Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the two main types of diabetes. Abnormal blood glucose levels is the characteristic symptom of diabetes. High or low blood glucose levels eventually lead to several health complications in diabetics. Pancreas releases the hormone insulin which promotes transportation of blood glucose to body cells. The cells use glucose (blood sugar) to produce energy. When blood glucose levels rise due to scarcity of insulin, the condition is referred to as type 1 diabetes. When cells do not respond to insulin, the condition is known as ‘insulin resistance’ or type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance also leads to high blood glucose levels. As the glucose levels rise, body requires more and more insulin to lower the glucose levels. Insulin produced by the pancreas is not enough to keep up with body’s demand. Pancreas is thus overworked and eventually, its capacity to produce insulin gets seriously affected. Chances of developing type 2 diabetes increase with age. It develops gradually and can be asymptomatic in its earlier stages. Healthy diet and regular exercise help prevent or even reverse borderline diabetes.
Healthy Diet for People Affected by Type 2 Diabetes
Men who have a family history, those above age of 45, those who are overweight, those with high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Similarly, overweight women, women with a history of gestational diabetes, women with a family history, or with polycystic ovarian syndrome, are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Increased hunger and thirst, frequent urination, especially at night, frequent infections, slow healing wounds are some of the main symptoms of diabetes. Those diagnosed with diabetes should follow a healthy and balanced diet. Healthy diet and exercise are an inevitable part of diabetes treatment.
Low Glycemic Fiber Rich Foods
Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose. Diabetics need to consume complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates. It takes more time to digest complex carbs and so consumption of complex carbs leads to minimum fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Here are some examples of non-starch nutritious vegetables: spinach, broccoli, raw beets, Brussels sprout, cauliflower, eggplant and cucumber. Dietary fiber plays an important role in lowering elevated blood sugar levels. Whole grain products, vegetables and fruits are rich in dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber that works great for insulin resistance. It slows down the process of digestion and does not lead to high fluctuations in blood glucose levels. So diabetics or prediabetics should include whole-wheat / multi-grain breads, whole-grain crackers, grains like brown rice, barley and oats, whole-grain flours, oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, along with low glycemic fruits and vegetables in their regular diet. A ‘low glycemic index diet’ is the best diet for people diagnosed with diabetes.
A number from 0-100 is allotted to the food item and it stands for the Glycemic Index (GI) of the food. Foods with GI less than 55 are referred to as low glycemic foods. These foods release glucose into the bloodstream, slowly. Healthy fruits for diabetics include cherries, pear, plum, grapefruit, apple, orange, kiwi, etc. Examples of other healthy foods are: all bran, wheat kernels, pear barley, rye, cracked barley, parboiled rice, etc. Vegetables like asparagus, celery, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, spinach, boiled kidney beans, green peas, yam, etc., can be incorporated in the diet. Consumption of low glycemic legumes can be beneficial. Lentils, chickpeas, soybeans should be included in a diabetic diet. Diabetics should start their day with a high fiber cereal. It is better to have 5-6 smaller meals than having a heavy breakfast and 2 bigger meals.
Healthy Natural Foods
Meat is rich in saturated fat which increases the risk of high cholesterol levels and heart diseases. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, tofu, egg whites, lean meat, skinless chicken, low-fat fish, shellfish, are all natural healthy foods. Avoiding processed and junk foods is essential if you want to manage diabetes with proper diet. Processed and junk food lack certain essential nutrients. Moreover, they may contain harmful additives, excess sugar, salt, etc. Avoiding canned food and canned sweetened juices is therefore necessary. Instead of having fruit juices, diabetics should have whole fruits as they come with sufficient fiber. Dietary fiber not only aids digestion but it also controls your hunger by keeping you satiated for a longer period of time. Instead of having potato chips, fries, cakes, candies, cookies, donuts, and processed cheese, diabetics should have fruits, high fiber cereals, skim milk, buttermilk, low-fat and nonfat varieties of yogurt, nuts, and salads with low-fat salad dressings as snacks. Healthy recipes for diabetics should contain unsweetened dry fruits and nuts like walnuts and almonds and seeds like sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. These foods help regulate metabolism and energy production. Spices like cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper not only enhance the taste of the dish but also help improve insulin function. Diabetics should consume more fruits and vegetables with yellow, orange, red, and dark green colors as they are packed with antioxidants that cancel the effects of free radicals on the body and strengthen the immune system. The result is improvement in cell function and hormonal balance. Antioxidants help prevent all types of diseases. So, foods rich in antioxidants top the list of healthy foods for diabetics with type 2 diabetes.
Consumption of processed oils like safflower, canola, peanut, sunflower and corn oil lead to fat deposition and weight gain. Excess weight in turn increases the risk of having diabetes. Healthy fat like that provided by fish oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil helps maintain the essential fat level in the body. It does not cause any harm to the body. Diabetics should try to maintain their weight within the normal range of weight for their height. Omega-3 fatty acids and proteins from fish, fish oil help improve metabolic functions in the body.
Those diagnosed with diabetes should avoid table sugar, pastries, ice-creams, honey and all other forms of sweets. Alcoholic beverages also provide sugar. So they should check the labels before consumption. Certain herbal teas and extracts help lower blood glucose levels. Indian gooseberry, jambul, triphala, guggul, guduchi, arjuna, shilajit (herbal adaptogens), fenugreek, bitter gourd, Margosa (neem, Azadirachta indica), bay leaf, basil leaves, white pepper, aloe vera, ginseng, cinnamon, onion, garlic, psyllium, bishop’s weed, etc. work great for diabetes. Diabetics should consult the doctor before using these natural herbs or medicines.
Regular exercise promotes proper functioning of all organs. It helps maintain hormonal balance and helps boost energy levels. Use of prescribed medicines and supplements, use of healthy foods in diet and regular exercise, thus help manage type 2 diabetes.