Healthy eating for diabetes

Myth “People with diabetes can’t eat sugar”
Truth It’s impossible to avoid sugar altogether but sugar and sugar foods are converted into glucose faster than other foods so they can cause a sudden rise in your blood glucose level. Eating less sugar reduces the strain on your pancreas (the organ that produces insulin). If you want to eat sweet foods, have them at the end of meal when your body is already digesting other food in order to slow down the rise in your blood glucose.

What should I eat now that I have diabetes?
Healthy eating is the key to managing your diabetes. The principles of healthy eating for you are the same as those for everyone else. No foods are banned but eating more of some foods and less of others can help keep you healthy and your blood glucose level within the recommended range. Sometime,s you may not have a choice about what food is available but, generally, you can adapt recipes and meals so that you can enjoy food while still eating healthy.

How do I know whether I’m eating a balanced diet?
Selecting a balance of foods from the main food groups is the first step. Aim for complex carbohydrates (starches) and fiber (such as bread, pasta, and whole grains) to make up about a third of what you eat, with fruit and vegetables forming another third. Making up the rest of your food intake form protein foods and dairy products (2-3 servings daily from each group) will give you a healthy balance. Choosing lower fat alternatives where you can will help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Does it really matter what I eat? My health professional told me I’ll eventually need to take pills – and probably insulin – anyway.
Eating healthily is not simply about avoiding medication to treat your diabetes – it reduces your risk of heart and circulatory diseases, helps your digestive system work more efectivley, and helps your pancreas be more efficient if it is struggling to produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes is progressive and you may need pills and insulin in time, but eating healthily can help slow down this progression and make it easier to manage your blood glucose level.

Which carbohydrate-containing foods are better for me?
Starchy carbohydrates, including bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals, and legumes, are better because they take longer to digest and therefore cause your blood glucose to rise more slowly than sweet carbohydrates such as white sugar, chocolate, and sugary drinks.

I know that protein doesn’t really affect my blood glucose, so does it matter what type I eat?
Protein foods that are low in fat, such as low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese, and beans, peas, and lentils will reduce your risk of heart disease. Eating oily fish two to three times a week and having less red meat will also protect your heart.

I’m a vegetarian and have Type 2 diabetes. Does this make any difference to what I should eat?
Healthy eating principles for diabetes remain the same whether you are vegetarian or following any other eating pattern. One of the advantages of vegetarian eating is that it is usually lower in fat because it doesn’t include meat. You will know what sources of protein you prefer to meat, but there is no difference in the amount or type of carbohydrate you need to eat.

My local supermarket seems to label every food as healthy – how can I tell if they are?
Many supermarkets now sell ranges of food that are healthier tan their counterparts. It could mean the food is healthier is only one aspect or several – for example, less fat, less sugar, fewer calories, or more fiber, or it could include a range of more healthy aspect. Reading the label will help you figure out which foods might help you reach your healthy eating goals. In general, processed foods will still be less healthy than those you prepare using fresh ingredients.

Do I need to eat special diabetic foods?
No foods labeled “diabetic” are often expensive and do not give you any benefits. They usually contain the sweetener sorbitol, which has 2.6 calories/gram (compared with 4 calories/gram for glucose). Sorbitol causes a slower rise in your blood glucose but in large quantities it can give you diarrhea.

Should I use artificial sweeteners?
You can use artificial sweeteners as an alternative to sugar to sweeten food and drinks, such as tea and coffee. These products contain aspartame, saccharin, cyclamate, accsulfame K, or sucralose, none of which will affect your blood glucose. Those products are classed as food additives and, for his reason, have been tested for safety.

I have high blood pressure and need to cut down on salt, how can I do this?
Reducing the amount of salt you add to your meals, either while you are cooking or at the table, will reduce your overall salt intake. Most processed and convenience foods (including stock cubes and soy sauce) tend to be high in salt, so cutting down on these can also help reduce your salt intake.

How can I make sure that when I eat fruit my blood glucose doesn’t rise too high?
The fructose in fruit and fruit juice will make your blood glucose level rise. If you eat more than one piece of fruit at a time. Eating fruit after starchy meals and spacing out your fruit intake throughout the day will give you the nutritional benefits without raising your blood glucose too high.

Which drinks will make my blood glucose level go up?
Sugar drinks such as glucose drinks, cols, lemonade, and orange juice are digested very quickly and can cause a sharp rise in your blood glucose level (which is why it is recommended that you drink them when your blood glucose is too low). Sugar added to tea or coffee will have the same effect. Because your body is unable suddenly to increase its insulin production when you have Type 2 diabetes, your blood glucose may take some time to return to an acceptable level.

Which drinks won’t affect my blood glucose level?
For day-to-day drinks, water or sugar-free drinks such as diet cola won’t affect your blood glucose level. Tea, coffee, and other hot drinks without added sugar will not affect your diabetes. Drinking them with skim or low-fat milk will ensure that their fat content is not too high. Powered drinks can have a high sugar content, so check the label to determine what effect they are likely to have.

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