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What is the Right Diet for Diabetes?

written by: Ravneet Kaur • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/21/2011

What is the right diet for diabetes? This is the question that lingers too often in the mind of diabetics. If you want to learn about the right diabetic diet, continue reading.

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    Importance of the Right Diet for Diabetes

    Eating right is the key to controlling diabetes and preventing medical complications. But then what is the right diet for diabetes? Though there isn’t much difference between the diet of a diabetic and that of a non-diabetic, diabetics should focus more on eating a healthy diet that would keep their blood sugar levels under control. Poor diet can raise your blood sugar, which is a dangerous sign for health and can create numerous health problems involving the heart and nerves. The right diet for a diabetic would include high quality carbs, fibrous foods, fish and monosaturated fats. Therefore, eating right would ensure that the blood glucose levels remain controlled and pose no threat to the body, thus helping manage diabetes properly. A proper diabetes diet would ensure that you derive the maximum nutritional benefits from foods that would help control your blood sugar levels.

    Moreover, sticking to regular mealtimes is essential to avoid unnecessary and sudden spikes. Weight management is also necessary for a diabetic to avoid unnecessary complications in the future.

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    Understanding What is the Right Diet for Diabetes

    Identifying what to eat is as important as knowing what not to eat for a diabetic. It is ideal for a diabetic to consult a physician, nutritionist and dietitian to understand the right kind of diet for them, for requirements of two diabetics are not the same, and thus there is a difference between the diets of two diabetics.

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    Carbohydrates

    According to the American Diabetes Association, carbs should constitute nearly 50-60 percent of a diabetic’s diet. Eating the right kind of carbohydrates is essential to regulating blood glucose levels, since many carb-rich foods comprise a large amount of sugar. You can check the sugar content of your favorite carb-rich food on the glycemic index, which is the appropriate tool to determine the right carbohydrates. Foods scoring high on the glycemic index are usually rich in sugar and thus raise blood glucose higher than those scoring low on the glycemic index.

    Simple carbohydrates, such as snack foods, soda, candy, white flour and white rice, are digested faster than complex carbohydrates, which include starch and fiber. Whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and beans are complex carbohydrates and are thus considered healthy, since they are digested slowly and do not raise blood sugar levels instantly. Complex carbs comprise valuable amounts of fiber, thus these are a constant energy source. Eating carbs in moderate quantity is the key to a proper diabetic diet plan, for carbs break down rapidly into sugar compared with fats and proteins. Prefer brown rice to white rice, whole grain bread to white bread and oats to processed cereals. Ensure that vegetables constitute the largest part of your diet.

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    Fiber

    Fibrous foods are not processed properly by the body and thus are digested slowly. Since fibrous foods cannot be digested easily, your stomach feels full. You would not feel hungry, which would help improve your intake of avoidable foods and thus help stabilize blood glucose levels. Thus these keep blood sugar levels normal and lower the risk of heart disease and keep diabetes at bay. Besides, a diet rich in fiber helps control the risk of colon cancer.

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    Sugar

    A diabetic does not always have to eliminate sugar from their diet, though moderating sugar intake would certainly help control blood glucose levels. It is best to save sweets and desserts for special occasions.

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    Fat

    The American Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics limit their fat intake to 30 percent of the daily calories. Eating less of saturated fats, which are rich in cholesterol, will help keep blood cholesterol levels under control. A diabetic must learn to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy fats. Try lowering the intake of trans and saturated fats, which are categorized as unhealthy fats. Diabetics should opt for polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, which are healthy fats and help lower the risk of heart disease. Avoid high fat dairy products, egg yolks, poultry skin and organ meats, and choose low portions of lean meats.

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    Time Management

    The right diet for diabetes is the one that constitutes a mixture of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Maintaining a regular meal schedule and eating habits is important for diabetics. The body can better regulate blood glucose levels when a regular meal schedule is maintained. Remember, never to skip breakfast and eat small meals at regular intervals. Aim for moderate and consistent portion sizes for each meal or snack. Regulating the amount of calories at every mealtime will impact the regularity of your blood glucose. Eat about the same amount of calories at every mealtime and avoid overeating or fasting. Try to maintain a regular balance in your diet.

    Consult a registered dietitian to diagnose your nutritional needs, including quantity of protein, fat and carbohydrate, and chalk up a diabetic diet plan. The dietitian will assess the calories required by your body per day. On the whole, the right diet for a diabetic comprises 50 to 60 percent of calorie intake from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fats and 10 to 20 percent from protein.

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    Weight Management

    Besides focusing on the right diet for diabetes, diabetics must ensure that they maintain a healthy weight, as extra fat makes it difficult for the body to process and use its own insulin. Maintaining an exercise regimen helps restrict weight gain and keep weight under control.

    The bottom line is that eating in moderation, sticking to regular mealtimes, keeping weight in check, following an exercise regimen and eating a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains will keep your blood glucose levels under control, thus preventing you from heart diseases.

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    References

    1. Info on Proven Natural Treatments & Diet for Diabetics: http://www.diabetes-guide.org/

    2. Here is the American Diabetes Association Diet: http://www.diabetes-guide.org/american-diabetes-association-diet.htm

    3. The "Diabetic" Diet: http://www.endocrinologist.com/The-Diabetic-Diet.html

    4. Fat and Diabetes: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/fat-and-diabetes.html

    5. Diabetes Diet and Food Tips: http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_diabetes.htm