For people with diabetes, good nutrition is medicine in its own right. Blood-glucose levels – which are directly affected by the sugars and starches we consume – must be monitored rigorously. Here are some tips for managing diabetes through a healthy diet.
Fibre: the soluble type, particularly, is your helper, whether you have diabetes or are concerned about developing it in the future. “At nearly every step of the digestive process, it reduces the speed at which your body metabolises carbohydrates into glucose,” says diabetes expert Isabelle Zanella-Cleon. This is helpful because you don’t want glucose to suddenly flood into your bloodstream; you want it to trickle in slowly and steadily.
Foods that are rich in soluble fibre include legumes, oats, avocados, sweet potatoes and oranges. If you’re not used to eating much fibre, increase your intake gradually and drink extra water to prevent gas, cramps and bloating.
Fluid intake is important for people with diabetes, who are at a higher risk of dehydration (when blood-glucose levels are high, the kidneys try to clear out extra sugar via urine). But avoid sweet options that will cause your blood sugar to spike, including fizzy drinks, sweetened fruit drinks and energy and sports drinks. Ideally, even non-diabetics should ingest these beverages sparingly, since regular consumption has been linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The maximum number of daily recommended fruit and vegetable servings that should come from fruit juice – for diabetics and non-diabetics alike – is one. The rest should come from more fibrous and less calorific sources.