Diabetes and Diet

Diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood, which can cause several problems including: blurry vision, excessive thirst, fatigue, lack of energy, coma, eventually loss of limbs and blindness if left untreated.

The main types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Pre diabetes
  • Gestational (pregnancy) diabetes which usually is not lifelong

Type 1 Diabetes - Type 1 diabetes also known as juvenile-onset diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which affects only 10 to 15 percent of diabetics. It results when the body's immune system (for fighting infection) attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them causing the pancreas to under-produce insulin which we need every day to live. We don't know what causes it but it may be a virus and probably has a genetic component. It develops most often in children and young adults. Type 1 diabetics need to carefully watch their diets and have daily insulin shots.

Type 2 Diabetes - The most common form of diabetes, Type 2, often called adult-onset diabetes affects between 90 to 95 percent of diabetics. It is associated with age, obesity, diet, family history, a history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity and ethnicity. Some 80 percent of people with Type 2 are overweight. Unfortunately it's increasingly being diagnosed in overweight children and adolescents. The pancreas usually produces enough insulin, but for unknown reasons the body cannot use it effectively. Insulin production decreases and the result is the same as for type 1. Symptoms develop gradually and may include fatigue or nausea, frequent urination, unusual thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slow healing of wounds or sores. Some people have no symptoms.

Diabetes Diet:

Some people especially pre-diabetics can control their situation, that of being close to having full blown diabetes with diet alone, others with diabetes need to be careful of what they eat and still others also need to take dietary care and in addition, take daily shots. Diet is paramount in all these conditions.

Diet Goal:

The diet goal is to eat a balanced, portion controlled meal that will allow your body to stay on an even keel and not have highs and lows that sugars cause, throughout the day as the components of each meal hit the system.

Eating every two to three hours is best, five or six small meals being recommended, and light exercise after each meal will help kick start the digestive system and prevent a spike in sugar levels.

If we can include appropriate serving sizes from each food category at each meal, they will break down at different rates, delivering a steady trickle of sugar into the bloodstream and keeping our energy level stable. This saves our system from having to deal with a great flood or influx all at once, as it would if we ate only carbohydrates or only protein.

Diabetic Diet:

The ideal diabetic meal will consist of a combination of foods. Some foods cross categories, like bread products when some are high in fat, fat free dairy items that provide protein, and some starchy vegetables. Our needs will vary depending on the time of day and how much physical activity you engage in. Following is a sample diabetic complete meal:

  • One serving of protein (3 oz [size of palm] of lean poultry (without skin), lean beef, fish or shellfish that is broiled or grilled but not fried
  • One serving of small whole grain roll, bread, tortilla or ½ cup whole grain pasta
  • One serving of fat free or 1% dairy or soy cheese, milk or sour cream
  • One serving vegetables (fist sized portion or a small bowl of salad)
  • One serving fruit (tennis ball sized or ½ cup sliced)

Small amounts of unsaturated fats are needed so add a little dressing or a pat of soft (tub or spray) margarine. Avoid sweets, white potatoes, white bread and consider the fruit or sugar-free pudding or ice cream your dessert!

Foods that should be avoided include; fatty red meat, fried or breaded red meat, fish or poultry, organ meat, highly processed foods like cakes, donuts and cookies, fried vegetables, most but not all fast food, high cholesterol food and foods rich in saturated fat such as butter, cheese and fatty meat.

There are thousands of foods on a diabetic diet for you to enjoy so instead of thinking about what you can't have, look at what you can eat.