best diet for diabetes
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Best Diet To Help People With Diabetes

Diabetes can be controlled with diet and alterations in lifestyle. Change in food habits helps to maintain blood sugar levels. These dietary changes can also prevent complications associated with diabetes like kidney and heart-related complications. Controlling diabetes with diet includes eating three meals at regular intervals. It prevents sudden surge in glucose levels by optimal utilization of insulin in the body. The diet should provide all essential elements that are required for the maintenance of level of blood glucose as shown in the table below.

Essential Elements for Glycemic Control

  Element   Requirement in diet                                            Sources                                          
 Manganese   6.10-6.97 mg/dl   Shellfish, spinach, pineapple, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and black tea
Vitamin B6      1.3 mg/day                                Meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits                          
 Vitamin C      45 mg/day                           Guava, Indian gooseberries, spinach, leafy vegetables                    
 Selenium        200 mg/day                  Whole grains, dairy products, pork, beef, fish, shellfish, chicken              
   Fiber       22-35 g/day                           Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds                      

Why do you need to develop a healthy-eating plan? 

If you are diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes you need to have your diet planned to keep your sugar levels under control. You can ensure maintained blood sugar levels by developing and following a diet chart for diabetes. An optimum diabetes mellitus diet will help you to keep your glucose levels managed, reduce weight, and lower your risk of developing heart diseases such as high blood pressure. Heedless eating will make you consume unwanted calories and fats that result in spiked glucose levels. Neglecting spiked blood sugar levels can cause serious complications such as hyperglycemia which will eventually lead to kidney or heart damage. However, having the correct eating habits can save you from landing into trouble. This can be achieved by eating foods that enable you to keep your sugar levels in the normal range. Know about gestational diabetes treatment.

Added to maintaining blood sugar levels, consuming a diabetic meal plan has many other health benefits. Therefore, intaking a nutritious and optimum diet is a must for diabetics. Also know about pre diabetes levels.

Diet for Diabetes

1. Healthy Carbohydrates

Based on the physical activity and calorie requirement, you must include healthy carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products with low fats. As the carbohydrates break down into glucose, the inclusion of healthy carbohydrates helps to maintain blood sugar levels at lower levels.

         Benefits of Healthy Carbohydrates

  • Healthy carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index, so it helps prevent the sudden increase in blood glucose levels after a meal.

         How Much to Consume Healthy Carbohydrates

  • Diabetic people should get half of their calorie requirement from carbohydrates. On average, an individual caloric requirement is 1800 calories per day, so they should have only 200-225 grams of carbohydrates in a day.

2. Fiber-Rich Foods

Fibers are a form of carbohydrate that our body cannot digest. Soluble fibers can dissolve in water and help maintain blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes like beans and nuts are rich sources of fiber.

Fiber Rich foods for Diabetes

         Benefits of Fiber-Rich Foods

  • Increasing the intake of fibers in diabetic patients helps maintain glucose levels as they have a low glycaemic index.
  • Intake of fibers also lowers levels of blood cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Intake of fibers decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and obesity.

         How Much to Consume Fiber-Rich Foods

  • Dietary intake of 22-35 grams can improve blood sugar management. 

3. Vitamin-Rich Foods

Fruits, fish cereals, vegetables, beans, eggs, meat, and liver are rich in vitamins. The introduction of vitamin-rich food in the diet of diabetics can have multiple health benefits. Vitamin C is important in various physiological processes of the body. Diabetic patients have decreased sensitivity to insulin. Hence, the glucose metabolism and relaxation of blood vessels that are two functions of insulin get affected. These actions are also controlled by nitric oxide. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C increase the level of nitric oxide. Vitamin B6 acts as a coenzyme for various enzymatic activities in the body. It is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the body. Decreased levels of Vitamin B6 are associated with diabetes. Also know about is pineapple good for diabetes.

Vitamin Rich Foods for Diabetes

         Benefits of Vitamin-Rich Foods

  • Intake of vitamin C in diabetes helps improve insulin sensitivity and the functioning of endothelial cells. These factors help the maintenance of blood glucose levels to lower levels. Vitamin C also helps to reduce oxidative stress in metabolic diseases like diabetes. It also prevents the attachment of excessive glucose to hemoglobin molecules.
  • Intake of Vitamin B6 causes improved maintenance of blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes shows improvement within the first two weeks of intake of vitamin B6.
  • Vitamin B6 is also beneficial in retinopathy, which is a common complication of uncontrolled diabetes. Vitamin B6 is also known to decrease the binding of glucose to proteins, hence can prevent the negative impact of increased blood glucose on the immune system.
  • In patients with diabetic neuropathy, intake of vitamin B6 helps relieve nerve pain.

