Forget about strict rules for diabetes! Health expert and nutritionist Hitaf Zwein will explain the newest approach when it comes to diet and diabetes where one size does not fit all.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. The hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it does make.
There are a few different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas, where insulin is made. It’s unclear what causes this attack. About 10 percent of people with diabetes have this type.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin, and sugar builds up in your blood.
- Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but it’s not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar during pregnancy. Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta cause this type of diabetes.
Diabetes and diet
Healthy eating is a central part of managing diabetes. In some cases, changing your diet may be enough to control the disease.
There isn’t one specific “diabetes diet.” Your doctor can work with you to design a meal plan. A meal plan is a guide that tells you what kinds of food to eat at meals and for snacks. The plan also tells you how much food to have. For most people who have diabetes (and those without, too), a healthy diet consists of:
- 40% to 60% of calories from carbohydrates
- 20% calories from protein
- 30% or fewer calories from fat
Your diet should also be low in cholesterol, low in salt, and low in added sugar.
A diabetes diet is a healthy-eating plan that's naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. Key elements are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In fact, a diabetes diet is the best eating plan for most everyone.
Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy foods, and starchy foods such as bread. Try to have fresh fruits rather than canned fruits, fruit juices, or dried fruit. You may eat fresh vegetables and frozen or canned vegetables. Condiments such as nonfat mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard are also carbohydrates.
Evidence shows that increasing your intake of fiber, especially cereal and whole grains, can help reduce the risk of cardio-metabolic diseases (this includes cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and obesity) and colorectal cancer.
A higher intake of oat bran also leads to lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
Dietary fiber absorbs fluid and increases the bulk of waste matter, making your stools softer and easier to pass. Foods higher in soluble fiber have a particular role in reducing blood cholesterol. Increasing your dietary fiber can also help with managing your weight. These foods are filling and most are lower in glycaemic index (GI), which can help to control your appetite and have less of an effect on blood glucose levels.
Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, beans, and some vegetables. Try to eat poultry and fish more often than red meat. Don’t eat poultry skin. Also, trim extra fat from all meat. Choose nonfat or reduced-fat options when you eat dairy, such as cheeses and yogurts.
Not all fats are bad. It is important to know the differences between fats. Unsaturated fats are the “good” fats (nuts, fish, olive oil, canola oil, seeds, etc.). Saturated fats are less healthy. You should limit these in your diet. They include red meats, butter, lard, full-fat dairy products, dark-meat poultry, etc. Trans fats are the worst fats for you. These fats can be found in processed foods like crackers, snack foods, and most fast foods. Your doctor or dietitian will tell you how many grams of fat you may eat each day. When eating fat-free versions of foods (such as mayonnaise and butter), check the label to see how many grams of carbohydrates they contain. Keep in mind that these products often have added sugar.
Hitaf’s final advice is to be mindful of the cues of your body to understand it better and become healthier especially for someone with diabetes. Eating mindfully, or consuming food in response to physical cues of hunger and fullness, is just as effective as adhering to nutrition-based guidelines in reducing weight and blood sugar levels in adults with Type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.
The takeaway here is that: you are the only one who can control their eating habits and change them for the better. It takes time, patience, and practice, but it is worth it.