In the United States , more than 30 million people have diabetes , according to data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases . Following a healthy and physically active eating plan can help you keep your blood glucose (sugar) level in your target range.
According to specialists, there is no single diet that is for all patients with different types of diabetes. However, there are general healthy eating tips to help you control your glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
- Choose healthy carbohydrates
All carbohydrates affect blood glucose levels. Try to limit carbohydrates that have added sugars or refined grains , such as highly processed cereals , white bread, and white rice . Instead, eat carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat or skim milk.
Choose cereals that have a whole grain as the first ingredient. Look for those with three grams of dietary fiber or more per serving, says the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
- Eat less salt
High salt intake contributes to high blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. With diabetes you run a higher risk of suffering from all these conditions. The World Health Organization recommends less than 5 salt a day, less than a teaspoon.
Try to cook at home, to reduce the use of salt, season your food with spices and when you buy pre-packaged foods , choose options with lower amounts of sodium .
- Eat less red and processed meat
The British Diabetics Association (Diabetes UK) recommends swapping red and processed meat for legumes such as beans and lentils, eggs, fish, poultry such as chicken and turkey, and unsalted nuts.
Legumes are rich in fiber and do not affect blood glucose levels too much and keep you full. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are a good source of complete protein and the best source of omega-3, a heart-healthy and inflammation-fighting fat
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
Vegetables help you get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs to stay healthy. Adults should eat 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. Consume at your breakfast, lunch and dinner, also as snacks.
A piece of fresh fruit or fruit salad for dessert is a great way to satisfy cravings and get the extra nutrition you’re looking for, states the ADA . Most fruits have a low glycemic index (GI) due to their fiber content.
- Opt for healthy fats
Healthy fats are necessary and beneficial for health. Limit foods high in saturated fat and avoid “bad” trans fats.
The healthiest fats are found in foods such as unsalted nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish, olive oil, and avocado oil. Good fats can improve blood cholesterol levels, relieve inflammation and stabilize heart rhythm.
- Reduce Added Sugar
Swap out sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks, and fruit juices for unsweetened water, tea, and coffee . Eliminating added sugars can help you control your blood glucose levels and help you maintain control of your weight.
Diabetes UK notes that if your diabetes treatment uses sugary drinks to treat hypoglycaemia, this is still important to managing your diabetes and should not be eliminated. It is important that if there are regular hypoglycemias, you talk about it with your doctor.
- Avoid abusing alcohol
Moderate alcohol consumption is equivalent to one drink for women and one to two drinks for men in a day. It is better if you spend several days without alcohol. Do not drink on an empty stomach, alcohol can increase the likelihood of hypoglycemia.
- Get minerals and vitamins from food
Food contains vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers and other substances beneficial to health. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans , people should get most nutrients from food.
Diabetes UK explains that some supplements can affect your medications or worsen some complications of diabetes , such as kidney disease. With a balanced diet you do not need to take supplements, unless a doctor indicates it.
- Enjoy healthy snacks
Instead of chips, cookies, and candy, opt for unsalted nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, vegetables, or yogurt. Watching the portions.
- Don’t fall for “diabetic foods”
Many foods that are falsely promoted as “diabetic food” often have fat and calories like similar products and can still affect your blood glucose level, warns Diabetes UK.
How to integrate your plate
Remember to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter of your plate with protein, and the other quarter of your plate with grains or another type of starch source like corn. You can also have a small fruit cup or piece of fruit if it is included in your meal plan.