Diabetes Diet Help
In helping to managing your type 2 diabetes, everything comes back to balance and consistency in your diet and activities.
The disease impairs your body’s ability to absorb and use glucose, or blood sugar. Consequently, when you consume sugar-rich
foods, such as sugary drinks and cookies, the concentration of your blood sugar can quickly rise to levels than can harm you
in many and severe ways. All the best practices for help in managing your diabetes through diet come down to one thing: keep
your blood sugar at a relatively constant and healthy concentration.
Scientists group the major nutrients in food into three main categories: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. All animals need
adequate amounts of all three nutrient types, as well as relatively small amounts of vitamins and minerals, to help remain
healthy. Broadly speaking, carbohydrates—which include sugars such as those mentioned just above—provide energy for immediate
and short-term use, proteins offer the material for bodily growth and cellular function, and fats give you energy reserves and
material for cellular structure. Most foods that you eat contain a mixture of these three nutrient types. Meat, for example
is mostly protein, but also contains lesser amounts of fat. Whole grains and beans, in contrast, contain mostly carbohydrate
and lesser amounts of protein.
By and large, the overwhelming majority of a person’s blood sugar comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates. So what are
carbohydrates? In chemical terms, you can think of them as chains of simple sugar molecules. The sugar that you buy in a
grocery store is mostly or entirely sucrose, a two-link chain of the simple sugars glucose and fructose. Starchy foods
such as potatoes and flour contain much longer chains of simple sugars. What you need to remember, though, is that all
carbohydrate-rich foods—sweet and starchy alike—break down in your gut to simple sugars, of which glucose marks the most
important. When you eat carbohydrate-rich foods, your concentration of blood sugar will rise. Eating larger portions of
carbohydrate-rich foods causes the concentration of blood sugar to rise higher.
Carbohydrate-rich foods include all sweet and starchy foods, such as fruits, roots and tubers, and grains, and the whole
range of processed foods derived from them. Such processed foods include sugar, sugary drinks, candies, bread, cake and
other pastries, pasta, and breakfast cereals.
Although all carbohydrates that you eat break down to glucose in your gut, they do not all break down at the same rate.
You can think of some as providing "quick-release" glucose, and some as releasing their glucose at a slower rate.
A potato and a similar-sized serving of whole-wheat pasta may, for example, release the same amount glucose into your
blood, but the whole-wheat pasta releases it much slower. This means that the potato will cause a diabetic persons'
blood glucose level to rise significantly higher than the whole-wheat pasta would. In fact, potatoes are one of the
carbohydrate-rich foods that breaks down to glucose fastest in your body. Related to that fact is the phenomenon that
eating the potato will leave you feeling hungry again sooner than the whole-wheat pasta would.
The reason why whole-wheat pasta breaks down to glucose slower than potatoes do has to do with the fiber in the whole-wheat
flour used to make the pasta. In general, dietary fiber slows the breakdown of carbohydrate into glucose. That explains why
a fiber-rich meal will not cause your glucose to rise as high as a similar meal without the fiber would. Fiber-rich foods
include fresh fruits and vegetables; cooked dried beans and peas; whole-grain breads, pasta, and crackers; brown rice;
and bran products. Salads, then, stand as an excellent part of the diabetic’s diet. But be wary of the high fat and
carbohydrate content of many salad dressings.
Diabetics must be careful about eating fats, especially those from animal sources such as butter, lard, fatty meats, and the
skin of poultry and fish. This results because diabetes puts one at risk of heart disease, a risk that a diet peppered with
animal fat exacerbates. When you eat meats, which almost inevitably contain some fat, avoid recipes that call for frying
the meat, because frying adds fat to the food. Look instead to help from recipes that bake, broil, grill, roast, or boil
the meat, and eat cuts of meat that are as lean as possible, especially recipes specifically for people with diabetes.
Fat gets into your diet as a natural component of dairy products, so choose low- or nonfat milks, yogurts, and cheeses.
