The sugar in our blood comes mainly from the food we eat. When we eat, our food is digested and released into the blood as simple sugars, amino acids and fatty acids. Glucose is the most common form of sugar that is released into our blood and is responsible for raising our blood sugar levels. It is normal for our blood sugar to rise after eating, but in diabetes it rises higher than is considered normal. In response to this rise in blood sugar, insulin is released from the pancreas. The job of the insulin is to move the sugar out of the blood and into the cells so that it can be used for energy. When someone has diabetes there is either not enough insulin being produced or the cells are not able to use it. This results in the blood sugar levels rising higher than ideal.
In order to combat this it is important to follow a healthy eating plan. There is no such thing as a “diabetic diet”, it is simply a healthy, balanced diet that helps to maintain your blood sugar levels within the normal range. If you are overweight, it is important to lose weight and achieve a healthy BMI. Abdominal fat inhibits the action of insulin and therefore contributes to raised blood sugar levels.
A healthy diet should include foods from all of the food groups i.e. Energy foods (carbohydrates and fats), Protective foods (fruit and vegetables) and Body building foods (Protein). A balanced diet includes about 50% of your total energy coming from carbohydrates, 30% from fats and 20% from protein.
It is important to focus on low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates that help to maintain your blood sugar levels within the normal range. These include low GI bread, sweet potatoes, and long-grain rice. High GI foods tend to push blood sugar levels too high.
Fats should include mainly good fats or essential fats i.e. omega 3 and 6 fats. Try to include plenty of dark oil fish in your diet as well as nuts, avos, olives and olive and canola oils. Avoid all saturated fats i.e. fat on meat, skin on chicken, full cream dairy products and cheese.
Eat at 2 to 3 portions of fruit per day – spread throughout the day and 4 to 5 servings of veggies per day.
Protein should be eaten with every meal to slow down the release of sugar into the blood and keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Remember to avoid all sweetened foods i.e. sweets, chocolates, cool drinks, cakes, biscuits etc
If you have diabetes and are struggling with blood sugar control, contact a dietician for more information and a personalised eating plan.
Registered Dietician (SA)