Best Healthy Diets for Managing High Blood Sugar, Type 2 Diabetes & Prediabetes
What is Diabetes?
In layman’s terms, diabetes is high blood sugar i.e. higher than 200 mg/dL post 2 hours of food intake. Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. Normally, the hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. With diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't effectively use the insulin it makes. It can be of two types:
- Type 1 Diabetes:
In Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas produces no or very little insulin. It is a condition in which your immune system destroys insulin-making cells in your pancreas. These are called beta cells. Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar, or glucose, into your body's tissues. Your cells use it as fuel. Damage to beta cells from type 1 diabetes throws the process off.
- Type 2 Diabetes:
Type 2 Diabetes is chronic in nature and is indicated by the body’s ability to absorb and process sugars. Type 2 Diabetes originates because of both genetics and lifestyle diseases. The risk is relatively higher if you are overweight or obese. This is because the extra weight on and around your stomach makes you resistant to the effect of insulin on blood sugar.
This is when the blood sugar is high (140 to 199 mg/Dl) but not enough to be classified as Type 2 Diabetes. They might call it impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance. People with type 2 diabetes almost always had prediabetes first. But it doesn't usually cause symptoms.
The problem: India has the 2nd highest number of diabetics globally
The number of diabetics in India is at an all-time high, with over a staggering 77 million patients in the country, India has the second-highest number of diabetics in the world. 1 in every 6 diabetics around the globe is Indian. Even you might know people who are suffering from Type 2 Diabetes in your family or neighbours.
Diabetes is a complicated and multifaceted disease. It is complex, and its aetiology stems from many different factors. The following are some contributing factors:
- Increased consumption of processed foods
- Higher insulin resistance
- Genetic predisposition
In recent times, industrialization has taken place at a very rapid speed. This has led to a shift in the lifestyle of urban Indians. The fast-paced life of the city has left people with very little time for themselves. This has caused people to have sedentary lifestyles.
The rise of industrialization has been accompanied by the rise in the consumption of fast food and processed foods. These are high in sodium, saturated fats, artificial sugars and flavourings, and dyes. Eating such foods on a daily basis can lead to increased bad cholesterol, adipose tissue, obesity and diabetes.
Higher Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is when the body produces insulin, but does not respond to it. This means that cells do not take up glucose and it builds up in the blood leading to Type 2 Diabetes. Indians tend to have a higher rate of insulin resistance.
Although environmental factors play a large role in developing diabetes, genes also have an effect in causing diabetes. One must be extra cautious in case of diabetes existing in the family because there is a higher chance for them developing it as well.
What is the solution? How can we manage diabetes?
While there is no clear cut cure for diabetes, it can be managed with the help of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and a fibre rich diet can help manage the symptoms of diabetes.
Although exercise can be highly beneficial for diabetes patients, especially those who are overweight and obese, a nutritious diet can be as much as 80% of the journey towards a healthier life.
Diet for Diabetics
There is no one size fits all type of miracle diet that helps all diabetic patients, but following certain guidelines can be helpful.
The goal of a diet curated for diabetic patients is to introduce good fats that increase good cholesterol, increase the intake of fibre, reduce processed food and increase vitamin dense foods that are low in natural sugars.
Are Carbohydrates the Enemy of a Diabetic?
Carbohydrates are made of long chains of sugar. So does that mean that one must cut them out of their diet completely?
Well, the answer is both yes and no.
There are two types of carbohydrates, simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates are broken down by the body rapidly and thus have a high glycemic index. Examples of simple carbohydrates are:
|Glucose||Sucrose (glucose + fructose)|
|Fructose||Lactose (glucose + galactose)|
|Galactose||Maltose (glucose + glucose)|
Foods that are high in simple carbohydrates that should be avoided are the following:
- Raw sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- White bread
- Sweet baked goods
- Fast food
But not all carbohydrates are bad. Complex carbs can be a great source of long-lasting energy for the body. They do not cause a sudden spike of insulin and are slowly processed by the body. Foods that are rich in complex carbs are as follows:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
- Steel-cut oatmeal
Is Fibre Helpful?
Fibre is essential for a healthy diet. It allows for better digestion, aids in motion and is overall beneficial for the body. Fibre also helps you feel fuller for longer, can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer. Foods that are rich in fibre are:
- Chia seeds (34.4 grams)
- Popcorn (14.4 grams) (air fried without butter or oil)
- Almonds (13.3 grams)
- Oats (10.1 grams)
- Cooked black beans (8.7 grams)
- Cooked edamame (5.2 grams)
- Cooked lima beans: (7 grams)
- Baked beans (5.5 grams)
- Split peas (8.3 grams)
- Lentils (7.3 grams)
Is a Vegetarian Diet Better Than a Non-Vegetarian diet for Diabetics?
The answer is yes. While meat, dairy and eggs are great sources of protein, they are also high in fat and can contribute to increased bad cholesterol. Consuming a vegetable-rich diet with lots of protein, fibre, nuts and seeds is a good practice for a diabetic patient.
Additionally, consuming vegetables as a source of carbohydrates can help lower the intake of high glycemic foods. Certain diets like the Paleo diet and Mediterranean diet could help control the blood sugar levels.
Diet for Prediabetic People
It is essential to regulate blood sugar levels in order to avoid diabetes in the future. Being in the prediabetic range means that a person is at a very high risk of developing diabetes in the future. However, following a healthy lifestyle can help thwart the possibility of diabetes.
The following should be implemented by a prediabetic person:
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help boost weight loss
- Consuming leafy vegetables
- Eating complex carbohydrates like oats and wild rice
- Monitoring blood sugar regularly
- Regular exercise
- Structured meals throughout the day
- Eating at the same time every day
Diet for Insulin Resistant People
As mentioned above, insulin resistance is not the lack of insulin, but the lack of functioning of the insulin produced by the body on the cell. Over time, it leads to increased blood sugar which is the cause of Type 2 Diabetes. The following are the modifications that can be made in the life and diet of an insulin-resistant person:
- Fish is a great source of protein. Fish like salmon, trout, albacore tuna, mackerel and halibut are some good choices.
- Sour cherries
- Apple cider vinegar
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard
- Chia seeds
- White Balsamic Vinegar
List of Foods That Lower Blood Sugar:
- Whole wheat bread
- Sweet potatoes and yams
- Oatmeal and oat bran
- Cold-water fish
- Raw, Cooked, or Roasted Vegetables
- Melon or Berries
- Lean meats
Apart from these foods, the following activities can also help reduce blood sugar levels:
- Drinking sufficient amounts of water
- Eating small meals throughout the day
- Regularly walking
- Portion control
- Avoiding alcohol
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