Regarding yogurt, which in its low- and nonfat forms rates as an excellent food for diabetics, remember that flavored and
fruit-added yogurts typically have sugar added to them. Look at the label on these products and be mindful of the added carbohydrates.
As mentioned at the beginning of this diabetes diet help page, managing your type 2 diabetes through diet boils down to keeping
a relatively constant, and healthy, concentration of glucose in your bloodstream. The way to achieving that goal begins by knowing
how much carbohydrate you are consuming each time you eat and drink, and understanding whether the carbohydrate is quick release
or slow release. Of course, most meals do not consist entirely of one sort of carbohydrate to the exclusion of all other sorts.
Part of your typical breakfast might be, say, whole-wheat toast topped with raspberry jam. The toast provides slow-release
carbohydrate while the jam provides fast-release. So you need to know, in terms of calories, how much fast-release carbohydrate
you eat, how much slow-release carbohydrate you eat, and the rates at which the fast- and slow-release carbohydrates cause your
blood sugar concentration to rise.
You can learn the caloric value of the foods you eat by reading the labels on the foods, if they are manufactured or processed
foods that have such labels. Otherwise, there are online resources available that provide good estimates of many foods' caloric value,
typically given in calories derived from carbohydrates.
Once you understand how eating fast- and slow-release carbohydrates affects your blood glucose concentration in the minutes and
hours after you eat, you can begin timing your meals and snacks to keep that concentration relatively steady and in a healthy range.
Of course, the amount and kind of carbohydrate you consume remains only one side of the blood glucose equation. The other side has
to do with how active you are. Remember, toward the beginning of this diabetes diet help session, we said that carbohydrates provide
energy for immediate and short-term use? Your body uses the glucose in your blood to power everything it does—to keep your heart beating,
your lungs breathing, your eyelids blinking, and your brain coordinating the entire concert. That explains why your blood glucose
concentration eventually falls after taking in carbohydrates had caused it earlier to rise. The more active you are, the more powerful a
drain on its blood glucose your body becomes.
Partaking in active sports, such as hiking, biking, swimming, and so on, can use considerable amounts of blood sugar. Nondiabetics can
more effectively counteract the drain that vigorous exercise causes on their glucose concentrations than diabetics can. So diabetics must
rely on diet to ensure that their glucose levels do not sink so low as to become dangerous. Again, as with intake, it is all a matter of math.
You need to understand how many calories your body consumes when exercising, and replace those calories through food and drink. Since exercise
helps burn calories in a hurry, diabetics who live active lives will benefit by tending to rely on more fast-release carbohydrates than those who
live more sedentary lives.
Being able to count carbohydrate calories may be a simple enough matter when you supply your entire diet from the grocery store. But what about
eating out? Americans consume an increasing percentage of their diet at restaurants. Many restaurants, especially fast-food and other franchise
eateries, maintain the information that diabetic diners need to make their menu choices. Whenever you eat out, ask to see the restaurant’s dietary
information on its dining options.
As a diabetic you also need to understand how alcohol consumption can affect your glucose concentration if you drink alcoholic beverages. Even though
alcohol is neither a carbohydrate nor a fat, your body processes it in much the same was as it does fat, and it has about the same caloric value as fat.
So drinking alcohol will raise your blood sugar level. Diabetics who drink alcohol should do so only when their disease and glucose levels are under
control, and always in moderation. Doctors recommend that diabetics drink no more than two alcoholic beverages in any one day, with one alcoholic
beverage meaning 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. They also recommend that diabetics always take food with their
alcohol, to drink slowly, and to avoid mixed drinks sweetened with sugar.
Although type 2 diabetes represents a deadly chronic disease, you can help control it and live a normal lifestyle if you learn how your body processes
its blood sugar, monitor your blood sugar level on a regular basis, and maintain a diet that keeps your blood sugar level relatively steady and within