We all have heard of diabetes. Everybody warns us about it. Every doctor’s visit involves going over things to prevent it or control it. All this information can get overwhelming. But today we are going to answer all the questions that are going through your head.
What is Diabetes:
Diabetes is also known as diabetes mellitus; it is a chronic illness. To understand diabetes, we need to understand what normally happens in our body.
When you eat food, your body breaks it down. After it is broken down it is converted into glucose (sugar). This sugar is absorbed and released into the bloodstream. Our body needs sugar for energy.
If your body’s blood sugar levels increase. Signals are sent to your pancreas. These are responsible to release insulin. Insulin converts it to energy. It can either be used immediately or it can be used stored to use later.
In diabetes your body is unable to convert glucose into energy. This due to either decrease in insulin levels, body cells not responding to insulin or your body is unable to produce insulin.
There is no cure for diabetes. You can manage it with a healthy diet and keeping active.
Types of Diabetes:
In order to manage diabetes, you need to understand the type of diabetes you may have. There are of three types of diabetes.
- Type I diabetes
- Type II diabetes
- Gastrointestinal diabetes
Type I Diabetes:
Type I diabetes is not very common. It only occurs in 5-10% of individuals. Type I is usually diagnosed at a young age e.g.: children, teens, or young adults. It is an autoimmune disease. In which your body considers your pancreas beta cell (responsible for producing insulin) as a foreign body. It starts attacking it and damaging the pancreas. There is no known reason for this. There is no way you can prevent it.
Type II Diabetes:
Type II diabetes is more common. About 90-95% of all diabetic patients have type II diabetes. It is a condition in which your body does not produce enough insulin, or your body cells have developed resistance to it.
This normally affects middle age or older individuals. It can also affect kids and teens due to childhood obesity.
Read our article how a Keto Diet can help reduce symptoms of type II diabetes.
Gastrointestinal diabetes is the type of diabetes that develops in pregnant women. It can also cause an increased risk of health problems in the fetus. It normally goes away after childbirth. It increases the mother’s risk to get Type II diabetes.
Prediabetic is a condition in which you do not have diabetes type II. But your blood sugar level is higher than normal. It is a condition that surprisingly a lot of people have but are unaware of. It is a very serious health problem. Prediabetic increases your risk of getting Type II diabetes.
If diagnosed early you might be able to prevent it by implementing diet and lifestyle modifications.
How to Prevent Type II Diabetes:
Type II diabetes can be prevented. You can even reverse it naturally with no medication if you start acting early enough.
You need to make certain lifestyle modification and focus on certain key points:
- Follow a healthy meal plan. Focus on diets that are focused on keeping your blood sugar level low.
- Plan out ways to increase physical activity throughout the day.
- Try to manage stress. It is very important in preventing diabetes.
To decide on an effective diet that caters to preventing diabetes you need to understand Glycemic Index.
Glycemic Index is a scientific term used to measure the effect on your blood sugar level by any food containing carbohydrates.
Simply, what you need to understand is, Glycemic Index represents how much your blood sugar level rises after you intake any form of carbohydrates.
We normally categories Glycemic index into three categories:
Low Glycemic Index:
It contains food that has a glycemic index ranging between 1-55
Medium Glycemic index:
It contains food that has a glycemic index ranging between 56-69.
High Glycemic Index:
It contains food that has a glycemic index ranging between 70 and higher.
You can find out more here.
Compared to the glycemic index people focus on glycemic load more often. It is a better representation of how much your blood sugar level will get affected by the intake of carbohydrates.
Glycemic load depends on your portion size and glycemic index. You can easily find the glycemic index of any food by:
Glycemic Load = Glycemic Index x Grams of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are divided into two classes:
- Complex Carbohydrates
- Simple Sugars
These are carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index. People following a low carbohydrate diet are suggested to eat complex carbohydrates. They are in whole food form. They consist long complex chain of sugar molecules. They also are rich in fibers. Which slows down the absorption of glucose. Hence keeping blood sugar levels more stable.
Complex carbohydrates are further divided into two types depending on their glycemic index:
- Starchy Vegetables:
Starchy vegetables contain higher amounts of carbohydrates compared to green vegetables. They are rich in nutrients and vitamins. Since they have a higher glycemic index and glycemic load. They are not preferred in diabetes. You can eat them in moderation. e.g., Root vegetables such as potatoes, corn, etc.
- Non-starchy Vegetables:
Non-starchy vegetables are green vegetables. They are rich in nutrients such as different vitamins. These are the perfect option for someone trying to manage their blood sugar level. They have a very low Glycemic Index. Hence, they can be eaten in abundance. For e.g., Kale, Spinach, Collards, etc.
Simple sugars are high glycemic load foods. These are foods that should be avoided in diabetes. The sugar in these foods increases your blood sugar level very fast. e.g.,
- Soft drinks
- White pasta
- Breakfast cereals
Superfoods That Are Good for Diabetes:
What are Superfoods:
Superfood is a term used for foods that are considered to have health benefits beyond nutrients and calories. FDA regulates this term, so you need scientific evidence and research to back up these claims.
