In order to achieve normal metabolism in diabetic patients, some form of dietary measures are always recommended. A well balanced diabetic diet is just one part of a balanced natural diabetes treatment plan.
The main aims of diet control are listed below:
1. Avoid hyperglycemia
2. Minimize fluctuations in blood glucose levels and reduce overall blood glucose
3. Achieve weight reduction in obese patients to reduce insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and dyslipidemia
4. Avoid hypoglycemia and weight gains that are commonly associated with drugs such as insulin
5. Avoid diets that may aggravate diabetic symptoms. For example, diabetic nephropathy may become acute in case of a high protein diet. These diets are known as atherogenic diets in medical parlance.
Two broad classifications of diet used in the treatment of diabetes are low energy weight reducing diets and weight maintenance diets. In the case of obese patients, a diet with low refined carbohydrate, high unrefined carbohydrate and less total energy content would result in increased insulin sensitivity and consequent decline in blood glucose.
Low energy weight reducing diets:
These are diets used for obese diabetic patients. These diets would provide a 500kcal reduction in daily intake and can cause a weight loss of around 0.5 kg per week. In obese Blood balance formula and Blood balance advanced formula diabetic patients it is often advised to skip snacks in between meals.
Weight maintenance diets:
These are for diabetic patients with a normal BMI. These are ideally high in carbohydrate and low in fat. The total calorie intake is not reduced in these diets.
Diets for Insulin Treated Diabetes
Diabetic patients should take care to follow a regular diet pattern and eat meals and snacks at approximately the same time every day. One useful way in which meals can be planned is to encourage the use of carbohydrates along with vegetables and reduce the consumption of proteins. It is recommended to include at least five portions of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Children, pregnant women and lactating mothers suffering from diabetes need special dietary advice in consultation with their physician.
An ideal diabetic diet should derive at least 50% of daily caloric intake from carbohydrates and a large portion of this should be dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is mainly of two types – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is present in food items such as beans, peas, pulses, oats and most fruits and vegetables. It is advisable to consume at least 15g of dietary fiber on a daily basis. This can reduce not only blood glucose levels but also LDL cholesterol. Insoluble dietary fiber is found in food items such as whole meal bread and breakfast cereals. These can be a good way to satisfy hunger and manage weight. The insoluble fiber does not lower blood glucose levels directly, though. Sweet food items such as confectionery, puddings, cakes and biscuits should be restricted as much as possible. Milk also is ideally avoided.
Meal Planning Methods
Scientific meal planning for diabetes aims to meet the overall nutrient requirements of the body and keep it healthy; not just lower blood glucose levels. Thus the current lifestyle and eating habits of the diabetic patient must be taken into account before suggesting modifications. Things to keep in mind include work and meal times, food preferences, as well as the goals that the diet plan is aiming to achieve. If there are too many changes needed from one’s current eating patterns then the plan is not likely to be followed. There are some accepted methods of diabetic meal planning and some of them are summarized below
Diabetic Exchange Diets:
In this method, there are six broad types of food based on their micro nutrients – starch, non-starchy vegetables, fats, meat and meat-substitutes, milk and fruits. The daily meal plan is designed to achieve a particular number of servings from each of these areas. Here food is measured in portions and this method is found to be easy to follow. A food exchange chart shows major types of food under each category and the diabetic patient will have the flexibility to replace one food with another from the same list. This variety ensures that there is no boredom generated by eating the same food over and over again. However, care has to be taken to eat the meals at the right time and to limit portion sizes to that recommended by the nutritionist.