A Diet for Diabetics – Foods to Eat and Avoid
Diabetes is a chronic disease and it has become quite common among children and adults in the past two decades. Many people rely on medications to fight this disease but medications alone can’t help in dealing with diabetes. When a person has diabetes, his body is unable to process the insulin required to manage glucose levels. This is why doctors suggest that diabetic patients follow a strict diet.
Diets for diabetes differ greatly depending on a patient’s lifestyle. But what remains same for all the patients is a healthy diet. Following a healthy diet can help them maintain their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of complications.
What Foods Can a Diabetic Patient Eat?
There isn’t a single correct way to plan a diet for diabetes. Your diet will largely depend on your preferences and requirements. The best kind of diet for someone with diabetes is a pescatarian one but if you prefer vegetarian or other diets, talk to your doctor and nutritionist to balance your diet out. Here are 10 great foods to use in your diabetes meal plan.
Fatty fish is one of the healthiest foods for diabetic patients. Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA. It helps protect the line of your blood cells and blood vessels, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Salmon also has properties that improve the function of the arteries and increase your body’s blood circulation capacity. It is also a superfood due to its rich source of protein and its ability to reduce the risk of inflammation.
Sardines are a great source of EPA and DHA fatty acids and protein. They also help reduce inflammation. Sardines may be tiny fish but they pack a nutritional punch beyond this as they also have properties that prevent some forms of cancer. They’re also rich in Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D. The combination of these vitamins helps balance cholesterol levels, bone strength and help maintain good bone density.
Broccoli is a low-carb and low-calorie food and is considered as one of the most nutritious foods. It is also a good source of Vitamin C and magnesium. Consuming broccoli may help lower insulin levels and protect cells from harmful free radicals. The antioxidants present in broccoli also prevent eye diseases.
Herring is another fish that is supposed to be magnificent for those with diabetes; it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. It is good for the heart. It is also a rich source of Vitamins C and E. Herring also has properties that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and is known to have properties that help improve nervous system functions. Additionally, herring is known for its immune system strengthening properties.
Kale is a great leafy vegetable which is good for people with diabetes. It is rich in antioxidants that help combat macular degeneration of the eyes which is a common side effect of both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Kale is low in sugar, low in calories, and is high in different vitamins and minerals. Kale is also low in digestible carbs which increase blood sugar. It is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for overall immune system health.
Cinnamon is a spice that doctors recommend to diabetic patients. This is because it is not only rich in healthy antioxidants, but it also has properties that help improve insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon also helps blood sugar control and lowers your cholesterol and triglyceride levels in type-2 diabetes. Cinnamon should be taken in limited quantities as it has coumarin. Coumarin in high doses can be harmful to your body. Limit your cinnamon intake to one teaspoon per day.
The original superfood, eggs are a great component of any diabetic diet. They improve insulin sensitivity and improve good HDL cholesterol. They are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which help protect your eyes and improve your immune system. They also prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer. Eggs are great for changing the shape and size of your LDL cholesterol which is bad cholesterol.
A traditional Indian spice, turmeric is great for diabetic patients because it has so many healthy properties. Not only does turmeric work as a disinfectant and antiseptic, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has a component called curcumin which promotes kidney health in diabetics while lowering blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of any form of heart disease.
8. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are also good to be consumed by diabetic patients. They are rich in good fibres that can help lower blood sugar levels. These fibres keep you full by slowing down the rate in which food flows through your body. Due to this, your body absorbs nutrients better. Chia seeds are low in digestible carbs which are known to spike blood sugar levels. They have properties that control cholesterol and blood pressure as well.
9. Greek Yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is a powerhouse in any diet, particularly the high protein diet that a diabetic plan consists of. Greek yoghurt is rich in probiotics, which are healthy gut bacteria that help digest food better. The presence of probiotics helps lower blood sugar levels, increases mineral absorption, and improves digestion in general. Greek yoghurt also has higher levels of protein and calcium than regular yoghurt. The conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in Greek yoghurt is known to have properties that reduce the risk of heart disease.
