Hi everyone! It’s world diabetes day today and as a sequel to the previous post, i’d be sharing some important things on diabetes. First i’d start by explaining what diabetes is.
Diabetes is an illness that consists of high and abnormal sugar levels in the body.
A person without diabetes naturally releases insulin to keep the blood sugar from going too high while a person with diabetes cannot release insulin naturally and has to inject it in to control blood sugar because their bodies don’t produce or properly use insulin.
Diabetes comes in two forms;
a) Type 1 Diabetes (formerly called juvenile onset diabetes)
This is believed to be a genetic auto immune disease where the pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all. Insulin is a hormone needed by the body to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. In type 2 diabetes, the immune system of the body destroys the pancreas cells that produce and release insulin. This makes it impossible for sugar (it’s converted to glucose in the body) which is needed by the cells for energy to be absorbed, due to lack of insulin. It’s usually diagnosed in young people and is said to be genetic or inherited.
b) Type 2 Diabetes (formerly called adult onset diabetes)
This is the most common type of diabetes where the insulin produced by the pancreas is not being utilised the right way. The insulin needed to enable glucose enter cells becomes insufficient. Overtime as blood sugar increases due to lack of absorption of glucose into the cells, the pancreas begins to produce less and less insulin which later leads to insulin deficiency. type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in people who are overweight and inactive.
A healthy diet can make it easier for blood sugar levels to be controlled by balancing meals with a healthy amount of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats. A simple diabetes diet can help reduce fat, bring blood glucose levels under control and help an individual to become more healthy overall.
When looking for healthy diabetic meals, you should be looking for meals that do not affect blood sugar. Such meals are types that are beneficial and healthy for people with the major types of diabetes i.e Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes. As we know there are 5 classes of food ranging from carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins & minerals. For the normal functioning of the human body, all classes of food are very important but for diabetics, a class of food is best avoided at all cost and should only be taken in little quantities. That class of food is carbohydrate. This is because when carbohydrate is ingested by diabetics, it’s converted to sugar and we all know sugar is an enemy to people with diabetes. Even if carbohydrate seems to be an enemy to so many diets these days, like it or not we all need them for energy and brain function. It could be really hard getting rid of all the carbohydrates in the foods but it’s recommended to get rid of most (not all) to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Just as you’re getting to know the carbohydrate and sugar content of various foods, Monitoring your cholesterol levels and saturated fats in your food is also important to avoid the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. So what classes of foods are recommended for diabetics? All of them which includes; Protein, Vitamins and minerals which is needed in macro quantity and Fat & Carbohydrate (which is needed in minute quantity).
The good thing about protein and fat/oil is that, it slows down the conversion of food to blood sugar especially if you’re still eating carbohydrates.
Now i’d have to state here that most foods don’t come with just one class of food but a mixture of all the classes of food although quantity of some classes are far greater than others.
So what are the healthy meals for diabetics? (Click here for the full list)
Beans as a whole such as brown beans, honey beans, soya beans, kidney beans are perfect for diabetics. It’s very easy for the lay man to say beans contains just protein but that is not true. Beans actually contains; protein, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals depending on the type of beans. The thing is, the percentage content of protein is far greater that the other classes of food combined together while the carbohydrate content in beans is very little but needed. This is one of the reasons why beans is recommended for people with diabetes. Meals like moi moi, akara, tofu and drinks like soy milk are great for people with diabetes.
Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, water, phytochemicals and antioxidants and generally low in calories and carbohydrates, making them an excellent option for diabetics. Calciferous Vegetables such as; red or green cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Asparagus are perfect for diabetics. They could be eaten raw or steamed lightly.
Allium vegetables such as; Garlic, scallions onion, leeks and shallots are allium vegetables known for their antibacterial properties and low carb content are also perfect for diabetics. They help boost immunity as well as reduce inflammation.
Unripe plantain is also great because it has a low glycemic index. This can be made into “swallow” and taken with diabetic friendly meals or made into a snack.
