Having diabetes does not in any way mean that you have to be deprived and live in anxiety about what to eat. On the contrary, by following some basic rules you can control your disease and enjoy your food. So, what are these little rules that even non-diabetics should follow?
Good food is one of the pleasures of life, but also a pleasant way of communication, since it is often at the center of our social life. Being diagnosed with diabetes should not prevent any patient from enjoying a wide variety of foods, as long as they adapt and follow basic rules.
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder in which an increase in blood sugar (glucose) is observed, either because there is not enough insulin or because it does not have a satisfactory effect on various organs of the body, such as muscles, liver and adipose tissue (commonly known as body fat).
A prerequisite for the proper treatment of diabetes is the regulation of blood sugar levels. All foods affect blood sugar levels. Therefore, by making the right dietary choices, we can better control our sugar levels and consequently our diabetes. There is no one-size-fits-all diet for diabetics, as people with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as a healthy person. So, the goal of every diabetic person should be to adopt a healthy diet and maintain a normal body weight. Studies have shown that proper nutrition can lead to a reduction of glycosylated hemoglobin – the most representative glycemic index – by 1% -2%.
There are three main categories of nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Proper nutrition should include all three categories, always maintaining balance:
- 1/2 of the dish should be occupied by vegetables and fruits of different types. These are rich in fibers, which are characterized by slow absorption.
- 1/4 of the dish should include carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, bread), preferably whole grains, because they raise blood sugar less after eating.
- The remaining 1/4 of the dish should contain protein (fish, skinless chicken or turkey, lean red meat and legumes).
All people with diabetes should make a proper distribution of their meals, always in direct relation to the type and method of their medication (tablets or insulin). There should be three main meals and 2-3 snacks in their daily diet, while the total daily intake of carbohydrates should be observed. Fasting for many hours does not help regulate your blood sugar. No meal should be skipped and the right schedule is crucial, especially for patients taking insulin.
To help fight night hypoglycemia, especially in patients who take insulin at night or before bed, it is absolutely necessary to have a small meal before bed – “bed time snack” – which is usually light, such as ½ glass of milk with 1.5% fat and 1-2 rusks without sugar.
The way we cook plays a huge role in our diet. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs or glycotoxins for short, are produced endogenously when circulating blood sugars are increased. Then, they get hooked and stuck on the cells, preventing their function. But there are also dietary glycotoxins that are absorbed when food is prepared quickly and at high temperatures (“fast food”). Thus, foods cooked in the oven or pan contain more AGEs than those cooked or poached.
Dietary glycotoxins (AGEs) make it difficult to regulate sugar and contribute to the complications of diabetes, in the eyes, kidneys, heart and blood vessels.Thus, for a healthy diabetes diet, it is recommended to pay attention not only to the quantity and type of diet, but also to the way of cooking.
- Small and frequent meals that distribute carbohydrates throughout the day.
- Choosing a healthy way of cooking.
- Consume a variety of foods, always maintaining the right balance with the consumption of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Plenty of water.
- Avoid sugary drinks and limit alcohol.
- Maintaining a normal body weight.
A healthy diet, like the diet of people with diabetes, is what we all need to follow to stay healthy. Let’s not forget that the best treatment is prevention, so adopt these rules whether you are diabetic or not!