First, just a little background information on diabetes. Diabetes is a disease not uncommon in society. There are two types of diabetes known as Type 1 and Type 2. People who have Diabetes Type 1 are usually diagnosed when they are children or teenagers. Their pancreas does not produce enough insulin which is a hormone our body needs for healthy living. Insulin helps to remove glucose from the blood. Without insulin, glucose or blood sugar levels become too high.
The vast majority of people with diabetes have Type 2. It means their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells in the body simply ignore the insulin. One way of describing their condition is to say they are ‘insulin resistant’.
Without insulin or without insulin playing its rightful role in our cells, people suffer from diabetes and often feel drowsy, can become extremely hungry and thirsty, need to urinate far more than normal and may lose weight and suffer from blurry vision.
If left untreated, diabetes can cause the symptoms listed above but also contribute to heart disease, hinder blood circulation to limbs and even be fatal.
People with diabetes who are on medication have it strictly controlled and take the appropriate insulin based on regular testing of their blood sugar levels. Insulin can be taken by injection or tablet.
But apart from the intake of insulin, two important aspects of treatment involve diet and exercise.
Missed meals and snacks
Diabetics can suffer from hypoglycaemia which is a low blood glucose level. Diet as mentioned is a part of preventing this and with some diabetics having snacks between meals is essential. Missing a meal or even delaying a meal can have serious consequences for a diabetic. A wise diabetic will always carry an appropriate snack in case of emergency.
Some types of food are not good for diabetics
One of the rewarding aspects of treatment is that no special diet is required for a diabetic. Of course every diabetic is an individual and care should be taken to ensure their diet is right for them, even consulting a dietician if necessary. But generally speaking, a healthy diet is the right diet. Eating well and sensibly is the ideal. There are four food components which should be avoided or certainly greatly reduced. They are:
- Fats particularly saturated fats
- Salt and
- Added sugars
It is relatively easy to remove or significantly reduce all of these components by concentrating on what you consume. Eating healthy foods means you eat less of the bad ingredients. And the added bonus is that the healthy diet helps you maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is never good and for a diabetic it can be disastrous. If you can include a sensible and regular exercise routine to your sensible and appropriate diet then so much the better.
Additional benefits of a healthy lifestyle and diet are lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. By treating their condition, a sensible diabetic can improve their overall health in a number of ways.
It’s not just the blood glucose levels being too high with a diabetic which is the problem but that situation becomes far worse if the sufferer is overweight and inactive.
If a diabetic chooses to drink alcohol they should do so in moderation.
One of the consequences of taking insulin is the sharpening of the appetite. Diabetics require insulin but do not need extra body weight. They have to maintain blood sugar levels but must have and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
One important point to remember is that a good meal/diet for a diabetic is equally suitable and good for a non-diabetic. Family meals do not necessarily need to be different if someone in the group has diabetes.
These foods are highly recommended
All diabetics should eat from the foods listed below. But people with Type 1 diabetes must do more than get their diet right. Getting the daily quota of fresh fruit and vegetables is important but equally so is the amount, type and timing of your food choices.
It comes down to the right food, in the right quantity at the right time.
- Cereals – these should preferably be wholegrain and include rice, pasta, bread and noodles.
- Vegetables and fruit including legumes which include beans, peas, lentils and nuts.
- Meat, fish and poultry which should all be lean with skin off and cooked in a healthy way.
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt and again those with low or reduced fat are preferable.
- Water is a recommended beverage and in good quantities throughout the day.
Of course, the above is only a guideline as no two individuals are the same, and how food impacts individuals with diabetes, will vary from person to person, so it goes without saying, the best person to draw up a recommended diet would be your personal doctor who will, if necessary, draw up on advice from a dietician.