Diabetes once considered as the rich man’s disease has become common among all walks of life. The horrifying truth is that India stands second in the survey taken for countries with the highest diabetes rate and falls to the third spot when it comes to the raw number of people affected. Diabetes is claimed to have taken more lives than AIDS or breast cancer. The cause of diabetes can be directly related to our lifestyle and eating habits.
How can a healthy diet make a difference?
When you start consuming a well-balanced, healthy meal,
- Your blood sugar stays in control, avoiding any complications.
- The risks of cardiovascular disease and the tissue damage caused due to high sugar levels are reduced.
- Your body weight remains ideal.
- The quality of life improves.
So, what makes a diet healthy? Your meals must include a variety of foods in the right proportion. A fibre-rich meal with fruits and vegetables is always best. Let’s dig a little deeper to understand what works for you and what doesn’t.
People with Type 1 diabetes have adopted this system where they calculate the total amount of carbohydrates in their meal and inject themselves with insulin to match the amounts of carbs eaten. Studies have shown that this method can improve the blood sugar levels and the quality of life.
Glycemic Index (GI)
GI indicates the effect of carbohydrates on a person’s blood glucose. The GI diet is based on a fact that some carbohydrates raise the blood sugar levels immediately as compared to other carbs. Some examples with low GI index are- rotis, brown rice, grilled fish, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pasta etc.
What about some sugar?
People with diabetes are asked to stay away from sugar because even small amounts of sugar will have a large effect on your blood sugar levels.
There are sugar substitutes available in the market, which can fulfil your sugar craving. They are; aspartame, saccharine, acesulfame K, cyclamates, sucralose, and stevia. These sweeteners have little effect on the blood sugar levels, but they provide the same amounts of calories as sugar.
Today, you will see several diabetic-friendly products in the market. It is not necessary to use them as they are very heavy on the pocket and can have a laxative effect too. If you have a strong craving for some chocolate or cakes, small amounts of the same can be included in your diet.
Five portions every day
We are all aware that eating fruits and vegetables must be practised regularly. However, due to a hectic schedule, we neglect this basic concept. But, changing this will prove extremely beneficial.
People who consume plenty of fruits and vegetables regularly have a reduced risk of heart problems and cancer. Green veggies are great for diabetics as they contribute very little towards your blood sugar levels. Consume at least 5 portions (80 gm) of fruits and vegetables every day.
How to lower the risks of heart problems?
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Therefore, following a proper diet can really help you avoid these severe conditions. Fat and salt are the main culprits, which affect the heart health. So, how to avoid it?
Fat is not your friend, especially the saturated fat. You can reduce it by following a few tips;
- Avoid frying, stick to grilling, steaming, dry-roasting, and boiling.
- Cut down fats by avoiding cream, cheese, sauces, mayonnaise etc.
- Packed and processed food, along with pastries and pies must be avoided.
- Substitute your meals with low-fat versions, for example; low-fat curd, low-fat milk, etc.
High intake of salt is not good for your heart as it leads to high blood pressure and heart diseases. Therefore, to reduce it, cut down all processed food from your diet and when buying frozen vegetables, choose that are labelled as “fresh frozen”.
Various studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil help decrease the risk of heart disease. Therefore, increasing your Omega-3 intake will keep your heart healthy. Ask your doctor what dosage you should use.
Most of the time people with type 2 diabetes require medical attention immediately- whether they are at home in the middle of the night or in the middle of work, in many situations including fainting, breath shortness, feeling nauseated, sudden vision loss etc. If you experience any of the symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
Dr. Nilanjan Patranabis
Consultant – Diabetes & General Medicine
Qualification – MD