3. Fresh Fruits
Most diabetic patients try to avoid fruits due to the fear that the sugar contained in fruits (fructose) could increase blood sugar level which is not 100% fact. Although not all fruits are suitable for diabetics, fruits which contain a high fiber content and low sugar content are good for diabetics. Fruits with low glycemic index such as Grapes, Cranberries , Pomegranate, Kiwi fruit, Pears, Plums, Strawberries, Nectarines, Citrus fruits, Apples, Avocados, Bananas, Berries, Peaches, Cherries, Grapefruit, Guava are perfect for diabetics and help in controlling blood sugar. Here’s a point to consider though, never drink fruit juices made from concentrate. These are packed with sugar and preservatives which are not natural and not suitable.
4. Leafy green vegetables
Whether or not green leafy vegetables ultimately prove to be effective in reducing diabetes risk, there are still plenty of reasons to incorporate these nutritional powerhouses into your diet, including their high vitamin and mineral levels, their low carbohydrate content, and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Leafy greens include spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, mango leaves, moringa, green tea leaf
5. Whole grains
Research has shown that eating whole grains with low GI such as Whole Oats, Whole Wheat, Brown rice, Barley, Quinoa, Millet, Acha can help to prevent blood sugar spikes during the day in people living with diabetes. This is because whole grains are rich in fiber which can help slow down the absorption of glucose into the blood. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals which makes them a better choice than refined carbohydrates. Consuming about one-cup serving of cooked oats or brown rice is a generally safe amount at any one meal and can lower the risk of blood sugar spike. Quinoa is also a highly nutritious seed that is high in protein and fiber plus, It helps in slowing down the rise of blood glucose.
6. Nuts & Seeds
Eating any kind of nuts or a mixture of nuts such as; Almond nuts, Walnuts, Cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, Groundnut and Tiger nuts is good for diabetics and it helps lower the risks of diabetes and heart diseases as long as it’s eaten in moderation and also balanced with healthy food choices. Groundnuts contain essential amino acids as well as beneficial antioxidants , Almonds are one of the most nutrient-dense nuts, high in vitamin E. Cashews lead the pack in magnesium. Tiger nuts is rich in protein, fiber, vitamin E and helps regulate blood sugar level. Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which may have protective benefit against prostate cancer in men. Walnuts are the only nut source of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Almonds, peanuts and pistachios have the most benefit in lowering cholesterol.
7. Dairy products
Dairy products such as egg, yogurt are great for diabetics. This is because they are packed with high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals. Protein not only slows digestion, it also slows glucose absorption, which is very helpful if you have diabetes. Egg intake according to scientists should be limited to three a week. If you only eat egg whites, you can feel comfortable eating more. This is because the saturated fats is contained in the yolk alone.
Also, fermented foods, such as yogurt, contain good bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to improve gut health. When searching for yogurts, look for yogurts with high protein content and low carbohydrates, e.g unflavored Greek yogurt or plain unsweetened yogurt.
8. Oils (Palm oil, Groundnut oil, Vegetable oil, Olive oil)
Healthy oils which are good for diabetics include; Groundnut oil, Olive oil, Almond oil, Sesame oil, Avocado oil, Hazelnut oil, Canola oil, Pumpkin seed oil. This is because they are high in monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids. and low in saturated fats.
9. Lean Fish & Poultry
Most fish, seafood and chicken (without the skin) are great for diabetics. This is because they are rich in protein, low in unhealthy saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol. Fish is a natural source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and it does not have any carbohydrate, so it will not cause blood glucose to rise.
Technically, this is not a meal but a compulsory universal solvent for everyone most especially diabetics. Dehydration risks is greater for people living with diabetes. This is because increased blood glucose depletes fluids and to get rid of glucose in the blood, water is required to pass it out through urine. Causes of dehydration include insufficient fluid intake, sweating because of hot weather or exercise, alcohol, diarrhea, or vomiting. This is one of the reasons why thirst is one of the main symptoms of diabetes.
Are you diabetic? What meals do you take and how do you manage the ailment. Do share your experiences to help someone out there.
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