Dietary treatment of diabetes mellitus is necessary for any diabetic with any type of diabetes at any time. Some patients may not need medications, and several patients may be unable to exercise, but for each patient, without dietary treatment means no satisfactory control of diabetes mellitus. All diabetics are facing varying degrees of decline in the synthesis and secretion of insulin. Too much energy intake may cause a huge increase of postprandial blood glucose, which damages health. Moreover, improper diet and excessive intake of energy may also result in increasing of diabetic’s blood pressure and weight, which is harmful to them.
One patient complained to me about her situation. She is a 50-year-old newly diagnosed diabetic, who does not dare eat anything. I told her that the meal is a must, and that diabetes can be controlled as long as sticking to a reasonable recipe. How should diabetic formulate their diet? In my opinion, the key is to really understand the principle of diabetic diets, and make specific arrangements based on age, blood sugar, complications and other specific circumstances. For diabetic’s convenience, I summarized the following straight forward prescription principles of diabetic diet:
Controlled total calories and reasonable recipe
Diabetic diet is required to be low-calorie rather than low-sugar. Generally, it requires low-fat, adequate carbohydrates and proteins. This indicates that diabetics must prevent excessive calorie intake which includes not only the staple food, but also non-staple food, cooking oil, and snacks, for they also can transform into blood sugar and lipids. Diabetics’ daily intake of calories depends on their age, sex, weight, and intensity of activities.
Well-balanced nutrition refers to an appropriate proportion of a variety of nutrients. According regulations of the WHO (World Health Organization), the staple food, protein, and fat should respectively account for 55%, 15-20%, and 25-30% of the total calories. To ensure the supply of high-quality protein, a certain amount of milk, eggs, and lean meat intake is required daily. Certainly, total amount of all kinds of meat should be less than 150g per day so as to avoid excessive calories. Daily intake of fat, especially animal fat, should also be limited; unsaturated fatty acids, such as vegetable oil, should take up a large proportion. Calories from grease should not exceed 30% of the total calories; calories from animal oil should not exceed 10% of the total calories. Diabetics should avoid fried foods in case of excessive calories. If diabetics still feel hungry after the diabetic diet, they can have some green vegetables afterwards.
Eat small meals at regular hours and in a fixed quantity
Diabetics should have meals at regular hours and in a fixed quantity. Eating several small meals every day can avoid a sudden increase in blood sugar, and help prevent Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and adding to the burden of the pancreatic islets. Basically, diabetics should have meals no less than three times a day, with each meal below 100 grams (unprocessed raw food). Since steady blood sugar helps in preventing diabetic complications, small meal makes sure blood sugar maintaining at a low level after the meal, and eating more meals keeps blood sugar at a normal level before the next meal. Some diabetics skip breakfast in the morning, and are perished with hungry at noon. As a result, they eat both breakfast and lunch, so the staple food they intake did not reduce. Because of a full lunch, their blood sugar is at a high level two hours after lunch. Such approach did not reduce the total calories nor frequency of meals, so the blood sugar is certainly not well controlled.
Diabetic diets should not be greasy, nor sweet and salty, which means to avoid heavy taste. Sugar-containing food, excluding sweeteners without sugar, should be forbidden. When blood sugar is under good control, diabetics are allowed to eat fruits that are not too sweet before and after meals, so as not to increase blood sugar due to additional intakes. Eating fruits after a nap or before sleep at night are acceptable, and do make sure checking the urine sugar afterward. In order to prevent high blood pressure, diabetics should avoid food with a heavy taste. Low-salt diet is a great choice. It needs to be reminded that diabetics should not limit water intake to avoid hemoconcentration which could aggravate the state of illness. It is worth mentioning that a high-fiber diet is a good choice of light diet. Diabetics should eat more roughages, dried beans, and green vegetables; fruit is allowed when blood sugar is under good control. Containing more dietary fiber, those foods help to lower blood sugar, regulate blood fat, relieve blood viscosity, lose weight, and to keep a normal bowel movement. Each diabetic must take reasonable diet control as a necessary means against the disease, and carry on a lifelong dietary treatment. Diet control is not just for diabetics; it is a way of keeping good health for each healthy individual.
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