10. Pecan Nuts
Pecan nuts are rich in viscous fibre. These fibres lower the risk of heart disease and improve digestion as well as insulin sensitivity. They are great for diabetic patients. Regular consumption of pecan nuts helps reduce inflammation. It also helps improve blood sugar control and helps your body maintain the ideal blood pressure. Pecan also helps maintain HbA1c and LDL levels to a healthy standard.
What Foods Should a Diabetic Person Avoid?
Like with any diet, a diabetic one has numerous restrictions. Here are a few.
Rice is generally fine in most diets in limited quantities but it should never be a part of a diabetes diet. It is a refined grain, this means it is extremely high in carbs. High carbs usually spike your blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Doctors do recommend red rice or brown rice if you are keen on eating rice, but avoiding it altogether is recommended.
Bacon is incredibly bad for all types of diabetes due to its extremely high sodium content. High sodium increases blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. While it is important to maintain sodium levels, high levels increase the chances of a stroke. Bacon in a diabetes diet during pregnancy can increase the risk of a miscarriage.
Like rice, pasta is made from refined wheat, which is not good for your body if you are diabetic. You can safely consume homemade pasta, provided it is made from unrefined grains.
A highly popular root vegetable, potatoes are not good for people with diabetes. This vegetable is starchy and high in carbs, which may cause a spike in blood sugar. Potatoes also have a negative impact on nutrient absorption. Replace your potatoes with sweet potatoes if you want to eat potatoes.
While fruits are extremely healthy for your diet, fruit juice is extremely bad. This is not just for diabetic diets but any diet, fruit juices remove the high fibre content of the fruit and give you a concentrated dose of fructose which is a form of natural sugar. The natural sugar can spike your blood sugar levels and increase your chance of having a stroke. Eat fruit instead of making it into a juice.
6. Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is considered extremely bad for diabetics. Chicken is a good source of protein, but fried chicken is full of unhealthy saturated fats. These fats clog arteries and increase the risk of cancer and heart disease. With diabetics, the toxic elements known as aldehydes and AGEs promote the risk of inflammation and spike sugar levels. Additionally, it also weakens the immune system and increases the chance of having a stroke.
Frizzy drinks are harmful to the body. Drinking aerated beverages should be avoided in you have diabetes because the large content of sugar in one can of flavoured soda can spike your sugar levels. The fizz from the soda comes from carbon dioxide which can irritate your gut, kill healthy bacteria, and increase blood pressure.
Beer, although made from barley, is dangerous for the body. Beer is very high in calories; thus, it can spike your sugar levels. It also can weaken your immune system against infections.
9. White Sugar
Needless to say, white sugar spikes your blood sugar levels immensely. It is a polished form of sugar that is extremely high in glucose levels and is known to create immense insulin sensitivity. This is the first thing a diabetic needs to kick out of their lives.
While you can have cake, pastries and baked items that are low in sugar, frosting is basically a fancy form of sugar. Avoid it at all costs.
Having accurate information about diabetes and the exercise and diet routine that comes with managing the diseases is crucial. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
1. What Amount of Carbs Should be Consumed If You have Diabetes?
Although there is no right answer for this, the lower the number of digestible carbs you consume the better. It is crucial to run tests on your body as every person is different and your body’s requirements may be different from another. It is recommended you consult a nutritionist after a doctor does the required tests to know how much carbs should you consume.
2. Which Protein Foods are Good for Type 2 Diabetes?
Most protein foods that are low in sodium are good for type 2 diabetes. Doctors recommend salmon and eggs as they have the most beneficial properties but consuming soy and fish like mackerel also are acceptable.
3. Which Grains are Beneficial for Diabetic Patients?
In a diabetic diet, doctors recommend grains that are high in fibre. Eat whole wheat or multigrain bread and avoid pasta, white bread, and rice. Refined grains usually help spike blood sugar levels and as such should be avoided as much as possible in this diet.
4. Which Dairy Products are Healthy for Diabetic Patients?
In regards to dairy, doctors recommend a healthy consumption of Greek yoghurt, the reasons are mentioned above. You can also consume skimmed milk and cottage cheese in extremely small quantities.
When planning a diet, ensure that you consult your doctor and nutritionist. Do not attempt to create a diet plan all by yourself. It is important that you ask the doctor to run tests to ensure you can compensate for any nutritional defect in your body like a vitamin or mineral deficiency.