Nutrition for Managing Diabetes

Written & Researched By Kamya Patel

It’s no secret that sugar is a critical part of diabetes. To be specific, the glucose from blood sugar is an energy source for the body that needs to be regularly managed in cases of diabetes. Since most of the body’s sugar comes from carbohydrates, such as rice, bread, sodas, and candy, patients need to make proper food choices for themselves every day. Most importantly, one’s diabetes diet plan should revolve around personal goals, daily lifestyle, food preferences, health conditions, body weight, and use of medications. Therefore, these plans should outline more than just the foods that the patient needs to consume; the amount of each food, calorie intake, eating time, etc., should also be included to help the patient develop a routine that does not make diabetes a disadvantage for them.

A diabetes diet refers to “a healthy-eating plan that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories” (Mayo Clinic). Typically, a diabetes diet depends on eating three times a day to help the body efficiently make use of insulin and process medication. When diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, consulting with a registered dietitian for a diet plan can be of immense assistance because the purpose of diabetic nutrition is to control blood sugar levels, maintain healthy body weight, and prevent serious health risks. As nutrition experts, they can also provide advice on improving food habits, including portion sizes and activity levels.

A diabetes diet can be created with a variety of approaches, all of which can be utilized separately or in a combination to keep blood sugar within a normal range. First off, one method could be choosing specific foods. A dietitian can curate a categorized list of certain foods for patients to choose from. One serving of all the foods in each category is meant to have similar amounts of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and calories, meaning it should have the same effect on one’s blood glucose. Another method is regularly counting carbohydrates, the food group that makes the most impact on blood glucose levels. With the help of a dietitian, a patient can learn how to track and calculate carbohydrates as well as adjust insulin doses appropriately. Plus, becoming an educated reader of food labels, especially serving sizes and carbohydrate content, can be an important tool. Additionally, the Americans Diabetes Association proposes the plate method for meal planning. The purpose is to form a balanced diet by dividing a plate of food into multiple sections. When preparing a meal with this technique for a diabetes diet, the portions should be the following: non-starchy vegetables filling one half of the plate, a protein in one quarter, a whole-grain item or starchy vegetable in another quarter, small amounts of healthy fats, one serving of fruit and dairy, and one drink of water, unsweetened tea, or coffee.

Furthermore, it is necessary for diabetic patients to steer away from particular foods that can rapidly hinder their blood sugar levels. Obviously, foods that are high in carbohydrates would fall into this classification. For example, starchy vegetables and whole grain products, like tortillas, breads, and pastas, should be consumed in limited amounts. Similarly, consumption of sugary foods (candy, ice cream, cookies, cereals) and sweetened drinks (sodas, energy drinks, some juices) should be reduced. Altogether, following a patient-specific diabetes diet plan, establishing beneficial eating habits, and cutting back on glucose-rich foods is the key to conquering diabetes through nutrition.


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