Diabetes is one of the most popular metabolic diseases worldwide, and its prevalence is rising every passing year, both in adults and children. Understanding diabetes requires knowing how is the energy used and distributed in our body and how the energy balance can be broken. People often say diabetes is a blood sugar disease, and while it is true, it is also a very simplistic way to describe it. Diabetes is the result of a hormonal imbalance affecting the way we store and utilize energy, and it has multiple effects on our circulation, cardiovascular health, and our immune system.
But it remains true to say that following an appropriate diet will make a difference and prevent the progression of the disease. There are many complications associated with diabetes, and by following proper dietary advice, you will prevent nerve damage, blood circulation problems, wound healing problems, and severe cardiovascular diseases.
1. Dietary changes to prevent diabetes and avoid complications
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have similar nutritional recommendations, and almost the same is applied to those with insulin resistance, which is often called pre-diabetes. So, either if you want to prevent or control the progression of diabetes and avoid complications, the recommendation is the same: reducing your glucose intake and choosing carefully the type of carbohydrate you are consuming and when.
Eating legumes, fruits, and vegetables are always okay in patients with diabetes, excepting some types of sweet fruit. Cereals should be whole-wheat, and you should avoid all kinds of refined foods. However, you should stay away from fried foods, salty foods, sweets, and alcohol. It is advisable to eat at the same hour every day and control your glucose regularly in order to find a diet according to you. Finally, you should be careful with portions because even healthy foods can be harmful if consumed excessively.
As a part of your nutritional advice, it is essential to control your weight, either if you want to prevent diabetes or manage its symptoms. Obesity is strongly related to insulin resistance and the onset of diabetes, and sometimes losing weight is the most reliable way to lower your chance of suffering from diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
2. Healthy foods for diabetics
Foods with a low glycemic index
The glycemic index is essential to know which foods are good dietary choices for people with diabetes. Certain foods may contain a moderate to high level of sugar, but if their glycemic index is low, they will be absorbed into your bloodstream slowly and steadily. Since they don’t raise your blood sugar violently, foods with low glycemic index do not cause alterations in blood sugar, and will not cause an aggravation of the symptoms. The glycemic index of a determined food is lower when it has complex carbohydrates or sufficient fiber content. In both cases, the absorption rate is reduced, which is beneficial for people with diabetes. Milk, yogurt, beans, peas, oats, and sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, which is below 55.
3. Curd and milk products
Milk products can be consumed by people with diabetes as long as they are low-fat or skimmed milk. Otherwise, they can be a source of unhealthy fats any diabetic needs to stay away from. Milk products are especially beneficial for diabetics, and in the case of yogurt, it provides helpful bacteria that modulate the gut microbiota to improve the inflammatory profile in diabetics, which protects us from atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Curd is a special type of yogurt created from skimmed milk. It is thought to improve our circulating levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, it is a fantastic source of dietary calcium and protein, and it also contains live cultures of healthy bacteria to improve your immune function.
Diabetics should not abstain from eating fats. Instead, they need to choose them carefully. One of the healthiest sources of dietary fats is fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. They contain a high level of omega 3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and improves cardiovascular function. Fish should be consumed twice a week in the case of patients with diabetes, and in most cases, it could be a suitable replacement for red meats.
5. Fruits and vegetables
As we mentioned earlier, one of the things we should look at when considering a given food for diabetics is the glycemic index. This is strongly related to how much fiber and complex carbohydrates food has. All vegetables and most types of fruits are very high in fiber, and most of them contain complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index. They also include phenolic compounds, antioxidants, and other molecules with diverse health functions. Therefore, fruits and vegetables are always welcome in your plate, and the general advice for diabetics is to fill at least half of the plate with greens.
6. Pomegranate and berries
Many studies have uncovered the strong link between diabetes and oxidative stress, which refers to a high rate of free radicals in the organism. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause alterations to the structure of proteins in the cell. We have a native antioxidant system that fights off free radicals, but when they prevail, they start causing oxidative stress and many different diseases. Diabetes and oxidative stress are closely related to one another and feed one another, but one of the ways to break that vicious cycle is through antioxidant foods such as pomegranate, blueberry, strawberries, and many others.
7. Nuts and seeds
If you’re looking for a perfect snack, one of the best recommendations is nuts and seeds. Call it walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds or chia seeds. They are all great as anti-inflammatory foods, and they contain plenty of fiber. Both nuts and seeds have a high concentration in omega 3, which is an essential fatty acid that regulates your blood cholesterol and reduces your cardiovascular risk. Only one recommendation when buying nuts and seeds: avoid excessive salt as they would aggravate your hypertension and those glazed nuts that usually come in fancy packages because they have added sugars that will not be good for your health condition.