Diet management is of utmost importance in diabetes not only to control blood sugar levels but also to keep other risks such as body weight and heart risk factors at bay
All the expert agencies on diabetes in the world ( ADA, AACE, IDF and our own ICMR) have published guidelines on managing diet in diabetes, which we at FHI analyzed to formulate our type 2 diabetes diet plan. Diet changes needed for people with prediabetes and metabolic syndrome are the same
How to make a diabetes diet plan
The three most important considerations in making ‘type 2 diabetes diet plan’ are :
- Managing the carbohydrate intake to control blood sugar
- Managing the overall calorie intake to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight
- Keeping the intake of bad fats and salt in check to reduce the risk of CVD (heart disease)
Manage your carbohydrate intake well
In diabetic patients, either there is less insulin than needed in the body or the cells do not use insulin very well. The most important job of insulin is to keep blood glucose levels normal, but in diabetics blood glucose levels are higher than normal because of less action of insulin
Therefore, the most important consideration to prevent or delay complications of diabetes is keeping the blood sugar levels in control
This point is even more relevant for Indians, since we eat carb-heavy diets. The increasing consumption of cold drinks, desserts and processed carbs make the situation worse!
So, what to do? Giove up on sugar, processed carbs etc.?
No. If you have diabetes, you do not have to give up totally on sugar, rice, potato or sweets, contrary to what is the general notion!
But, you have to know carbohydrate food very well and monitor your carb intake on regular basis to avoid high sugar levels. This is where carb counting comes in; same amount of carbohydrate , whether from whole grains or table sugar, will raise the post meal blood sugar to nearly the same level. You have to keep track of the carb units that you eat.
So, if you want to have simple sugar or sweets occasionally, make sure that you replace and not add on to the healthy carbs with these sweets
Control overall calorie intake to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight
Losing excess body weight helps in not only controlling blood sugar levels but also in controlling your risk of heart diseases and a host of other diseases
Losing as little as 3-5% of your existing body weight will result in better blood sugar levels, but losing up to 10% results in better blood lipid profile and reduced risk of heart disease
To know more, go to ‘weight loss for diabetics’
Keep the intake of ‘bad’ fats and salt in check
The complications of CVD (which include heart attack, stroke and foot gangrene) are the leading cause of death in diabetics
Therefore, dietary modifications to manage risk factors for CVD are very important in diabetic patients. These modifications include controlling the intake of salt and ‘bad’ fats in your diet. Diabetics should eat lesser amounts of bad fats and salt than general population
But, should you go for zero oil cooking or extreme oil restriction? No! In India, doctors and dietitians often advise diabetics to consume ‘low fat’ diet. But, that can actually be harmful if taken to extreme, since on average, Indians eat far more carbs and less proteins and fats in their diet! (Read : Indian diet: ‘pro’s and ‘con’s , to know more)
Instead what is needed is to replace the ‘bad’ fats, present in high quantities in vanaspati (found in snack items and restaurant/ fast food meals etc.), full cream milk, butter, ghee and full fat meat, with good vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, rice bran etc. but not coconut and palm oil)
To know more about managing these risk factors, go to ‘Dietary management of heart risk factors in diabetes’
FHI has designed a diabetic diet chart calculator, which you can use to make your own diabetic diet plan. It has a ‘weight loss diet’ option as well !