Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic and chronic disease, non-transmissible and of multifactorial etiology, caused by the abnormalities in the secretion and/or function of insulin or in other words prevents your body from properly using the energy from the food you eat. Approximately 95% of the diabetic people suffer from type 2 Diabetes; in its early stages, it is asymptomatic and it is most frequent in individuals over 40 years of age.
Type 2 DIabetes (T2D) causes serious health conditions since it doubles and even triples the probability of suffering a heart attack or a stroke. Additionally, T2D can produce metabolic decompensations and lead to chronic afflictions, such as neuropathy (nerve damage), retinopathy (eyesight), nephropathy (kidney), and peripheral vascular disease.
Although the main goal in every T2D treatment is to adequately control blood sugar levels, the importance of a healthy lifestyle is crucial to prevent acute and chronic decompensations. An efficient nutrition plan is one of the main pillars of non-pharmacological treatments in diabetes, which goes hand-in-hand with daily exercise. An adequate food regimen is able to manage blood sugar levels, and in some cases, reverse the effects after a period of time.
Should I Eliminate Sugar?
Diabetes is defined as an increase in blood sugar levels, thus some people who are diabetic try to eliminate all sugar from their diet to manage their diabetes. Although it is a good health practice, it is not enough to manage your diabetes properly. Sugar belongs to a group called carbohydrates, which are macronutrients that provide our body vitality and calories. Carbohydrates can be classified into two groups: sugars and starches. Sugars include table sugar, sweeteners, fruits, vegetables, legumes, juice, chocolate, and pastries, while starches are present in rice, pasta, bread, cereals, and potatoes. They are the fundamental body fuel.
Although very hard it is recommended that you cut down or eliminate from your diet sweet, sugary drinks and all processed foods and it is recommended to choose healthier options like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains which have more nutritional value than refined carbs and have a higher fiber content. Our body processes fiber more slowly, thus it maintains steady blood sugar levels. Thus, vegetables, fruits, and legumes must compose the majority of your carbohydrate percentage.
Appropriate Carbohydrate Intake
According to the American Association of Diabetes (ADA), there is no established carbohydrate quantity recommended for the treatment of T2D since it must be adapted to every individual. The number of carbs a diabetic person can consume depends on many factors, such as age, physical activity, or any other health condition. It is safe to say that daily exercise does modify your caloric intake; someone who exercises more frequently can have a higher carb content than someone who has a desk job and does little to none physical activity.
Additionally, people who are treated with insulin or medication must have adequate food consumption because it can lead to hypoglycemias. Thus, they must manage similar food quantities throughout the day. Take into consideration that hypoglycemias (low blood sugar levels) are more life-threatening than hyperglycemia.
Fats and Protein Intake
The impact of consuming food products rich in fats (oils, butter, nuts, milk) and protein (meat, chicken, fish, tofu, soy) is more limited compared to sugar intake. Food with high fat or protein content has little relevance in blood sugar levels since it does not increase blood sugar. This is due to the fact that only carbohydrates have a glycemic index. The glycemic index is how much a certain food product will increase blood sugar levels after consuming it and it is only applicable to carbs.
Thus, fats and protein are a great food source for energy, vitamins, and minerals that every person, including those with diabetes, must include for balanced nutrition. However, if you consume too many fats and protein, it can cause weight gain, mood swings, hormonal imbalances, that will eventually affect your blood sugar levels.
What is the Best Meal Regimen?
Now that you understand how every macronutrient (carbs, fats, and protein) affects our body and have different effects on blood sugar levels, let’s determine the ideal food diet for diabetic people. First, you must understand that every meal plan must be personalized and adjusted for each individual since many factors, such as age, weight, physical activity, etc. contribute to metabolic changes. However, there are certain
key components all meals must-have. This includes:
- Diet to include fruits vegetables, legumes and grains as your main carb source.
- Food with high fiber content (beans, oats, fruits, prunes).
- Limit the consumption of refined carbohydrates, such as rice, bread, candy, pastries, and sugary drinks.
- Drink plentiful quantities of liquids (at least 2 liters a day): water, tea(unsweetened) and minimal amounts of natural juices but mostly water is best.
- Choose healthier cooking techniques like baked, grilled, steamed, boiled, and braised.
- Reduce salt consumption as this increases blood pressure.
- Consume moderate amounts of fats and protein preferably from plant sources, two examples are walnuts and avocados
- Avoid packaged or processed food products such as frozen dinners since they contain hidden sugar.
- Invest your time to prepare your own meals. You will be able to know what you are eating and how
Meal Plan Methods
You know have the elements to construct your daily meal plan and start your journey in controlling successfully your diabetes. However, there is a final issue we have to address: the quantity of food. You may have the best meal plan in the world, but if you are consuming six servings of butter or ten servings of low- fat ice cream, there is no real significance. You must be able to manage the portion of your servings.
This design will help you portion adequately the sizes of your meal. It was created by the ADA as a way for diabetic people to take control of their eating habits, based on a nine-inch plate. You will divide your plate into three sections; each one represents your carb, fat and protein intake. Half of the plate must be composed of fruits and nonstarchy vegetables; one-fourth of the plate has your protein (meat, fish, chicken, or soy) and the last remaining one-fourth are your carbs, one grain or starch. Keep mind that it is only one carb source (it is not rice and potatoes; it means rice or potatoes).
Remember that you can eat three main meals or divide them into six smaller meals, where the composition must be the same: 50% of your calories come from carbs (healthy carbs), 30% comes from fats and 20% comes from protein.
A clinical trial conducted in 2007 assessed the effectiveness of portion size in obese individuals with T2D. The results revealed that patients were able to achieve a 5% weight loss, which is crucial in reducing significantly the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Even more, some patients had the astonishing outcome of reducing their medication to control their blood sugar levels since portion control could stabilize adequately these levels.
You can also utilize the size of your hand to portion meals the following way:
A serving of meat or chicken is equal to the palm. A handful must be the size of your snacks.
The size of your thumb is the amount of oil or butter
Carbs portions must be equal to the size of your clenched fist
Your cupped hand represents the number of vegetables and fruits you can consume.
The National Institute of Health NIH) promotes portion control through the plate method and the hand portion size. It is literally in your hands the power to stabilize your blood sugar levels by an efficient meal plan,
Now, you are able to prepare efficient meal plans that will handle appropriately blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and if done correctly, may even reverse the effects.