Diabetes is a disease which affects a significant portion of our population. It is estimated that 14.3% of the adult population in Guyana has diabetes and it causes over a thousand deaths yearly. With such a significant impact, there is a good possibility that you are reading this article because you are either directly or indirectly affected by diabetes.
Having a healthy eating plan can prolong life for those with diabetes and prevent others from acquiring it. A diabetic diet is a healthy-eating plan that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In fact, a diabetes diet is the best eating plan for almost everyone. We will therefore review some key concepts that make up a healthy diabetic diet.
EAT LESS MORE OFTEN
Instead of eating three large meals that overwhelm your body and send surges in your blood glucose levels, it is wiser to eat smaller portions at regular intervals. Having three smaller meals with two snacks in between is a good way to start.
EAT HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES
During digestion, sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood glucose. Focus on the healthiest carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and low-fat dairy products.
USE FIBRE-RICH FOODS
Often patients tell me they were advised to avoid fruits since they are rich in sugar. This is a myth. Fruits are rich in fibre and when used in moderation, it will be of benefit to you. Dietary fibre includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fibre can decrease the risk of heart disease and help control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fibre include vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole-wheat flour and wheat bran. There are also fibre preparations in tablet or powdered forms which can ensure you have your daily fibre requirements.
EAT HEART-HEALTHY FISH AT LEAST TWICE A WEEK
Fish can be a good alternative to high-fat meats. They have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than do meat and poultry. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and bluefish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health by lowering blood fats called triglycerides. However, avoid fried fish and fish with high levels of mercury, such as king mackerel.
Foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — such as avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, olives, and canola, olive and peanut oils — can help lower your cholesterol levels. Eat them sparingly, however, as all fats are high in calories.
MINIMIZE OR AVOID THE REGULAR USE OF THE FOLLOWING FOODS:
Simple carbohydrate foods send your blood glucose surging rapidly. Limiting foods such as Jams, sugar, cake, candy, soft drinks, white rice, white bread, pastries, fruit juice concentrates etc. will help to prevent surges in your blood sugar. I wish to highlight the prevalent Guyanese diet of rice and roti. It is a custom to regularly eat rice and roti daily. Minimizing the portions of rice and roti in your diet daily should help to curb your high blood sugar levels over time. If you must have rice and roti daily, then use whole-wheat flour and brown rice.
High-fat dairy products and animal proteins such as beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon contain saturated fats. Get no more than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat.
These types of fats are found in processed snacks, baked goods, shortening and stick margarines and should be avoided completely.
Sources of cholesterol include high-fat dairy products and high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, shellfish, liver, and other organ meats.
This is found in salt and some beverage preparations. Avoiding foods and drinks high in salt/sodium preparation should contribute to a healthy diet.
There isn’t such a thing as the one perfect food. Using a variety of different foods and watching portion sizes is key to a healthy diet. A healthy diet and a diabetic diet should not be different. So as much as I started the article introducing the diabetic diet, the reality is it should be the family diet and everyone should eat the same healthy meal, not just the diabetic.