Diabetes and food choices

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Diabetes is a disease that can be inheritable, but can also develop because of insulin resistance (common in obesity and pregnancy) or illness, like pancreatic cancer. Insulin is needed to take glucose into the cells where it is used as energy.

Regardless of how diabetes is caused, the principal problem in diabetes stays the same, i.e. glucose does not get into the cells, because insulin is absent or the body is resistant to the insulin.

People with diabetes should keep their blood glucose levels around 8 mmol/l, to avoid damage to the eyes, kidneys, cardiovascular system, nervous system and feet. Blindness, kidney disease and amputations can be avoided by following proper dietary practices, conducting proper foot care and doing exercise.

Blood glucose levels are controlled by taking medication (pills or insulin) at the same time every day as well as eating 3 meals a day, and also snacks where needed. Consult a dietician (especially when you are injecting insulin) for a customized meal plan. The amount of insulin injected should match the carbohydrates eaten daily. All children with diabetes should have a dietician on call as part of their medical team. Diabetics should also know the symptoms of high or low blood sugar, how it should be treated and wear a medic-alert bracelet.img_img_9781587799563_type2_diabetes_chart

What about buying groceries? Diabetic products are expensive and not all are healthy choices, i.e. diabetic chocolate contains just as much fat as regular chocolate and should be avoided.

Read food labels. Avoid products containing high levels of sugar/sucrose or fat. Rather choose artificially sweetened, low fat and low GI products. Unsweetened fruit juice still contains fruit sugar. Therefore, take it in small amounts (1⁄2 cup at a time), if at all.

Rather eat the fruit since it contains extra fiber. Limit intake to one fruit at a time. The size should be smaller than your fist. Bananas may be eaten, but avoid overripe ones. Limit the use of artificial sweeteners to 8 pills and 2 artificially sweetened drinks per day.

Sugar may be used in small amounts with meals, but never on its own except in an emergency to treat low blood sugar. Eat fruit and vegetables daily. Limit intake of meat and cut off visible fat. Do not eat foods that are fried. Rather bake, grill or steam foods. Fiber is a very important component of the diet.

Legumes (beans, lentils and peas) are excellent sources of fiber and may be eaten daily. Avoid alcohol as much as you can. If you have to drink, limit your intake to 1 drink.

Three Bean Breyani recipe – Makes 10 portions (1 portion contains 1008 kJ, 13, 7 g protein, 30, 5 g carbohydrates and 1, 8 g fat) from Bean Renaissance Recipe Book

Ingredients: 1 tin (410g) small white beans, 1 tin sugar beans, 1 tin butter beans, 1 tin lentils (drained), 10 ml oil, 1 large onion (chopped), 10 ml fennel seeds, 2 bay leaves, 3 ml turmeric, 10 ml cumin powder, 20 ml masala curry powder, 1 clove of garlic (crushed), salt to taste, 2 cups cooked rice, 50 ml water. Method: Drain the brine from the beans and mix well. Heat the oil and sauté the onion, fennel seed and bay leaves until brown. Keep a quarter of the mixture to sprinkle on top of the breyani. Add the rest of the spices and garlic. Add the beans, mix well and remove from the stove, season with salt. Add the drained lentils to the cooked rice and mix well. Sprinkle the onion and fennel seed mixture over the rice. Pour the water in a circle over the breyani, cover and simmer over a low heat for 5-8 minutes. Serve with pea dahll.

Information compiled by: R. Tydeman-Edwards, Registered Dietician