Diabetic Diet


It is estimated that over 25 million adults in the United States are diabetic. Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which blood sugar must be carefully managed in order to prevent serious health problems. Both an unhealthy diet and obesity can contribute to diabetic complications. Dietary plans for diabetics are common to manage both blood sugar and weight. Nutritionists recommend diets high in fiber, low in fat – particularly saturated fat – and sugar and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Patients will also need to carefully regulate the volume and types of carbohydrates being consumed. A dietician can help patients to devise a realistic diet based on health, weight and nutritional goals.

Main Benefits

Following a diabetic diet has many health benefits. In fact, it is the diet recommended for most of the population to maintain a healthy lifestyle. First, a diabetic diet sets important boundaries. Because eating too much or too little can cause variations in blood sugar that can be dangerous to diabetics, portions, meal and snack times are set to ensure stable blood glucose levels. This stability helps maintain energy levels throughout the day. In addition, following a diabetic diet high in fiber and nutrition and low in sugar and saturated fat can help patients maintain a healthy weight. This, in turn, helps reduce symptoms and health risks associated with diabetes. Diets high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that that have other benefits as well. For instance, lower risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis are associated with this type of diet.

How it Works

A diabetic diet works by combining healthy foods in the right portion sizes to keep blood sugar levels balanced. Individualized eating plans can be formulated with the help of a registered dietician based on a patient’s health goals. It is particularly important to regulate the consumption of carbohydrates in a diabetic diet, because the body converts carbohydrates to glucose. Unchecked carbohydrate consumption can cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar. Carbohydrates should still be included as part of a healthy diet in the right forms and amounts. Whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables are the healthiest source of carbohydrates. These foods are high in fiber, which helps slow the metabolism of sugar, preventing spikes. In addition, these high-fiber carbohydrates help keep digestion running smoothly and help control weight. Small amounts of refined carbohydrates such as candy can remain in the diet as part of an overall healthy eating plan, but should be limited.

Risks and Complications

Diabetes is a chronic disease that must be managed to avoid complications. The number one way to prevent complications is by controlling blood glucose levels in the body. Uncontrolled highs and lows in blood sugar can be acute or chronic. Acute spikes or drops can cause confusion, fatigue and unconsciousness or death. Chronic variations can lead to various diseases. Heart disease and stroke risks are higher in patients with diabetes and particularly prominent in cases of poorly managed diabetes. High blood pressure is present in nearly 70 percent of adult diabetics, but a healthy diet can help control this factor. Dental disease, kidney disease, blindness, eye problems and poor circulation are also associated with diabetes. Managing the symptoms of diabetes through diet, exercise and medication can help slow or prevent these complications. When on a diabetic diet, it is important to follow portion sizes and meal and snack times regularly. Going off the diet, skipping meals, or unregulated carbohydrate consumption can cause spikes and drops in blood sugar that can be dangerous. Patients should work closely with a physician or dietician whenever changes in diet are being considered.

More information

Kids Health: http://kidshealth.org/teen/centers/diabetes_center.html

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-diet/DA00027

Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002440.htm

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetic_diet
CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/estimates11.htm