         How Much to Consume Vitamin-Rich Foods

  • At least one-quarter of the meal must contain food rich in these vitamins.

4. Fish and Good Fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids lower cholesterol levels in the body. Omega-3-fatty acid of fish helps to prevent heart-related complications in diabetics. Fish meal is also a rich source of minerals like manganese and selenium.

Fish and Good Fats

         Benefits of Fish and Good Fats

  • Omega-3-fatty acid helps to reduce inflammation and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Manganese helps in the formation of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). This antioxidant helps to fight free radicals and reduce damage to body cells.
  • Selenium is an antioxidant element and protects the body cells from oxidative stress. Selenium helps to prevent the destruction of pancreatic cells that synthesize insulin.

         How Much to Consume Fish and Good Fats

  • Take good fats in small amounts as they are high in calories. Healthy- heart fish should be consumed at least twice a week. Know more about diet for diabetes.

Read more about how to prevent diabetes

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What does a diabetes diet involve? 

For efficient production and usage of insulin, the best diet for diabetics will have three meals at fixed times. Depending upon your lifestyle, your dietician will create a meal plan for you that fulfills your macronutrient requirement daily. Here are some foods that a good diabetes diet plan must include. 

  • Good carbs- Include healthy carbohydrates to ensure the smooth breakdown of foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy items. Avoid unhealthy carbs such as processed foods and foods with fats, sugar, etc. 
  • High-fiber foods- Foods with high-fiber content smooths the digestion process and help to control sugar levels. Intake of fibrous vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, etc. Consuming such foods simplifies the food breakdown process. 
  • Fatty fish- The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, etc. will enable you to keep your blood sugar levels under control and improve your heart health. However, avoid eating fried fish. 
  • Healthy fats- Healthy fats for diabetes contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which enable the body to bring down cholesterol levels. Such foods are avocado, nuts, canola, etc. Know more about what causes low blood sugar.

Will supplements and vitamins help my diabetes? 

The best diabetic diet for weight loss or sugar control can be made using various strategies. These usually have an ideal goal of keeping the sugar level within the normal range.

Supplements and Vitamins for Diabetes
  • Plate method- This method focuses on creating a balanced meal by adjusting the portion of various foods on your plate without actually measuring or counting it. Simply start by filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Next, one-quarter of the plate should be filled with protein such as chicken, eggs, fish, tofu, etc. and the remaining one-quarter should consist of healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, etc. To make your meal a little hydrated add a low-calorie beverage to it and you are ready with a healthy meal. Also know about Indian diabetes diet.
  • Glycemic Index- It is necessary to know the glycemic index of any food to know what impact it will have on your blood sugar levels. Depending on its impact on glucose levels these are subdivided into low, medium, and high GI foods. To use this tool to create a meal, opt for foods with low GI and reduce the consumption of foods that have a high GI. You can consult your dietician to know further about this method and whether it will suit your body effectively. 
  • Crab Counting- This is yet another efficient method used to manage sugar levels by keeping a track of carbohydrates that one consumes daily. As per this method, foods are included in meals according to their carb content. At times, you might also need to alter your insulin dosage as per the number of carbohydrates you consume. Your carb intake depends on several factors such as age, size, physical activity, etc. Consult a dietician to create an optimum diet plan that suits your body. Know about Indian breakfast for diabetes .

Sample Meal Plan

  • Diabetics can eat whole wheat bread, eggs, half a cup of cereal, low-fat milk, and fruit for breakfast.
  • Breakfast- Omelet with veggies such as broccoli, mushrooms, etc.
  • Morning snack- Soaked almonds 
  • Lunch - can include wheat bread with leafy vegetables, fish or beans, Grilled Chicken salad with vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes, avocado, etc. and fruit like apples.
  • Afternoon snack- Greek yogurt bowl with nuts, seeds, black tea, and low glycemic index fruits. 
  • Evening lunch- Popcorn or sliced vegetables with hummus 
  • Dinner- can include medium wheat bread, 1/2 cup of baked vegetables like beans, carrot, Salmon and vegetables with a hydrating beverage and a cup of milk

Read more about is apple good for diabetes.

