Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your cells to be used for energy.
If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or the insulin isn’t working properly, too much sugar stays in your blood. Over time, having too much sugar in your blood can cause serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth.
Diet for Diabetics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. Of these, about one in four don’t even know they have the disease. Diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and other health problems.
The good news is that diabetes can be controlled, and people with diabetes can live healthy, normal lives. One important way to control diabetes is through diet. A healthy diet for diabetics includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; lean proteins; and healthy fats. It is also important to limit sugary foods, salt, and saturated and trans fats.
If you have diabetes, working with a registered dietitian can help you create a healthy eating plan that meets your individual needs. He or she can also provide guidance on how to make healthy food choices when dining out, traveling, or cooking for family and friends.
Symptoms of Diabetes
You can have diabetes for years without knowing it. That’s because the early symptoms (such as being thirsty and having to urinate a lot) often go unnoticed. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- Blurry vision
- Slow healing of cuts and bruises
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away. He or she can give you a blood test to check for diabetes. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan. This may include taking insulin, making lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise), and monitoring your blood sugar levels.
If diabetes is not treated, it can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation (removal) of toes, feet, or legs.
You can prevent type 2 diabetes by making lifestyle changes. These include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, you can control the disease by following your treatment plan. This may include taking insulin, making lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise), and monitoring your blood sugar levels.
If you have diabetes, you can lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by:
- Controlling your blood sugar levels
- Taking medicine to control your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Not smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting regular exercise
You can also lower your risk by having regular checkups and working closely with your health care team to manage your diabetes.
Healthy Diet for Diabetic Foods
A healthy diet for diabetics includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; lean proteins; and healthy fats. It is also important to limit sugary foods, salt, and saturated and trans fats.
Some specific foods that are recommended for diabetics include:
All types of fruit are good for diabetics, but some (such as citrus fruits, berries, and melon) are especially beneficial because they are high in fiber and antioxidants.
Diabetics should focus on eating plenty of leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, as well as other vegetables that are high in fiber, such as beans, peas, and broccoli.
Whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice, are high in fiber and nutrients. They can help diabetics control their blood sugar levels and lose weight.
Diabetics should choose lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, tofu, and beans. These foods are low in saturated fat and calories and can help diabetics maintain a healthy weight.
Diabetics should choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados. These foods can help improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of heart disease.
In addition to eating healthy foods, diabetics should also limit their intake of sugary foods, salt, and saturated and trans fats. These substances can contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar levels, and other health problems.