Healthy diet is key to managing diabetes

DUBAI – A healthy diet goes a long way in controlling, preventing and delaying the progress of diabetes, says a lifestyle management expert.

By (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Sat 20 Nov 2010, 12:15 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:58 AM

Healthy eating does not have to be difficult. There are lots of healthy and tasty foods, says Nafeesa Ahmed, Director Nutrition and Lifestyle management, Zulekha Health Care Group.

People with diabetes generally have the same requirements as the general population. Therefore dietary recommendations to promote health and well being in the general public also apply for people with diabetes. General guidelines such as eating foods with less saturated fats and less cholesterol, eating more fibre and less salt are also equally applicable to diabetics.

According to the expert, no special or diet foods are needed. “It is the total amount of carbohydrate per meal or snack that matters as this has a major impact on the blood glucose levels. Watch the size of the portion you eat,” she says.

“Sucrose (sugar) and sucrose containing foods are ‘allowed’ but should be substituted by other carbohydrates in the meal plan, not eaten as extras. One has to remember that high sugar foods are calorie dense, mostly unhealthy and may be high in fats,” says Nafeesa.

There are six food groups, which when eaten in right amounts and proportions contribute to a balanced diet and they are:

- Grains – wheat, rye, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, corn, and products made from them, whole grain bread and crackers. These are also called complex carbohydrates

- Vegetables – All vegetables. Starchy vegetables like potato, root vegetables, fresh peas and corn should be eaten in restricted quantities.

- Fruits – All fruits in restricted amounts. Prefer a fruit to juice as the latter is high in sugar content.

- Milk and its products – Low fat/no fat varieties and quantities as advised by a dietitian

- Meat and beans – Consume red meat occasionally. Lean meats/skinless chicken/fish – baked/grilled/broiled/steamed. Dried beans and peas, lentils and legumes are also a good substitute for meats in people who are vegetarians. Nuts can be used in place of meat occasionally. Limit egg yolks to two/week.

- Oils – vegetable oils and soft, transfat free spread – in the quantities advised. In persons on glucose-lowering medications or fixed insulin doses, meal and snack carbohydrate intake should be kept consistent on a day-to-day basis.

In persons with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who adjust their mealtime insulin doses or who are on insulin pump therapy, insulin doses should be adjusted to match carbohydrate intake (insulin-to-carbohydrate ratios).

Children and adolescents who spend anywhere from four to 12 hours at school, self-management is encouraged with continued parent’s guidance. It is recommended to eat healthy foods to ensure he or she is receiving adequate energy, vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development.

Exercise is an important aspect of treatment for diabetes as it improves blood glucose levels regardless of weight status unless it is contraindicated for other medical reasons. Physical exercise reduces stress and tension and risks of cardiovascular and other diseases.

It is also recommended that persons with diabetes have medical clearance before beginning an exercise programme. “Exercise should be avoided if the blood glucose levels are very high or very low. Hence it is important to monitor blood glucose levels before and after exercise and take appropriate amount of carbohydrates to avoid complications,” she says.

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