Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how well your body can turn food into energy. When not managed well, diabetes can cause health issues such as heart conditions and kidney failure due to blood sugar levels rising too high. This is why it is very important to be aware of diabetes, what the symptoms are, and what to eat to alleviate the issues it can cause. Managing your portion sizes and the ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables on your plate can have a big impact on how well your body can process food and turn it into energy. Knowing which foods are better for regulating blood sugar levels and which to avoid is a key part of diabetes management.
What Is Diabetes?
If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with diabetes and you are seeking advice on how to manage the symptoms, this guide is for you. First, as you may be new to this diagnosis, let’s make sure you understand what is going on in the body of a diabetic person.
Diabetes is a long-lasting chronic health condition related to blood sugar levels and how well your body can turn food into energy. When we eat, our bodies break down the food into sugar particles, known as glucose, which are released into the bloodstream to provide the body with energy. When your blood sugar levels increase, the pancreas should naturally produce insulin that acts as a sort of key to let the glucose into the body’s cells to use as energy.
However, people with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or their cells do not respond normally to insulin (type 2 diabetes) resulting in blood sugar levels that are too high. This can cause kidney failure, vision loss, and heart disease, among other health issues. There is no cure for diabetes that we know of, however, it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. One of the best ways to manage diabetes is to monitor your eating. Portion control and the right balance of food types will help to regulate blood sugar levels in the body.
Watch Out For Carbohydrates
The American Diabetes Association recommends diabetic people eat a modified diet that controls portions and calorie intake. However, a problem that DiaBettr.com finds with their method is that the carb portion of this diet includes grains, legumes, and fruit. It is recommended that instead of these more sugary options, diabetic people eat more protein and starchy vegetables.
Protein: Animal and Plant-Based
Protein is a vital part of your diet, whether or not you eat meat, and contains vital amino acids which help the body to digest food, grow and repair. When choosing which meat to make for dinner, remember some meat has a high-fat content, which can be problematic if you are calorie counting for diabetes type 2 management. Lean meats and fish are your friends in this case although it is recommended to eat as many plant-based options as possible since these foods are also filled with fiber and antioxidants to keep your body running optimally.
Moreover, if you are a vegetarian, ensure that you know which plant-based foods are particularly high in proteins. These include foods such as edamame, lentils, and chickpeas. Animal products are complete proteins, meaning they contain all necessary amino acids. Some plant products, such as soy beans and quinoa, are also complete proteins while others are incomplete proteins. Because of this, it is important to make sure you know that you are getting all of the nutrition your body needs by eating a healthy variety of plant-based foods.
Fruits and Vegetables
You might assume that all fruits and vegetables are great for you but this is not necessarily the case. If you are diabetic, you need to know which to avoid. Mainly focus on green vegetables, as these won’t spike blood sugar. Starchy vegetables such as plantains, peas, parsnips, and sweet potatoes are also good options. These are examples of complex carbohydrates, meaning they take longer to digest so they don’t cause a sudden blood sugar spike. Starchy vegetables, such as legumes and beans, are also fine options though they are not as low carb as non-starchy vegetables. Some fruits are low-carb, such as avocados and berries, and these are your recommended options.
The Plate Method
The Plate Method is a classic way to manage portion sizes and ratios of carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables in your meals. You start with a 9-inch dinner plate and imagine it has sections, like a pie chart, for each food group. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (50%), a quarter with lean protein (25%), and the remaining quarter of your plate with carbohydrates (25%). However, a modified diabetes plate method for minimum sugar intake looks like 50% non-starchy vegetables, 35% protein, and 15% carbs.
If you do not own a 9-inch plate, you can use a disposable plate as a measuring tool. Either find a 9-inch disposable plate which you can use to portion your food, or else cut it down to 9 inches by measuring the back of the plate. You can then place this 9-inch template over your dinner plate and see the difference. After doing this a few times you will learn how much of your dinner plate should be filled to meet the 9-inch plate guideline for good portion control.
Another option is to buy a plate with built-in sections for portion control. However, you might struggle to find a plate that has the correct portion sizes for the diabetes plate method and these portioned plates can often look cheap or childish, so you may not wish to eat from one, especially with company.
Now that you know what diabetes is and how to manage it with changes to your diet, you should find that you can alleviate some of the symptoms of the condition by making simple lifestyle adjustments. These include using the Plate Method to guide your portion sizes and being aware of which foods to avoid in each food group. Pay particular attention to your carbohydrate intake and try to avoid high-sugar options, such as grains and fruits, which can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.