Healthy fats for diabetes

Opting for the right fats for your healthy diabetic eating plan can help you to keep your sugar levels under control. Consuming healthy fats can help you to keep your cholesterol levels normal. Go for unsaturated fats to make them beneficial for your condition. Here are some healthy fats that you must consider consuming.

  • Avocado- It contains healthy monounsaturated fats and vital micronutrients such as magnesium which helps to regulate insulin levels. 
  • Sardines- The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in sardines helps to maintain heart health. It also helps to reduce inflammation and increase insulin sensitivity. 
  • Olive Oil- The bioactive compounds and monounsaturated fats present in olive oil helps to reduce the fasting blood glucose levels and hemoglobin A1c. 
  • Nuts- Packed with healthy fats, fiber, and magnesium, nuts are best for keeping blood sugar levels consistent. 
  • Tahini- Made from sesame seeds, tahini is rich in polyunsaturated fats that can lower fasting blood sugar levels. 

Best vitamins for diabetes

People diagnosed with diabetes have special dietary requirements and often the diets fall short of essential vitamins and minerals. Supplementing the diet with the right dosage of vitamins will be beneficial to tackle your condition. Here are some of the best vitamins for diabetes

  • Thiamin (b1) – This vitamin has proven beneficial for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes as it helps to reduce the pain of neuropathy. 
  • Vitamin B 12- Best for red blood cells and brain functions, vitamin B 12 efficiency ensures that the feet and hand damage doesn’t worsen. 
  • Vitamin D- Low levels of Vitamin D lead to complications in diabetics. Intake egg yolks, fish, and dairy products for Vitamin D. 
  • Vitamin E- It oxygenates the blood, improves insulin efficiency, and helps to prevent premature aging and cell damage. 
  • Vitamin C- Optimum vitamin C levels can improve HbA1c levels, reduce sugar levels and prevent the risk of developing complications. Also know about fasting blood sugar test.

Bottomline

Maintaining a healthy diet plan helps keep the blood glucose levels under control. The diet for patients with diabetes must contain essential elements like manganese, selenium, vitamins, good fat, fibers, and healthy carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates with a low glycemic index are crucial for maintaining glucose levels, as carbohydrates metabolize to form glucose.

Fiber-rich food also helps to maintain a lower level of blood glucose. It also controls blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Intake of fiber-rich food helps to reduce insulin resistance and chances of cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin C and vitamin B6 are also important in patients with diabetes. These vitamins are critical for the metabolism of glucose. Vitamin C prevents the development of insulin resistance, and Vitamin B6 prevents complications like retinopathy and pain from neuropathy in diabetes. Fruits, fish cereals, vegetables, beans, eggs, meat, and liver, which are rich in vitamins, must be included in the diet.

Vegetables with a low glycemic index are best for diabetes. Healthy fats also help to control diabetes and prevent associated complications. Fish contains omega-3-fatty acids and minerals like manganese and selenium. These minerals are antioxidants and reduce damage by free radicals in metabolic diseases like diabetes. Read more about best vegetable for diabetes.

FAQs

What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?

A diabetic should avoid foods that contribute to spiking blood sugar levels. These include fried foods, foods high in saturated and trans fats, foods with excessive sodium content(salt), sweets, and processed foods such as bakery items, packed chips, candies, etc. Also avoid beverages with added sugar such as juice, soda, and energy drinks. 

When should I eat if I have diabetes? 

It is recommended that people with diabetes should eat at the same time each day. The intake of carbohydrates at the same time regularly will help to keep the blood sugar levels under control. Timings also depend upon the type of medicines and insulin you are taking regularly. Also know about ayurvedic medicine for diabetes.

What are the main food groups?

Usually, five main food groups contribute to creating a balanced and nutritious meal. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Balancing these five main food groups will help to complete the essential requirements of your body. 

Is fish good for diabetes? 

Fish is good for diabetes as it helps to meet the protein requirement of the body and the presence of omega 3 is vital to maintain a healthy heart condition. Include omega-3-rich fishes such as salmon, sardines, herring, and Mackerel (Pacific or Atlantic) in your diet. 

References

  • https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/ss/slideshow-best-diabetes-diets
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-best-foods-for-diabetics

Disclaimer

This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.