The importance of food to the human body goes beyond the pleasure we obtain from its intake. It is more importantly beneficial for the proper nourishment of the body for energy, growth and prevention of diseases. However, when food is taken in the wrong proportions, that is, in an unbalanced way, one is prone to getting many non- communicable diseases. Obesity is a usual consequence of such excessive eating that results in Type 2 Diabetes.
In the matrix of things important to diabetes management are; medicines (oral tablets and insulin), exercise, psychology, specialized care (eye, feet, kidney, liver, heart), laboratory tests, nurse education and diet. These aspects when fully integrated lead to holistic and quality care for the person living with diabetes (PLWD). I dare say that the diet factor is the one cardinal factor that is at the foundation and pivot of diabetes prevention and management. This is because, primarily, it is the food that one takes in that determines the level of sugar that is released in the blood. A good control of dietary intakes will therefore lead to a controlled level of blood sugar to reduce the need of insulin by the body which is often inadequate, ineffective or both. Here are ten dietary considerations to make.
“One gallon is better than full tank”- Just as the typical taxi driver buys fuel, PLWD are advised to eat moderate quantities at a time. This will prevent large quantities of glucose from flooding the blood after meals thereby increasing the demand for insulin. Moderate glucose rise ensure that the negative effects of long periods of high sugars on the end organs are minimized.
Do not skip your meals- One of the habits that many people with diabetes have is skipping of meals. This is done with the intention of avoiding excessive food intake to reduce blood sugar level. This is rather counterproductive as it leads to large volumes of food intake at a time and a gradient that fosters quick absorption of glucose in the blood after meal intake. Having three moderate portions of meals at a time is the way to go. This ensures a gradual rise in glucose levels after meals and moderate intakes.
The more the fibre the better- Fibre intake seem to be recommended in almost every non communication disease condition. For PLWD, it helps slow down the absorption of glucose, promotes early satiety while dealing with possible conditions associated with diabetes such as dyslipidaemia and hypertension.
Fluid intake is important – Adequate fluid intake is important to prevent complications such as acute kidney damage and allow glucose to pass out through urine when its level goes up in the blood. Good skin health and over all body function is also a reason why one should have at least 2 Litres of water. When one has kidney problems, fluid intake should be monitored and advised by the doctor.
Reduce the fries- Most persons with type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight. Hence reduced caloric intake is helpful in weight loss which improves blood glucose levels. Fried foods contain high amounts of oil which contribute more to calories since 1g of fat generates 9Kcals while 1g of carbohydrate generates 4kcals. That does not mean we should exclude oil intake but we should consider other less caloric methods of cooking such as steaming, boiling, grilling. If we must fry, shallow frying is always recommended.
Adjust when you have to eat late- A major challenge that face many is the issue of eating late, While eating heavy meals late may not be recommended, eating late in itself is not a bad thing if one eats the right foods. Definitely, oily and highly networked food which are difficult to digest are not helpful. The tip we give for those who come home late from work, is to swap the typical light meals from breakfast to supper.
Do not be over restrictive- Persons living with diabetes can eat virtually every food if they combine them very well, hence, having a highly restrictive diet that says eat this , don’t eat this may not be helpful. In children, this habit can affect their growth and development or even lead to hypoglycaemia when blood sugars drop lower than normal.
A snack or two is helpful- Due to the reduced caloric intake for PLWD, there is the possibility early feeling of hunger. This happens often during the initial introduction of the dietary modification. In order to prevent hunger, one must take snack between meals. So between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and supper or after supper are advised. This will fall between 2 – 3 hours after each meal.
Watch out for Hypo – When blood glucose levels fall below normal ranges, usually below 3.5mmol/l, one can experience dizziness, lightheadedness, profuse sweating and even shaking. This can be very fatal. Skipping meals, delaying meal intakes especially after taking diabetic medications or injections and even intense physical activity can lead to hypoglycaemia. Having intermittent healthy snacks, sticking to prescribed meal times and adjusting medications when intense activity is to be done are ways of preventing it
Make meals palatable- Do not punish yourself by making unpalatable and over restrictive meals in the name of healthy eating.
Remember PLWD can eat virtually anything if they combine them well and have exchanges done by professionals.
So here I have tried tom give some advice to you. The time to get tested is now and when you have a family history be testing a bit more frequently, about twice a year. Seek early and consistent holistic care from the right care providers and beat diabetes. It is possible to live well with diabetes. The time to act is now.
Source: Nana Kofi Owusu | Dietician
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