO BE AVOIDED WHEN DIAGNOSED WITH DIABETES
- Foods that can increase blood sugar levels quickly
- Foods with unhealthy fats: No more fried and processed foods like fries, chips, deep fried dishes
- Refined sugar: Steer away from store-bought cookies, sweets and pastries
- Sugary Drinks: Energy drinks and bottled/packaged drinks are a big NO
- Salty Food
While it might seem difficult and time-consuming to watch every bite that you put in your mouth, it’s just mental-block. Having to give up on a favourite dish is tough, but it is the right thing to do if the choice is between good health and high diabetes. Talk to your diabetician and a nutritionist to set-up a diet plan that is workable and effective. The first few days might have you craving for those tempting sugars and carbs. Show some grit and will-power and you will soon realise that healthier food choices, not only help with your blood sugar, but make you feel good and energized.
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