If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, type 1 diabetes, or type 2 diabetes, you may be thinking to yourself, “I can never eat sugar again.” But that’s usually not the case. The pleasure of something sweet can be yours by using moderation and creativity.
When it comes to dessert, moderation is the name of the game. The American Diabetes Association actually recommends having a small portion of your favorite dessert in lieu of a less satisfying, ordinary dish. So when you’re eating out, split a dessert with a friend, and cut back on the carbs you consume for your main course.
Because diabetics have a difficult time processing sugar in the blood, the general approach to diet is to limit foods that deliver a large amount of sugar to the blood quickly. The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of a food’s impact on blood sugar. Foods with simple sugars will have a high GI rating because they cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Foods with more complex carbohydrates will have a lower GI score, even if they contain more total carbs because the sugars in the food will be released more slowly by the digestive process, resulting in a lower overall affect on blood sugar.
Fish and Lean Meats
Obesity and a high percentage of body fat are risk factors for diabetes and can exacerbate the condition. Thus, diabetics are advised to stay away from high-fat protein sources, such as most red meat and dairy products, which are high in fat. Fish is a good source of lean protein. Skinless chicken or turkey is another alternative. If you must eat beef or pork, choose lean cuts such as the loin. Avoid fried foods, and when you must use oils, use vegetable oils instead of solid, animal fats such as butter.
Fruits and Vegetables
The safest foods for diabetics are raw fruits and vegetables, which are nutrient-rich and low in calories. In particular, non-starchy vegetables like greens, spinach and broccoli provide essential nutrients with a low impact on blood sugar. But, because raw fruits and vegetables carry a risk of food-borne illness, they should always be carefully washed before being eaten.
Diabetics don’t have to give up bread, but they should say good-bye to white flour. When you do eat bread, choosing whole grains will lower the impact on blood sugar. This is true not just for bread but all wheat and grain products, including rice and pasta. Quinoa, sprouted grain products and those sweetened with fruit juice rather than sugar, are safer for diabetics.
One of the best, most well-rounded foods for diabetics are legumes and beans. These foods are a good low-fat source of protein (especially when combined with whole grains). Between carbohydrates, fat and protein, protein is the safest energy source for diabetics. Up to 20 percent of a diabetic’s calories should come from protein. In addition to providing this essential nutrition, beans also contain folic acid and are a relatively low-glycemic-index food.
Again, moderation and creativity are key. There are many great cookbooks available with alternatives recipes that are diabetes-friendly and delicious.