If you or someone close to you were recently diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, chances are you have a lot of questions about what to eat.
You may falsely think that you need to eliminate all sugar from your diet, but before you panic, let’s take a brief look at some dietary guidelines for diabetic people.
First, there is no such thing as a ‘diabetes diet’. There are no foods that are completely off limits for most people. Gone are the days when the only rule for people with diabetes was to avoid sugar. Now, it’s more about eating foods that help you maintain steady blood sugar levels and lower your risk of heart disease and other illnesses that are more likely to occur if you have diabetes.
Essentially, focus on moderation, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and keeping track of your carbohydrates.
That doesn’t mean you can eat everything in sight and still stay healthy. There are foods and ways to prepare them that will help keep your diabetes symptoms under control and will help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers and other ailments for which you are at higher risk as someone with diabetes.
In regards to diet, the main thing to remember with diabetes is carbohydrate control. Your total daily intake of carbohydrates should be at least 130 grams per day, ideally 40 percent to 45 percent of your total caloric intake, according to guidelines from the Joslin Diabetes Center.
If you regularly take medication or insulin for your diabetes, it’s helpful to maintain meal-to-meal consistency in distributing your carbohydrates throughout the day.
It means you still need to eat plenty of carbs, which contain sugars, but you also need to be educated on selecting foods with a low glycemic index, which is a system of ranking how quickly certain carbohydrate-containing foods raise your blood glucose levels.
The carbohydrates with high glycemic loads, which you want to avoid, are things like processed foods and refined grains—white rice, regular pasta, white bread and sugary low-fiber cereals.
You also want to avoid things that are loaded with sugar—soda, sweetened tea or coffee drinks, sweetened juices, dried fruits, desserts and candy. Some starchy vegetables are also high-glycemic foods, such as potatoes and corn.
The more fiber a food contains, the less quickly your blood sugar will react. That’s why it’s important to eat plenty of high-fiber unprocessed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and legumes.
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, it’s also crucial to monitor the types of fat you consume. Try to limit your total fat intake to less than 35 percent of your total caloric intake. But, more important, concentrate on the types of fat you eat.
Your daily diet should still include protein, up to 20 percent to 30 percent of your total daily caloric intake, but focus on protein sources that are not high in saturated fat.