Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases that is characterized by high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of time. With Type 1 Diabetes, where the pancreas is unable to produce the protein insulin that metabolizes glucose from ingested carbohydrates for the body’s functions and so, injections of insulin are necessary, the goal of diet is to eat to maintain normal blood sugar levels, about 4.4 to 6.1 mmol/L as much as possible. This means avoiding sugary snacks and drinks and then compensating for it by injecting insulin.
With Type 2 Diabetes, where the pancreas is still producing insulin, but the bodies’ tissues fail to respond to it, known as “insulin resistance”, the goal of diet is to relieve the pancreas from producing large amounts of insulin to which the body has become desensitized. Large amount of glucose in the blood stream can be toxic.
Some of the tactics to achieve this goal of lowering insulin production and maintaining normal blood sugar levels include: minding the glycemic index of carbohydrates, combining protein and carbohydrate at every meal and choosing complex carbohydrates rather than simple ones.
Additionally, because there can be damage to the blood vessels in people with both type and 1 and type 2 , and the risk for developing cardiovascular disease doubles in individuals with diabetes, it is important to maintain blood vessel integrity. Eating a diet low in saturated and trans fat can aid in this.
Carbohydrates are plants that are made up of sugars, starch and cellulose. Starch and sugar are converted into glucose before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. And whether the sugar is sucrose, fructose, galactose, lactose or maltose, they all get converted into glucose before the body uses them as energy.
Fibre though, cannot be converted to glucose. If a carbohydrate is high in fibre content, the starch and sugar enters bloodstream at a lesser capacity and the production of insulin is less significant.
The glycemic index measures the speed of absorption and capacity of the carbohydrate. In other words it measures how fast the pancreas makes insulin and how much insulin it makes. In the “insulin resistant”, the body has to be re-taught how to respond to insulin. By generally reducing the body’s production of insulin over a prolonged period of time, the body can possibly learn to become sensitive or affected by insulin again.
Combining protein and carbohydrates at each meal or snack is also another tactic for helping the body become insulin sensitive again. Not only does protein not produce a reaction from the pancreas, but because the body is busy digesting 2 macronutrients: protein and carb, the glucose enters the bloodstream slower, and again, less insulin is produced by the pancreas.
So, where to find these low-glycemic/low sugar/complex carb/protein and carbohydrate snacks? Walk through any number of aisles in the grocery store and get bombarded with products labeled as “healthy” but only upon investigating closer they are high sugar and high in saturated and fats.
You will find prepared snacks that fit the requirements but read the labels and use the following as your benchmark: 1 teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams of sugar. So when you see a “healthy” drink with 44 grams of sugar per 250 ml, or a granola bar with 22 grams of sugar or yoghurt with 18 grams of sugar, turn around in the store and instead opt for these:
1. Guacamole, Pico de Gallo and veggie chips
2. Prepared tuna snacks or make them yourself
3. Hummus and baby carrots
4. Nut butter (cashew, almond or peanut) on celery sticks
5. Deviled eggs or egg salad
6. Low fat cottage cheese topped with raspberries or blueberries
7. Tamari Almonds
10. Any soup with exception of potato based soups, congee and any cream based soup
11. Chicken liver pate and rice crackers
12. Small salad with grilled chicken breast
13. Crabmeat or lobster salad
14. Egg white omelet with sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms , peppers and olives
15. Sushi or sashimi
Eating every three hours, which doesn’t mean full meals but grazing or including snacks in your day is another way to control spikes in insulin. Generally, the higher the carb quantity and glycemic index, the higher the production of insulin. A surge in insulin can cause feelings of lethargy and tiredness and is sometimes referred to as “crashing” or a “carb coma”.
Whether you are diabetic or not, eating smaller meals and more frequent meals throughout the day is a great way feel energized and productive.