Diabetes Mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or action, or both.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition that affects the way our body metabolizes sugar.
With type 2 diabetes, our body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.
Though there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, it can still be managed. Lifestyle changes, oral medications (pills), and insulin are the three steps to be taken.
First step: Nutritionally Balanced meals, Exercising and Weight management are effective in managing our blood sugar levels.
Second step: However, if diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage the blood sugar well, then we can resort to diabetes medications.
Third step: If due to any complications we are unable to continue on oral medications, insulin therapy is our last remedy.
A brief of how our body works with respect to type 2 Diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insufficient production of insulin. At first, the pancreas work hard to make up for the deficient insulin. Over a period of time, pancreas become powerless to keep up with the requirement of insulin to maintain the blood glucose at normal levels.
Lack of insulin increases the blood glucose levels in the blood stream. Our cells get deprived of glucose hence they starve for energy resulting in lethargy and weakness.
If not taken proper care, the high blood glucose levels starts affecting the functioning of other organs like the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
Often, when people are diagnosed with diabetes, they don’t know what is required of them to do and where they do need to draw a line with respect to restriction.
In the past, diets for people with diabetes were very restrictive. However now things are different. There isn’t a one-size fits all “Diabetes Diet”
The diets can be more flexible and with a little planning, we can still include our favourite foods in our meal plans.
Dietary management plays an important role in Diabetic care:
Macro nutrients: Carbohydrates / proteins / fats
- They are the main source of energy in our diet. They play a very important role in affecting our blood sugar levels.
- Carbohydrates have a direct and faster impact on the blood glucose level whereas proteins and fat have little to no impact.
- 45 and 55 percent of the day’s total calories should come from carbohydrates.
- Complex carbohydrates are more effective as they supply a steady source of energy and also provide fibre. Fiber helps to keep our blood sugar levels in control.
- Focus on eating more of non-starchy vegetables.
- Simple sugars are best avoided.
- People with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Fat quality is more important than fat quantity.
- Replacing Saturated fats with Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fatty acids is a necessary step.
- Total cholesterol should be less than 200mg per day.
- Eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol can help to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease these risks.
- The usual intake of dietary protein should be approximately 10 to 25 percent of total caloric intake.
- Lean meats, fish, beans, peas, soy products, legumes, nuts and seeds can be eaten.
- Eggs to be eaten in moderation.
- Eating a diet that is high in fibre helps to keep blood glucose levels in control.
- Diabetes diets should provide at least 25 to 30 grams of fibre per day, to control blood glucose levels and haemoglobin A1C.
- Whole fruits are a better option than juices, as they provide us with fibre.
- People with Diabetes are more prone to high blood pressure, hence salt intake needs to be monitored.
- A diet that is low in sodium is recommended to keep blood pressure in control.
- Fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products, can help manage blood pressure.
- It is important to keep yourself hydrated at all times. Water is the best choice.
- Fruit juice or regular cola, can increase blood glucose levels and increase the calorie consumption.
- Caffeine consumption needed to be reduced.
- Alcohol intake should be avoided because it increases the blood glucose levels in the body, followed hours later by a decrease in the blood glucose level.
- Moreover calories from alcohol have little nutritional value.
Smoking is the greatest single lifestyle risk factor for developing diabetic complications.
Smoking affects circulation by increasing heart rate and blood pressure, by making the small blood vessels thinner.
Smoking also makes blood cells and blood vessel walls sticky, thereby allowing dangerous fatty material to build up.
This can lead to heart attack, stroke and other blood vessel disease. Smoking is a strict NO!
For controlling your daily diet program with respect to diabetes we have two unique methods.
1. Carbohydrate counting
2. Exchange planning
Carbohydrate counting or Carb counting is a meal planning technique for managing your blood glucose levels.
It helps you to keep track of the number of carbohydrates that need to be taken at each meal and snack. It is a helpful tool to monitor blood glucose levels, especially for those who are on multiple daily injections.
Carbohydrate are divided for each meal or snack based on the personal preferences, meal timing and spacing, diabetes medications, body weight, and activity levels.
Exchange planning: Foods are categorized as either carbohydrate, protein or fat. In this system, a serving of a carbohydrate can be exchanged for any other carbohydrate. This helps us to add variety to the meals. The same applies for protein and fats.
The exchange lists also identify foods that are good sources of fibre, and foods that have a high sodium content.
The more you know about factors that influence your blood sugar level, the more you can anticipate fluctuations and plan accordingly.
Diabetes is a lifestyle disease…it calls for a LIFESTYLE CHANGE.