If you are a diabetic, it is very important to be mindful of the types of foods that you eat. However, according to recent diabetes clinical trials, diabetics don’t have to completely avoid any cake or ice cream, nor do they need to strictly adhere to the glycemic index for the rest of their lives.
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When it comes down to it, a diabetic’s primary goal is to regulate their blood sugar levels, since their bodies no longer have the ability to produce a sufficient amount of insulin. In a patient who has type 1 diabetes, the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin have been destroyed by the immune system. In type 2 diabetes, the patient’s body has become insulin resistant over time (this can be caused by a variety of different factors).
Before continuing, it is advised that anyone with diabetes should schedule a meeting with a dietitian. This way, they can create a uniquely tailored meal plan which can meet all of their individual needs. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, here are some general dietary guidelines which you may find helpful.
For most diabetic’s, carbohydrate-rich foods are a major concern. If you were not aware, these carbs are broken down into glucose during digestion, and so carb-rich foods can be dangerous. Most diabetics, who require an injection of insulin during their mealtime, will need to keep track of the grams of carbohydrates that they eat in order to take the appropriate dosage of insulin. However, carbs are not the true enemy of diabetics.
Recent diabetes clinical studies have shown that even more important than “what” you are eating is “how much”. According to certified diabetes educators, diabetics need to be more careful about how much they are eating during the day. If they were to cut back on their total daily caloric intake, no matter what types of foods they eat, then there blood glucose levels will stay more in check. Additionally, this can help diabetics lose some weight, which will also help with their disease. As you may have heard before, too much of a good thing can be harmful (even healthier foods).
Presently, the recommended daily caloric intake for a person is around 2,000 calories. However, it varies from person to person based on their size and how much physical activity they engage in on a regular basis.
In the end, diabetics don’t have to completely eliminate carbs from their diets, but they should be limited. Also, deciding to go with nutritionally rich carbs (such as whole grains and veggies) over the empty carbs (refined grains and sugars) can provide a major benefit to their health and condition. The ideal diabetic meal should consist of 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates, and they can spread out their carb intake by including 15 to 30 grams in their snacks throughout the day. Again, based on the individual, these numbers can fluctuate.
ADA’s Plate Method
Regardless of whether you’re a diabetic or not, counting carbs can be quite difficult. In this regard, it is recommended that diabetics follow the American Diabetes Association’s plate method for formulating a meal. According to this method, you should fill half of your plate with nonstarchy vegetables (things like broccoli, carrots, and spinach), then fill a quarter up with high-fiber starches (the beans, brown rice, or quinoa), fill another quarter with lean protein (some type of chicken or fish), and then top it all off with a whole piece of fruit and an 8-ounce glass of milk (either low-fat or nonfat).
Avoiding Saturated Fats
It is also very important for diabetics to try and avoid saturated fats when they can. Popular examples of foods that contain saturated fats include red meats and fried foods. Limiting these foods is quite important, as people with diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing heart disease during their lifetime.
Contrary to popular belief, diabetics can still indulge a sweet tooth from time to time. That’s right, being diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to say no to a slice of cake on your birthday. Again, it all comes down to staying under a certain total number of carbs. For those who maintain a daily total carb goal, it should not be a problem for them to swap out another carb food for the cake during the day (you could easily skip on the rice during dinner later).
The Diabetic Diet Controversy
Recently, there has been some debate about whether it is necessary to take into account the food’s glycemic index (this a measure of how quickly a certain food can cause a person’s blood sugar to rise within a two hour time-frame). According to diabetes clinical trials, medical researchers have been finding some mixed results on whether it actually makes any difference. Additionally, there has been some debate over the accuracy of the index itself, since there are numerous factors which can affect what the food will do to the patient’s glucose levels (things like how the food is prepared or what it gets paired with).
In the end however, it still comes down to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet (which is something we all can strive for). Just because you have been diagnosed with diabetes, does not mean that you can’t still find a way to fit in your favorite foods every now and then. You just have to remember to keep it within an appropriate amount, which won’t significantly affect your blood sugar levels.