Superfoods that are good for diabetes include:
Beans are high in fibers. They also contain essential minerals such as magnesium and potassium.
They contain a high amount of proteins. Half a cup of beans can provide the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat. They are rich in essential vitamins. These are amazing to include in your diet.
Dark Green and Leafy Vegetable:
As discussed above they are great for your health. They contain a very small amount of carbohydrates. You can add them in stews, soup, and salads. They are low in calories but rich in nutrients.
Citrus fruits as we know are rich in vitamins and fiber. Citrus Fruit such as grapefruits is known to decrease blood sugar levels. Including your favorite citrus fruit in your daily diet is helpful for diabetes.
Sweet potatoes are rich in fibers, vitamins, and minerals. They are a good source of Vitamin A. It is suggested that you replace normal potatoes with sweet potatoes.
Berries are famous to be rich in antioxidants. They also contain vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, and fibers. They are a great option to satisfy your sweet cravings.
Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Potassium. You can use these to make salads or plain tomato soup.
Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are good for diabetes. These are also called fatty fish. Other than diabetes they are also good for preventing heart diseases. Fishes that are rich in fatty acids are salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and albacore tuna. You can bake them or grill them depending on your preference.
Nuts are a great snack option. They help to manage hunger. They contain healthy fats, magnesium, and fiber. Flax seeds and walnut are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, B vitamins, chromium, iron, and folate. They are a great source of fiber too. They have a low glycemic load. Hence making the perfect food to prevent diabetes. Check the label to see if it is whole grain. Examples of whole grains are whole-grain barley, oats, quinoa, etc.
Milk and Yogurt:
Milk and Yogurt contain carbohydrates as well as a shocking amount of sugars. Try looking for yogurt or milk with no added sugar. They are rich in calcium and vitamin D, which is great.
Foods to Avoid in Diabetic Meal Plan:
People working to prevent or control diabetes should try to avoid as much unhealthy food as possible. When going shopping for groceries try avoiding processed food as possible. Try buying fresh vegetables and fruits to add to your diet. Things you should avoid are:
- Refined sugars
- Processed carbs
- Trans fats
- High-fat animal products
- High-fat dairy products
- High fructose corn syrup
- Artificial sweeteners
- Highly processed foods
Ketogenic Diet for Preventing diabetes:
A Ketogenic diet more popularly known as keto is used to manage weight and control diabetes. It is a low carb and high fat in-taking diet. In this diet, your body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. About 70-80% of your calories throughout the day are through fats and 20-30% are through proteins.
How Keto helps in diabetes:
The main benefit of keto is that it helps reduce weight. So if you are overweight or obese struggling to lose weight. Keto might be a great option.
If you are insulin resistant. That is your body cells do not respond to insulin. Keto is a great option. It is a diet in which your carbohydrate intake is minimal. Hence your blood sugar level can easily be managed.
Similarly, if your body produces less insulin. Low carbohydrates will help maintain your blood sugar level.
Keto is also suggested to high-risk patients to prevent diabetes.
Benefits of Keto:
The benefits of Keto include:
- Decrease blood pressure
- An improvement in insulin sensitivity
- Decrease the use of medication.
- Improvements in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, without adding to low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol.
- Drop-in insulin.
- Manage glycemic load in individuals.
What does The Ketogenic Diet Consists Of?
Your Keto meal plan should include the following:
Low carb vegetable: As discussed above. Green vegetables such as spinach, Zucchini are a great source of vitamins. They have are low in calories plus low in carbohydrates. Avoid starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes, etc.
Eggs: They are low in carbohydrates and a good source of protein and fats.
Meats: Fatty meats are a good source of protein and fat. But keep in mind not to eat a high quantity of protein. Protein mixed with low amounts of carbohydrates can result in your liver converting protein into glucose. This results in increased blood sugar levels.
Fish: Fatty fish which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Are a great option to add to your diet.
Berries: Berries are rich in antioxidants and contain a low quantity of carbohydrates. You can enjoy them in moderate quantities.
Healthy Fats: Healthy fats are great to add in the keto diet. You can opt for fruits like avocado or olive oil. Nuts are also a great source of healthy fats. We need to be mindful that we prefer healthy fat options over not-so-healthy options.
Some Final Thoughts:
You can prevent diabetes by following a diabetic meal plan. Ensure that most of your calories are from unprocessed food. Find a good balance between good calories and nutrient content. Managing and preventing diabetes can get overwhelming initially, even starting a new diet or changing your old habits. It has a learning curve to it. You might struggle initially but do not be too hard on yourself. It is not a race. Try educating yourself. And take steps towards changing your lifestyle. Once all of these healthy habits are part of your everyday routine. It will get easier and you will feel better and healthier.