Nutrition for Diabetes

Physical Activities

It is important that you stay active throughout the day. Physical activity helps with body cells’ insulin sensitivity. It is recommended that you should perform moderate to intensive aerobic exercise at least 3 days a week, and for 50 minutes each time. Regular physical activity also helps with maintaining a healthy body weight, which helps reduce the risks of other chronic diseases like heart disease. 

Herbal Supplements

There are a lot of traditional remedies for treating diabetes. However, most of them don’t have strong scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of these herbal supplements. Researchers have recommended some of the more effective ones, such as bitter melon, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger, etc. Bitter melon contains four anti-diabetic ingredients including charanti, vicine, lectin, and insulin-like polypeptide-p. These active substances have blood sugar lowering effects. Cinnamon can improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels in diabetes, and thus reduce the risk factors associated with diabetes. There are two common types of cinnamon you can purchase on the market, however, the only type beneficial to diabetes is the Ceylon cinnamon (less common on the market), not Cassia bark cinnamon. If you consider taking cinnamon, make sure you get the right type. Fenugreek seeds contain high soluble fiber. As we mentioned earlier that foods high in soluble fiber are usually lower in GI, and have a low effect on blood sugar. Fenugreek is also high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which brings other benefits to your health. Ginger rhizome, which is the main component in ginger root, aids in glucose uptake at muscle level. Researchers also reported that ginger aids in insulin secretion in diabetes type 2, which helps with glucose uptake. Ginger has many other health benefits as well, such as enhancing immunity and digestion. Please consult your doctor before taking any of these herbal supplements. 

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Vitamins and Minerals

A nutrition balanced diet has overall health benefits because it can provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants our body needs for growing, repairing, anti-aging, and proper body functioning. Missing any vitamin, mineral, or antioxidant can cause health problems. A few examples of vitamins and minerals that help with diabetes include, ALA (alpha-lipoic acid), GLA (gamma-linoleic acid), biotin, chromium, inositol,  manganese, magnesium, and vitamin D. ALA and GLA are naturally occurring antioxidants which help with the nerve damage (neuropathy) associated with diabetes. Biotin increases the activity of the enzyme glucokinase for increasing insulin production. Chromium helps raise glucose tolerance in both types of diabetes. It helps with lowering blood glucose level, cholesterol level, and insulin level. Inositol can reverse the nerve damage caused by diabetes. Manganese and magnesium deficiencies are associated with diabetes, so including those in your diet could help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. Clinical trials reported that diabetic people have significantly lower in manganese and magnesium than normal healthy people. These minerals are involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Vitamin D can boost the sensitivity of insulin and make it more efficient for lowering blood sugar. Please consult your doctor before taking any of these supplements. 

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Fiber

There are two types of fiber, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both fibers contribute to digestive health benefits. Learn more about digestive health Here. Soluble fiber has a positive impact on diabetes. Soluble fiber is dissolvable in water and forms viscous gel like bulk which delays glucose from releasing to the bloodstream. Foods rich in soluble fiber are typically low in GI. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for fiber is about 25 g/day for women and 38 g/day for men. Most vegetables, fruits and beans are rich sources for fiber. Increase your fiber intake gradually, otherwise stomach bloating or cramping can occur if you consume large amounts of fiber foods suddenly. Drink adequate amounts of fluid when you eat a lot of foods with fiber in order to prevent dehydration. 

Monitoring Your Blood Sugar Regularly

If you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, then it is very important that you check your blood sugar in the morning, before and after meals or snacks, at bedtime, after physical activity, etc., and even more often if you have a daily routine change, health condition change, diet change, or medication change, etc. By frequently checking your blood sugar, you can figure out how different factors affect your blood sugar. Gradually, you will be better at predicting how your blood sugar is going to respond to different factors. If applicable, report concerns to the doctor for better diabetes management. Preventing very high or very low blood sugar is another reason to keep monitoring the blood sugar as very high or very low blood sugar can cause life threatening medical conditions or diabetic coma. If a diabetic person is  experiencing headaches, high fevers, shakiness, weakness, anxiety, sweating, hunger, dizziness, confusion, etc, check the blood sugar immediately, and seek immediate medical attention if blood sugar reading is very high or very low. Take sugar tablets as needed when experiencing very low blood sugar to boost your blood sugar right away. If you run out of sugar tablets, apple juice or orange juice can do the job as well. 

Keep in Touch with Your Doctor and Dietitian

If diabetes runs in your family, it is critical that you complete your routine wellness screening every year. Early prevention is the key to offset diabetes in your life. A diabetic patient may have experienced high blood sugar levels or have prediabetes diagnosis years before diabetes diagnosis. Never hesitate to talk to your doctor or meet with a RD to discuss more about diabetes prevention. Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, blood sugar monitoring becomes a lifetime management. Adapting a healthy lifestyle is the only way to prevent or delay diabetes associated neuropathy and cardiovascular disease. But don’t be scared, you still can live a healthy life if you manage your blood sugar very well. 

Diabetes One-Day Menu Sample

For diabetes meal planning, you want to spread your meals and snacks throughout the day and on the same schedule to flatten your blood sugar curve. Choose more low GI foods. Continue monitoring your blood sugar regularly if you are insulin dependent. Follow the diabetes sample menu below when planning your meals. This menu is based on 1500 kcal/day. 

Breakfast

½ cup oatmeal, 1 egg omelet, 1 small banana, 1 cup black coffee

Snack

6 oz yogurt

Lunch

Turkey sandwich, ½ cup cooked carrots, 1 cup unsweetened iced tea or hot tea

Snack

1 cup salad with green leafy lettuce, raisin, nuts, cheese in vinaigrette dressing

Dinner

½ cup brown rice, ½ cup cooked broccoli, 3 oz lean roast beef, 1 cup low fat milk

Bedtime Snack

1 medium apple, 5 whole wheat crackers

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