Since there is much controversy over the definition of a proper diet for individuals suffering from diabetes mellitus, it would be best to seek your doctor's professional opinion before enforcing any type of specialized diets. The timing of food consumption throughout the day, as well as the type of diabetes present may also be factors in deciding what constitutes a healthy and beneficial diet.
When purchasing food products, be sure to read the ingredient labels, and buy as fresh as possible. Below are some of the foods that a diabetic may potentially want to avoid.
Avoid Foods High In Glycemic Index (GI)
Foods that are high in glycemic index may be detrimental to individuals with diabetes, as glycemic index is directly correlated with blood sugar levels. Hence, foods that are made with refined, processed or simple carbohydrates can adversely affect blood sugar levels, and should be minimally consumed. Some examples include:
- White bread or white pasta
- Desserts made with refined flour
- Candy bars
- De-germed white rice
- Baked potatoes that are white and starchy
Avoid Added Sugar
Processed foods with added sugar can also be harmful to blood sugar levels. Generally, it may be better to look for artificial sweeteners or sweet products labeled "no sugar added." Some examples include:
- Fruit juice cocktails
- Hot cocoa
- Table sugar
- Honey or maple syrup
Avoid Unhealthy Fats
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics may be at a greater risk for strokes and heart diseases. Therefore, it would be a good idea to avoid saturated fats, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils, as they have been linked to cardiovascular problems. It is important to note that an intake of heart healthy fats, known as monosaturated and polysaturated fats, are different from the "unhealthy" fats above and should not be avoided. In fact, they are actually beneficial to heart health and help prevent stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
Avoid Excessive Sodium
For the same reason as above, diabetics should not eat too much sodium to protect their cardiovascular system. Excessive sodium intake is linked with high blood pressure and irregular heart beat. Instead, try flavoring dishes with flavorful herbs and citruses that are high in nutrients and low in sodium.
Foods To Look For
- Beans: high in fiber, these legumes are great sources of magnesium and potassium. Examples include kidney, pinto, navy or black beans.
- Dark green, leafy vegetables: low in carbohydrates and high in antioxidants, examples include spinach, collard greens and kale.
- Citrus fruits: oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are rich in vitamin C and fiber.
- Sweet potatoes: they serve as great substitutes for regular potatoes for starches. Low in glycemic index, it is rich in vitamin A and fiber.
- Berries: high in antioxidants, and can be a great ending to a meal as a dessert or a healthy snack. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and goji berries are some examples.
- Tomatoes: versatile in flavor and use, they are high in vitamin C, vitamin E and iron.
- Oily fish: steamed healthily, these are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and are a nutritious addition to meals. One example would be salmon.
- Whole grains: be sure to eat grains that still have the germ and bran intact, as they are high in magnesium, chromium, omega-3 fatty acids and folate. Examples include oatmeal, barley and rye bread.
- Nuts and seeds: rich in healthy fats that are satisfying, they also have magnesium and fiber. Examples include flaxseeds and almonds.
- Fat free milk and yogurt: helps build strong bones and teeth. Many milk and yogurt products today are also fortified with vitamin D, a nutrient important to a healthy diet.
Generally, the diet most often recommended for individuals suffering from diabetes mellitus is one that is high in dietary fiber and low in fat. The American Diabetes Association recommends some "superfoods" that can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes. They generally tend to be low in glycemic index and rich in vitamins and minerals.