The way people with diabetes eat can improve their health
The boom of cooking programs aroused the interest of many people in the world. The hectic daily routine, however, may have restricted the time we had to venture into the kitchen. The Coronavirus pandemic, which took everyone by surprise, changed this scenario a little. With the need for social distancing, working from home has become the reality for many people. Staying at home for a long time now has helped many people realise how wonderful it is to try new things with food. Healthy eating provides many benefits for people with diabetes.
According to the 2019 Atlas of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), more than 463 million people have diabetes around the world. Research indicates that a majority of cases, up to 80% according to some studies, of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through healthy diet and regular physical activity. A healthy diet includes:
- reducing the amount of calories if you are overweight
- replacing saturated fats (eg. cream, cheese, butter) with unsaturated fats (eg. avocado, nuts, olive and vegetable oils)
- eating dietary fibre (eg. fruit, vegetables, whole grains)
- avoiding tobacco use, excessive alcohol and added refined sugar.
The novel Coronavirus pandemic makes us highlight even further the importance of looking after yourself if you live with diabetes. Diabetes is considered a risk factor for experiencing serious complications from COVID-19.
When you’re the chef you know all the ingredients and focusing on food quality can help blood sugar (glucose) management and calorie counting. Preparing your food at home can allow you to have healthier options to choose from which can make it possible to make better choices.
This is a learning process so don’t feel like you have to do everything all at once. When trying to cook healthier meals at home, people with diabetes have some food categories that are true allies. A great example is dietary fibre - found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. In people with diabetes, fibre — particularly soluble fibre — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. Try choices such as oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium when preparing meals.
On the other hand, it is important to know what to limit and, in some cases, even avoid. Foods that are high in saturated fat (such as fried foods), sugar, and salt should be limited.
Another good tip to help follow a good home-made diet is food portioning. Make sure you’re not eating too much…even too much of a good thing can be too much. For example, talk to your healthcare team regarding alcohol intake as recommendations may vary.
There isn't one meal plan that will work for everyone with diabetes. The best approach is to seek the guidance of a diabetes educator and/ or nutritionist to learn how to prepare practical, tasty, balanced dishes that work best for you and your diabetes management. The habit and the ability to cook healthy meals with good nutritional quality is vital to your health bringing many benefits. Eating well is an important step in self-care. Keep in mind, change doesn't happen overnight and it's unrealistic to expect perfection in your diet. Set a goal of cooking at least one dinner at home each week and then gradually work your way up. Every step you take toward improving your health is worth it!