The food that we eat has a direct influence on our blood glucose levels. The first step in diabetes management is to understand how the food that we eat affects our blood glucose levels.
Understand to manage better: How food affects our blood glucose levels ?
When we eat a meal or a snack, our blood glucose level rises immediately. In a normal healthy person, insulin then starts working, and the blood sugar level returns to the pre-meal levels 2 hours after eating. However, if we have diabetes and we are not under treatment, the blood sugar level does not return to the pre-meal level of its own course, as there is an insufficient or improper secretion of insulin in our body.
Some foods raise blood glucose more than others. Therefore, an important part of managing diabetes is knowing what and how much to eat, and following an eating plan that fits your lifestyle while helping to control blood glucose.
The three main nutrients found in foods are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Next are foods high in protein, such as meats, fish eggs, milk and dairy products, and oily foods.
Normally, foods that cause blood sugar levels to rise the most are those that are high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the starches, sugar and fibre in foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, milk products and sweets.
Research studies show that even amongst foods that have the same amount of carbohydrates, there are two categories: those that cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels and those that cause a more moderate rise, depending on the amount of dietary fibre contained. For optimal diabetes control, we must recognise the quantity and quality of carbohydrates in our food. Eating carbs from healthy sources like vegetables, fruits and whole grains (high fibre) rather than from sources with added sugars, fat and salt will help us to control our blood glucose levels.
We can choose foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI), which means that the sugar present in that food is gradually absorbed into the body so that the blood glucose level rises gradually. Thus, knowing which foods are low GI foods is very important to living a healthy life.
Protein has very little effect on blood glucose levels. It is a necessary part of a balanced diet and gives a feeling of satiety which can keep you from feeling hungry. They do not directly raise your glucose like carbs. However, to prevent weight gain, use portion control with proteins.
Fats are a necessary part of a balanced diet, especially healthy fats from fatty fish, nuts and seeds. They do not raise blood glucose but are high in calories and can cause weight gain. Dietary fats should be included from fatty fish and plants, which are rich in omega-3s. Saturated fats should be less than 10% of the day’s total calories.
It’s not about Eating Less but all about Eating Smart
We must include all three nutrients to balance our meals. Use the plate method as a guide. The plate method is a simple, visual way to make sure you get enough non-starchy vegetables and protein intake (meat, fish, poultry), and limit the amount of higher carbohydrates that have the greatest potential to spike blood sugar.
The plate method is a very easy method of meal planning for diabetes because you do not need specific measuring cups or spoons or scales. All you really need is your dinner plate. Use a dinner plate of 8-9 inch dinner plate. When you eat on a bigger plate, you tend to eat more servings of foods which could affect your diabetes.
In addition to the plate, you will need a small glass that holds 1 cup and a small dish that holds a ½ cup (usually a bread plate or saucer works well). The glass is used to measure liquid and the plate is for your fruit serving.
Following a diabetes meal plan can help you keep your blood glucose levels on track. Healthy eating for diabetes is healthy eating for the whole family.
- Have regular meals with proper portion sizes. Your healthcare professional or dietitian can help you develop an eating plan that fits your lifestyle.
- Include variety of nutrient-rich foods in each meal, including healthy fats, lean meats or proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy in appropriate portion sizes.
- Take in more from whole grains, such as 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal
- Choose fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains (bran cereals, whole wheat pasta, brown rice) as often as possible.
- Include meat alternatives , such as lentils, beans or tofu.
- Choose non fat or low-fat dairy products, such as nonfat milk and yogurt (but be sure these products don’t have sugar added to make up for the fat removed)
- Select foods and drinks with no added sugar and lower salt .
Your Portion Size is in your hands
Our choice of food and how much we eat is relative to our blood glucose level. If we eat more than we need, our blood glucose will rise.
A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat at one time. To help manage your diabetes, having a good sense of portion control is an important skill. Studies show that people tend to eat more when they’re served more food, so getting portions under control is really important for managing weight and blood sugar. Use smaller plates and bowls to help make your portion sizes look larger.
The simplest way to measure food is the hand guide for portion control: the hands for non-starchy vegetables, the palms determine the accurate measurement for protein intake, the fist for vegetable intake, hands shaped in the form of a cup for carbohydrates and thumb for the accurate measurement of fat intake.
- Vegetables – Choose as much as you can hold in both hands. Choose brightly coloured vegetables (e.g., green or yellow beans, broccoli).
- Grains and starches/Fruits- Choose an amount the size of your fist for grains or starches, or fruit.
- Milk and alternatives- Drink up to 1 cup (250 mL) of low fat milk with a meal.
- Meat and alternatives- Choose an amount the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger.
- Fat- Limit fat to an amount the size of the tip of your thumb.