Diabetes is a chronic condition that’s affecting more and more people around the world with each passing day. In the last 20 years alone, the number of diabetic patients has more than doubled. Over time, insulin deficiency can cause serious complications, including heart disease, kidney problems, vision loss, or amputations.
Thankfully, sufficient physical exercise and a proper diet can help patients mitigate these side effects. This guide offers useful nutrition tips to help diabetic patients keep their blood sugar levels under control and lead healthier lives.
Consume Unrefined Carbohydrates
The carbs in our diets can spike up blood sugar levels within minutes. Carbohydrates are present in most of the foods we consume, from bread and pasta to rice and oats. As such, people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes should steer clear of refined carbs, as they convert into sugars quickly. Highly-processed cereals and low-fiber foods should be cut down (white bread, white rice, etc.). Instead, favor healthier alternatives like whole wheat/grain bread, brown rice, buckwheat, chickpeas, and unsweetened dairy products.
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Eat More Fruits and Veggies
With their low glycemic index, vegetables and fruits are abound with fibers, vitamins, and minerals that keep your body healthy. A nice serving of veggies (cauliflower, eggplants, spinach, etc.) with each meal will help you feel fuller. If you’re a picky eater or if you don’t like vegetables, it might be because you haven’t tried the right recipes yet! Conduct your research and look for delicious meal ideas that will satisfy your tastebuds. In parallel, fruits make excellent desserts and snacks; apples, berries, grapes, kiwis, oranges, or peaches, eat whatever you like most.
Avoid Red and Processed Meats
Proteins comprise an essential part of any diet. Whether or not you suffer from diabetes, you might want to avoid eating red and processed meat too often. Over consuming beef, lamb, ham, sausages, and bacon increases your risk of cancer and exposes you to heart problems. Prefer lean meats instead, such as chicken or turkey, and omega-3-rich fish. You can also consider alternatives like eggs, unsalted nuts, beans, and lentils.
Choose Healthier Fats
Fat is where the flavor is, as we’ve heard so many times. We need fat in our diet since it provides energy in good quantities. However, different types of fat have varying effects on our health. The healthiest fats are found in seeds, nuts, avocados, oily fish, and certain types of oils (olive, sunflower, grapeseed). Diabetic patients should avoid cooking with butter, lard, or ghee, as these saturated fats can increase cholesterol and the appearance of heart issues. Try other cooking methods like grilling, steaming, or baking instead of pan-frying.
Cut Down on Sugars
Virtually everything you’ll find at your supermarket, from ice creams and packaged snacks to frozen meals, contains sugar. Not to mention sodas, energy drinks, and fruit juices. A good step to begin cutting back your sugar intake is to replace these sweetened beverages with water, milk, tea, and coffee, and ban candies, chocolates, and other poorly-nutritive items. You may want to try low-calorie sweeteners instead of white sugar or honey to help you cut added sugars out entirely.
Limit Your Salt Intake
Consuming salt in quantities is directly linked to high blood pressure. Because you’re already at risk of heart disease and strokes, limiting your salt intake will only have positive bearings on your health.
Aim for no more than 6g of salt per day, or the equivalent of a teaspoonful. Skip packaged potato chips, salted trail mix, or pre-packaged snacks as these are literal salt bombs. Preparing meals and snacks at home will help you watch your salt intake; you can substitute it with spices and herbs for extra flavor.
Drink Alcohol Sparingly
Lastly, but importantly, alcohol contains lots of calories, which can get in the way of your weight regulation (particularly with type 2 diabetes). While a nice glass of wine or a cold beer from time to time won’t hurt, keep your consumption to a strict minimum. Also, never drink on an empty stomach if you’re on insulin and diabetes medications.
All things considered, living with diabetes doesn’t have to be such a handicap if you make smart dietary choices. While you certainly won’t be able to binge on fast-food or enjoy your favorite sodas and snacks as much as you want, there’s no reason why you should limit yourself to bland “diabetic” foods. The various tips mentioned above can be beneficial for all patients, including, type 1, type 2, gestational, or pre-diabetics. Paired with a physical exercise routine, you’ll succeed in leading a healthier, more rewarding life. Some adjustments may be in order, but you can do it!