Diabetes is one of those diseases in which a person needs diet therapy. In addition to controlling glucose levels, a diet is also needed to address the problem of excess weight, which is common in diabetics.
How does diabetes begin, what types of diabetes exist, is there prevention through diet, and how do you eat if you already have diabetes?
How does diabetes start and what does hormones have to do with it?
Diabetes occurs when blood glucose or sugar levels are too high. Blood glucose is the main source of energy and comes mostly from food. Or from liver stores when there is not enough sugar from food. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps glucose from the blood to make its way to the body’s cells, which use it for energy.
Another hormone, glucagon, works with insulin to control blood glucose levels. Glucagon releases glucose stored in the body (mainly in the liver) and thus allows glucose to flow from the body cells back into the blood when sugar levels are low. Insulin and glucagon maintain optimal blood glucose levels and help avoid hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
People with diabetes often have both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia (especially those who take medications and insulin injections).
The 3 main types of diabetes are.
- Type 1 diabetes is 5% to 10% of all cases
In most people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system, which normally fights infection, attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. As a result, the pancreas stops producing insulin. Without insulin, glucose cannot get into your cells and blood levels rise above normal. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin to survive.
- Type 2 diabetes is 90-95% of all cases
In type 2 diabetes, regulation of the body’s use of glucose as fuel is impaired. This chronic disease causes too much sugar to circulate in the bloodstream. As a result, high sugar levels can lead to circulatory, nervous and immune system disorders.
There are two problems with type 2 diabetes:
The pancreas does not produce enough insulin, which regulates the movement of sugar into cells;
cells do not respond well to insulin and consume less sugar.
- Gestational diabetes occurs in 7% of pregnant women
This type of diabetes is diagnosed precisely at the onset of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes also disrupts the cells’ use of glucose. Blood sugar levels rise and this affects the course of pregnancy and the health of the baby.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that can take years to form. But this time can also be turned to your advantage: over these years, you can change your eating habits and «push» yourself away from diabetes.
There are some important recommendations:
Try to choose foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber. These are whole-grain products, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts and seeds.
Try to eliminate sweet fizzy and still drinks from your diet, and also consume as little as possible products with added sugar: they contain many calories and almost no nutrients (these are the same drinks, including concentrated juices, all kinds of sweets and dairy products, where sugar is a separate line).
This is a therapeutic type of diet, so ideally you should consult with your physician or or a clinical nutritionist. They will tailor the diet to your individual energy needs, treatment goals, medications you are taking, and your level of motivation in general.
According to the American Academy of Diabetes, the generally accepted recommendation for diabetes is 50% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 30% fat.
Yes: Despite the demonization of carbohydrates in the diabetic diet, low-carb diets are not recommended by any leading health organization. However, in diabetes, it is worth completely eliminating sugary drinks (sodas, undiluted fruit juices). This is the same recommendation as for preventive diets. But it is not necessary to exclude sugar completely: the most important thing is the total amount of carbohydrates per meal. The main thing is to limit the amount of foods with added sugar.
Meals on a plate — the main method of eating with diabetes
It is based on general principles of healthy eating (example: plate and portion size, food groups, foods containing carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, milk, yogurt, sweets, desserts).
Simply put, your imaginary plate should contain all the foods you need for the day.
Consider the instructions given by the American Academy of Diabetes
The diameter of the plate is about 23 cm. You can use an ordinary plate. Just draw an imaginary line in the middle, then divide one of the resulting halves in two again. Now your plate is divided into 3 parts.
The largest part should be filled with non-starchy vegetables:
- bell peppers;
- garlic, etc.
Put starchy vegetables in one of the smaller compartments:
In the second small compartment, put the protein:
fillet of chicken, turkey;
For snacks, leave a portion of fruit, dairy products, or both, if your meal plan allows.
For cooking, use vegetable oils and healthy additives: nuts, grains, seeds.
From drinks choose water, unsweetened tea or coffee.
To summarize: try to gradually change your eating habits to prevent diabetes, avoid foods with added sugar in large quantities, try to drink tea and coffee without sugar.
To adjust your diabetes diet, consult your doctor and, if possible, use the plate eating method.