Eating Basics

 

Everyone is different
There is no such thing as a “diabetic diet”. No single eating plan will work the same for everyone. Some people will be able to eat more carbohydrates and still achieve good blood sugar control. Others may require a higher protein intake, with a reasonable balance between plant and animal protein sources. The key is to monitor blood sugar levels carefully to determine which foods work best.

Balanced meals
In general, the ideal meal might consist of the following proportions: 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 complex carbohydrate foods, and 1/4 or less of protein foods. A small amount of healthy fat with each meal can also help control blood sugar levels.

Small meals every 4-5 hours
The body does not make enough insulin to handle a large meal. A person with diabetes who is dependent on injections may require extra insulin if eating a large meal. In addition, small, frequent meals prevent hypoglycemic episodes.

No Starving!
Skipping meals is a set-up for a food binge.

Complex carbohydrates
Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are the most efficient sources. The body not only burns more calories while digesting them, but also gets fiber and more nutrients from these foods than from other food sources.

Water
For most individuals, a minimum of six to eight glasses of water per day — preferably spring water — is required. The body becomes dehydrated before one feels thirst. Those with high blood sugars levels require large amounts of water in order to pass the sugar out in the urine.

Carbs, Proteins, Fats
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are each turned into blood sugar at different rates. Eating a combination of foods will help keep blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day.


How Food Impacts Blood Sugar

 

Carbohydrates

Have the greatest and fastest impact on blood sugar
100% of carbohydrates are turned to blood sugar 15 minutes to 2 hours after eating.

Protein

Has a medium and slower impact on blood sugar
60% of protein is turned to blood sugar 2 - 3 hours after eating.

Fat

Has the smallest and slowest impact on blood sugar
10% of fat is turned to blood sugar 3 - 4 hours after eating.


Fiber

Higher fiber foods are good for everyone, especially for people with diabetes. It is best to try to eat between 30—40 grams of fiber a day.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is more important as it helps in slowing or reducing glucose absorption from the intestines. It has also been shown to be beneficial in lowering fats in the blood.

Soluble fibers are found mostly in fruits, vegetables, and some seeds. They include pectins, gums, and mucilages that increase the thickness of the food in the intestine. Among the highest soluble fiber foods are legumes such as cooked kidney beans which have 7.3 grams per 1/2 cup.

Insoluble fibers are found in brans, husks of whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Their primary role is to act as an intestinal scrubber and clean out the lower gastro-intestinal tract where buildup can occur, contributing to potential cancers, among other things.

Fiber is also found in other, lesser known substances that positively affect blood sugar levels such as flax seed meal and fenugreek seeds.


Fats

The human body needs the right kinds and right amounts of fat to function. All fats are not bad. The key is knowing which fats are the healthiest choice.

All fats are basically mixtures of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in different proportions:

Types of Fat Comments Best Sources
Saturated The prevailing advice from most medical professionals is to avoid all saturated fats and oils. However, some saturated fat such as from butter, fish oil and coconut oil is beneficial. For many people, low fat diets are not an effective strategy for weight loss as low fat foods are nearly always high-carbohydrate foods, which trigger the release of insulin, causing the body to store fat (1). Butter, fish oil, coconut oil
Monounsaturated Many diet plans recommend monounsaturated oils, such as olive oil and canola, as the best oils for weight loss. However, these oils should still be used sparingly because they have a high ratio of omega 6 fatty acids. Unrefined olive oil, sesame oil, avocados, and most nuts
Polyunsaturated Two of the essential fatty acids that are polyunsaturated include linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha linoleic acid (omega-3). However, excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils results in an unhealthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Unrefined safflower oil, flax oil, sunflower oil

 

Essential Fatty Acids

In the quest to reduce fat consumption, most people do not eat enough of the right kind of fats known as essential fatty acids (EFAs). These fats are termed “essential” because they are critical for good health and cannot be made by the body. Without essential fatty acids in the diet, the brain and body do not develop properly.

Types of Fatty Acids Health Benefits Sources
Omega-3 Most people need to eat more omega-3 fatty acids. Improves heart health, reduces hypertension, improves rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Raynaud’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases, improves depression and symptoms of other mental health problems Research suggests that in individuals with non-insulin-dependent (or type 2) diabetes, omega-3s can improve insulin sensitivity (2,3). Cold water fish (especially wild salmon), flaxseed, hemp seed, walnuts, green leafy vegetables
Omega-6 Most people eat enough omega-6 fatty acids and need to eat more omega-3 fatty acids instead. More research is needed to determine the optimum ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. For early humans, the ratio was 1:1 while the typical western diet is 10:1.
The high concentration of GLA (gamma linolenic acid) found in omega-6 fatty acids are anti inflammatory in nature and therefore have been found to be useful in reducing the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, endometriosis, and neuropathy.
Most vegetable oils, evening primrose oil, borage oil, cereals, eggs, poultry, and whole grain breads
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) CLA is a little known fatty acid which is found primarily in the meat and milk of grass fed animals. Range fed animals contain 10 times the CLA of those that are grain fed. CLA normalizes impaired glucose tolerance and promotes weight loss (4). Meat and milk of grass fed animals
Medium Chain One of the most important medium chain fatty acids is lauric acid, which may also be considered an essential fatty acid because it can only be made by the lactating female. Medium chain fatty acids increase the body’s metabolism and aid in weight loss (5,6). Coconut oil, palm kernel oil

Avoid Trans Fat!

Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. This improves shelf life and crispiness of foods like crackers and baked goods. These chemically altered fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL). As of 2006, all nutrition labels are required to list the trans fat content. However, foods can still contain up to .5 gram per serving. To be sure to avoid eating hidden trans fats, do not eat any product that lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients.

 

 

References

  1. Enig, Mary, Ph.D.,Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol. Bethesda Press, 2000: 105-109.
     
  2. St-Onge MP,  Bosarge A. Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar: 87(3): 621-626.
     
  3. Nagao K, Yanagita T. Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological Research. 2010 Mar: 61(3): 208-212.
     
  4. Eyjolfson V, Spriet LL, Dyck DJ. Conjugated linoleic acid improves insulin sensitivity in young, sedentary humans. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2004 May: 36(5): 814-820.
     
  5. Mumma K, Stonehouse W. Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. 2015 Feb:115(2): 249-63.
     
  6. St-Onge MP, et al. Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Oct: 68(10): 1134-1140.