There are many myths that surround the diet suitable for diabetics, and most of them are wrong in one way or another. Controlling blood glucose levels in a diabetic is achievable through proper medication, healthy eating and controlled portions.
The widely accepted theme for the diabetic diet is high fibre and low fat. The fibre, particularly soluble fibre, assists in slowing how quickly the available carbohydrate or sugar is absorbed from the food or meal being eaten. This benefits the individual not producing enough insulin or with reduced insulin sensitivity i.e. the diabetic. Good sources of fibre include wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Beans, lentils, split peas, soya, oats and a variety of fruit are great sources of soluble fibre. Fibre also keeps us fuller for longer which means we are less likely to snack on carbohydrate containing foods in between meals.
The low fat concept mainly assists weight control which is helpful in lowering blood glucose and it is also possible that a high fat diet can reduce insulin sensitivity, although this is debated.
For anyone struggling to control their blood glucose levels there are certain things to consider. Firstly are you taking your medication, and are you taking it at the right time? Secondly is your carbohydrate type and amount correct? With most of my patients I find success simply by ensuring their medication is taken at the right time and by lowering their carbohydrate load. What I mean by carbohydrate load is the total amount of carbohydrate containing foods eaten every day. It is easy to remember in these 3 groups:
- Added sugars – table sugar, baked products, sweets, gas drinks, juices and sauces. We have no physiological need for these unless you are an athlete and the less the better.
- Fruit – packed with natural sugars, but also fibre, vitamins and minerals. Diabetics need to control their portions of any fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice. Generalized to 2 portions (palm size) per day max.
- Starch – bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, cereals etc. These portions should be small and high in fibre. Choose brown bread, wholegrains or legumes as your starch choice. The plate, meal or snack should not be predominantly starch.
A healthy varied diet that limits added sugars and fats and controls portions of fruit and starch is the key to controlling blood glucose. A little weight loss and some exercise also go a long way in assisting this goal. For more advice and a detailed eating plan get in touch with a dietician or diabetes specialist.