Overview of diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic lifelong condition where there are elevated blood sugar levels in the blood. The condition is brought about by insulin in the body, a hormone that is naturally produced by the body to help control the blood sugar levels in the body. The condition occurs as a result of too little insulin in the body, a resistance to the same or both. Individuals who suffer from diabetes end up having elevated blood sugar levels because of their body’s inability to convert sugar into fat, and to store it in muscle cells as energy. This could be because the muscle cells are not responding as they should to insulin or because of an insufficient supply of insulin from the pancreas.
There are three main types of diabetes, with the risk factors and causes for each being different. Type 1 diabetes is the first type which is characterized by an insufficient or no supply of insulin. This is where one would need to use daily insulin injections in order to keep the blood sugar levels in check. The second type of diabetes is the type 2 diabetes, which happens to be the most common type of diabetes among people today. It mostly affects adults. The third category of diabetes is the gestational diabetes, which is often temporary as it occurs during pregnancy and will often disappear on its own once the baby is born.
General Symptoms of diabetes
- Frequent urination
- General body fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Unexplained weight loss/weight gain
- Excessive thirst
How to control diabetes with a diabetic diet
Being a lifelong condition whose causes are unknown, the best tried and tested method of controlling diabetes is with the use of a diabetic diet. Portion control and your own will power are what will help you live with this condition. The reason why you need to do some portion control is because of the simple fact that the most common type of diabetes, the type 2 diabetes, is often as a result of poor lifestyle habits and a poorly managed diet. In other words, if you do not eat the right foods as prescribed in a diabetic diet, you will be wasting your time and money on something that will not help you in any way.
Important Constituents in a typical Diabetic Diet
A diabetic diet is simply a portion controlled diet that’s coupled with the right food choices. A typical diet is one made up of controlled amount of carbs, specifically complex carbs, non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower plus non-starchy foods such as peppers, eggplant, and carrots to mention but a few. This should make up half of a typical plate for someone suffering from diabetes. The other half of the plate should be divided into two i.e. protein such as turkey, chicken, lean beef, fish etc and the last portion should constitute fresh fruits.
Be advised that carbs are available in two main forms simple and complex carbohydrates. The only difference in these two types of carbs is how the body breaks the carbs down. Simple carbohydrates take very little time to elevate the blood sugar levels. These are the recommended carbohydrates to take when you need to spike up your blood sugar levels once they drop. The second type is the complex carbohydrates which are the exact opposite of the simple carbs. These carbs take longer in the body before they are broken down, hence will not elevate the blood sugar levels as fast as their simple counterparts. They are the perfect remedy when you need to control elevated blood sugar levels.
Another very important constituent in a diabetic diet is minerals which help facilitate biochemical reactions in the body. A perfect example is vitamins, which are known for their ability to control blood sugar levels. Further, minerals are a great constituent as they help reduce insulin resistance in the cells, a very common problem in a typical diabetic case. This justifies the reason why most foods in a typical diabetic diet are often rich in minerals.
The other important constituent in a typical diet for diabetics and one which many people are finding very useful is chromium, a very handy supplement that helps facilitate blood sugar control. This is a natural diabetes supplement that is gaining in popularity today more than ever before because of its ability to break down carbohydrates and fats in the process of food metabolism. The other reason why most people would go for this supplement is because many diabetic patients often have a mineral deficiency, specifically chromium.
Magnesium equally plays an integral role in a typical diabetic diet. This is a very important mineral that plays over 300 important biochemical functions, and facilitates so many processes in the human body, blood sugar levels control being one of them. In addition to helping with the stabilization of blood sugar levels, this mineral also helps reduce glucose levels in the body especially during fasting.
Important non-mineral supplements in a diabetic diet
There are non-mineral supplements available in the market today which have proven very effective when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels in the body, hence can form a very integral part in a diabetic diet.
- Cinnamon is the first example of such a supplement which is widely known for its ability to control blood sugar. As a matter of fact, most health professionals today encourage the use of cinnamon because of the fact that it has shown positive results in controlling glucose levels in the blood, it is very safe to use as it does not counteract modern medication for diabetics, and more importantly it is readily and easily available. On the contrary, cinnamon helps oral diabetic medication regular glucose levels in the blood more efficiency.
- Gymnema is the other notable non-mineral supplement which is finding its way in most people’s diabetic diet plans today. This is an ancient herb and natural remedy that has been used for thousands of years in India and parts of Africa for its medicinal properties. In relation to diabetes, gymnema helps in reducing insulin resistance in the body by making the cells more receptive to this important hormone. This it does by stimulating dead nerve cells.
- Ginseng, yet another very important and functional herb in a diabetic diet. Although many people associate this herb with its ability to promote energy, it has more uses than many care to learn or find out. One of the many uses of the ginseng herb is its ability to effectively control glucose levels in the blood.
Important nutrients that should form part of a diabetic diet
While a diabetic would need to avoid certain foods that trigger or worsen the condition, this should never be construed to mean that one does not have to enjoy their favorite meals. The secret is to ensure you include all essential nutrients that your body requires. The most important nutrients here include:-
Complex fiber-rich carbohydrates – fiber is a very important constituent in a diabetic’s diet since it slows down digestion and facilitates carbohydrates absorption in the body. Further, it boosts insulin sensitivity in the body cells thus controlling glucose levels. It is highly advisable that you avoid the consumption of highly refined carbohydrates. Whole grains, legumes, cereals, peas, oats, and fresh fruits and vegetables are a perfect source.
Omega fatty acids – this includes omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids plus the alpha-lipoic acid. Omega 3 fatty acids are mostly found in fish oil meaning a high consumption of tuna, mackerel, herring, and salmon can help control your blood sugar levels. Omega 6 fatty acids on the other hand are derived from blackcurrant and borage oils, and are known for their ability to fight diabetes neuropathy. The alpha-lipoic acid is a very powerful antioxidant which helps facilitate the absorption of glucose in the body.
Precautionary Measures to take when on a diabetic diet
While it is a well known fact that a diabetic diet will help control blood sugar levels in the body and hopefully keep your diabetes in check, granted, many will follow the advice they get on the internet and follow any diet they think will be helpful in their situation, or one which someone else has used and have become successful in managing their condition. When it comes to your health, you need to take serious precautionary measures to ensure the diabetic diet that you are following will indeed help you. The right course of action would be to consult your endocrinologist or at the very least a professional nutritionist.
Based on your type of diabetes, its severity, the different signs and symptoms that you are exhibiting and your general fitness level, there is no reason why your nutritionist or doctor should not help you formulate the perfect diabetic diet. While at it, ensure you enquire about the herbal supplements and remedies on your diet. They can always advise you better on the best course of action to take. When it comes to diabetes, be advised that there is nothing as a one-size-fits-all kind of diet. You will need to have one specifically formulated for your type of diabetes.