Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), about 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries, and 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year. Both the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have been steadily increasing over the past few decades.
Diabetes is divided into 3 types, type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels is the major goal of diabetes treatment, in order to prevent complications of the disease. Type 1 diabetes is managed with insulin as well as dietary changes and exercise. Type 2 diabetes may be managed with non-insulin medications, insulin, weight reduction, or dietary changes.
Leah Mfiteyesu, a nutritionist at Nutri-Mediplus Nutrition Cabinet, has listed some foods and eating habits to help diabetic patients manage the illness.
“A diabetes patient needs to take a healthy meal every day, half of the plate must be vegetables, quarter of the plate carbohydrates, and the other quarter of the plate covered by proteins,” Mfiteyesu says, and shares what she calls a ‘healthy eating plate for diabetes patients’.
The more veggies and greater the variety, the better, except cooked carrots and beetroots.
Choose fish, poultry, beans, eggs, peas, small fish and nuts, limit red meat and cheese instead choose lean meat, avoid bacon, cold cuts and other processed foods.
Eat a variety of whole grains like whole wheat bread, whole grains pasta, and brown rice, limit refined grains like white rice and white bread. There are other helpful carbs to take like plantain, and sweet potatoes but avoid Irish potatoes and cassava bread.
Drink a lot of water, limit milk or juice (1 small glass per day) and avoid sugary or soft drinks.
“The healthy oils to use are olive and canola for cooking, or in a salad, and at the table. Limit butter and avoid trans-fat,” Mfiteyesu says.
Diabetes patients need to avoid simple sugars, honey, sweetened, sugary drinks which can cause sharp rises in blood sugar level, she says. The recommended physical exercise is at least 150 minutes per week.
“The healthy eating meal plan evades long-term effects caused by unstable blood sugar, such as blindness, kidney disease or loss of some body parts,” Mfiteyesu adds.