The 15 Best Foods To Control Diabetes
India is facing an epidemic of diabetes, with the main prevalence in the urban population. The good news is that it can be controlled with the right food for diabetes. Before we get to how to manage it, let us first understand what diabetes is exactly.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.
Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy.
Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.
There are a few different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes (which is also, sometimes, known as juvenile diabetes) - With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. The immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
- Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body uses insulin. While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the most common type of diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar during pregnancy. This type occurs in women during pregnancy when the body can become less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually resolves after giving birth.
- Prediabetes means you have a higher than normal blood sugar level. It's not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes yet, but without lifestyle changes, adults and children with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It stems from a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Diabetes?
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly, they may include:
- Increased hunger
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Sores that don’t heal
15 Best Foods To Control Diabetes
The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all the food groups:
1. Whole Grains
Whole-grain foods such as wheat, oats, quinoa, and barley are rich in vitamins, fibre, and mineral. It’s important to focus on choosing healthy, unprocessed grains as much as possible.
It’s also helpful to eat these foods as a mixed meal, with protein and fat, as these can help you avoid blood sugar spikes. Around 50%-60% of the daily calorie intake should come from cereals & grains.
Choose lean sources of protein, such as tofu, fish, eggs, curd, cottage cheese, Legumes, such as pulses, beans and soybeans. The inclusion of protein, along with healthy carbohydrates, is very important for diabetics.
It helps in a sustained release of energy, provides satiety and prevents insulin spike.
Including a moderate amount of healthy fats can help lower the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your body. These fats can slow down digestion and provide essential fatty acids.
Some fats are unhealthy and others have enormous health benefits, so it’s important to choose fats wisely. But don't overdo it, as all fats are high in calories. Some examples include – Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, ghee, mustard oil etc.
Fibre can help slow down the body’s absorption of sugar, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. Diabetics should be including 40-50 grams of fibre daily in their diet.
Some fibre rich foods which function as the best food for diabetes control include apples, pears, oats, barley, lentils and beans.
Chia seeds are a good source of both healthy fat and fibre, the importance of which we have outlined above. They are high in fibre, low in digestible carbohydrates and can actually lower your blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which food moves through your gut and gets absorbed.
Vegetables are low in calories and high in fibre, making them an ideal food to help you manage your blood sugar. Healthy options include gourds, eggplant, pumpkin, tomatoes, green bean, carrots, colourful peppers, greens such as spinach, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli & cauliflower.
Munch on some fruit for fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Berries, bananas, grapes, plums, peaches, melons, citrus fruits, such as oranges.
8. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apart from antibacterial and antimicrobial effects, garlic may also reduce blood sugar response by as much as 20% when consumed with carbohydrate-rich meals.
Garlic makes food flavourful and also contains fibre and key minerals. Studies show that garlic helps improve blood glucose levels and regulates cholesterol.
Eggs don’t just provide protein they also help lower cholesterol, decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and keep you full.
11. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like salmon, anchovies and mackerel are full of heart-healthy Omega-3's, which are required by diabetics who tend to be at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
Spices like fenugreek, cinnamon, turmeric are helpful in stabilising blood sugar levels and should be included in daily diet.
13. Paneer Ke Phool
Paneer ke phool ka pani not only controls spiked-up glucose levels but also renal complications associated with it.
14. Buckwheat Tea
It contains well-balanced amino acids and is particularly rich in lysine and arginine. The soluble fibre in buckwheat, have been shown to help lower the rise in blood sugar after meals and efficiently aid in the management of diabetes.
15. Bitter Gourd Petha Juice
The strong antioxidants like lycopene with beta carotene help in cutting down the high blood sugar levels.
Lifestyle Habits That Contribute To Diabetes
- Eating more than needed - consuming too many calories, whether from excess fat, sugar, or alcohol, can trigger weight gain & affect insulin resistance.
- Overweight/Obesity - Being overweight increases the chances of becoming insulin resistant. People with excess fat around the waist and abdomen, in particular, are at higher risk of developing insulin resistance.
- Sedentary lifestyle – Being sedentary & not getting enough exercise can affect the way insulin regulates glucose.
- Cigarettes: Smoking is a significant factor.
- Sleep cycle: A lack of sleep and poor sleep can contribute to diabetes.
Foods To Avoid
Apart from lifestyle factors, there are certain foods that make you more prone to developing high blood sugar, and these come under a list of food for diabetic patients that should be avoided.
- Sugar loaded beverages like fruit juices, iced teas, fountain drinks, sports & energy drinks and soda
- Sugary foods, such as cupcakes, ice cream, candies, or chocolate bars
- Refined grains which are lower in fibre than whole-grain versions
- Processed snacks, Packaged and fast foods, baked goods, chips, sugary cereals
- Foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
- Processed meat and red meat
- Low-fat products that have replaced fat with added sugar, such as fat-free yogurt.
Managing Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, however, is not irreversible. But, with a healthy lifestyle and dietary changes, diabetes can be well managed:
- Diet: Eating right is the key. Healthy foods for diabetics are not hard to come by - the focus needs to be on eating whole, unprocessed foods with a low GI, plenty of fibre and
- Getting active: Aim for 150 or more minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, such as a brisk walk, bicycling, running or swimming. If you sit for longer periods at a stretch, try to get up every 30 minutes and move around for at least a few minutes.
- Losing weight. If you have prediabetes, losing 7% to 10% of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Portion control: Eat smaller portions & at smaller intervals. Avoid long gaps. This is as important as the type of food for diabetic patients.
- Early morning routine: Eat something as soon as you wake up (preferably within 15 mins) of waking up. You can have soaked nuts or any fresh fruit. This helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels.
- Bedtime: Fix a bedtime and mealtime routine for yourself.
I hear a lot about high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets. Can they help me control my blood sugar?
Having a balanced meal is the key to balance blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the human body, and even more important for diabetics to prevent any blood sugar imbalances.
Including protein in a meal helps in a sustained release of energy and prevents sugar spikes.
If it is sugar-free, I can eat as much as I want?
If foods are labelled as sugar-free, they are generally added with artificial sweeteners to enhance the flavour. Artificial sweeteners do no good to your health and can harm, if consumed, in excess quantities.
Also, Even if there’s no sugar added to the food, following portion control is very important.
Does drinking alcohol raise or lower sugar levels?
Alcohol can definitely disturb your sugar levels and increase insulin resistance. If you must have, you can take 30-60 ml, once a week.
Should I use artificial sweeteners or real sugar in cooking, baking, etc?
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to many health problems, like disturbed gut health, weight gain. One should avoid using these sweeteners. Use natural options like organic jaggery/honey, raw sugar. Limit sugar intake to 2 tsp in a day.
Why do I constantly crave sweets?
People with diabetes often do not get enough energy from the food they eat. The digestive system breaks food down into a simple sugar called glucose, which the body uses as fuel.
In people with diabetes, not enough of this glucose moves from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.
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