Diet and Nutrition for Diabetics

Diet and Nutrition for Diabetics | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Eating healthy, nutritious foods is something Dr. Ghahary urges all of his patients to do as it’s one of the most important things you can do for your overall wellbeing. It’s all the more crucial if you happen to be diabetic, as the foods that you eat can play a significant role in your blood glucose levels. Even if you’re not diabetic it can still benefit you to follow a diabetes diet, as a diabetic diet is focused on low calorie and nutrient-rich foods, with key elements being fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Individuals who are at an increased risk of diabetes can get a head start and potentially reduce that risk (and the risk of other health conditions, such as high cholesterol and heart disease) by not only eating healthier but making certain lifestyle changes. When you eat unhealthy foods, this causes your blood glucose to rise, and if it reaches a dangerously high level this also increases your chances of developing hyperglycemia, as well as other complications such as damage to the heart, kidneys and nerves. Furthermore, it can also be easier to control your blood glucose level if you lose weight. Weight loss can be accomplished through a combination of both healthy eating and physical activity.

Making drastic changes to your lifestyle, whether it be increased physical activity or changes with your diet, can sometimes be challenging in the beginning, so it’s important to create a plan. Below, Dr. Ghahary helps you do exactly that by sharing information on which foods you should include more of in your diet, which foods you need to avoid, and how you can put it all together so that you can have a better handle on your diabetes rather than it having a handle on you, and the best quality of life possible.

What to Eat VS. What Not to Eat

There are some very specific foods that Dr. Ghahary suggests for people who are either diabetic or just looking to improve their eating habits. These include foods that are rich in fibre, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, and healthy carbohydrates – because yes, believe it or not, not all carbs are considered bad. Fibre-rich foods include things like fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, peas, and whole wheat flour (a good alternative to use instead of regular flour, especially when baking.) Fibre is essential as it moderates how your body digests food as well as helps control blood sugar levels. Perhaps the best food to get omega-3 fatty acids from is fish, including salmon, tuna and mackerel. Along with being a great food to consume if you’re diabetic, foods rich in omega-3s also promote good heart health. However, it’s important that you try to avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury, such as swordfish or king mackerel, as well as avoid fish that is fried. Lastly, the healthy carbs. Similar to fibre, both fruits & vegetables and legumes are also considered healthy carbohydrates, as are low-fat dairy products. When cooking, use olive or canola oil as they contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol. However, bear in mind that oils can still be high in calories, so if you’re wanting to keep off any excess weight then it’s important to use cooking oils as sparingly as possible.

Things like saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium should all be avoided if you’re diabetic. Examples of these include high-fat dairy products, meat such as beef, sausage and bacon, liver, baked goods, processed foods, shortening, stick margarine, egg yolks, and salt. If you are going to include cholesterol in your diet then you should have no more than 200mg per day, while your sodium intake should not exceed more than 1,500mg per day.

When actually incorporating all of this into your meals, you should divide your plate into three sections and remember these numbers: 50, 25 and 25. That means your dinner plate should contain 50% non-starchy vegetables (such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, or peppers), 25% starchy foods and grains (such as yams, brown rice, quinoa, green peas, or corn), and 25% protein (such as fish, beans, or lentils.) You should also add a serving of fruit along with a low-calorie beverage, such as water, tea or coffee. Keep in mind that the aforementioned foods are merely examples, and what you choose to put on your plate is entirely up to you as long as it’s healthy.

Diabetes Canada also offers some great diabetes-friendly recipes which you can find on their website at www.diabetes.ca.