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The Role of Healthy Eating in Diabetic Self-Care

“The majority of patients with diabetes can significantly reduce the chances of developing long-term complications by improving self-care activities.”

This is a quote from the article The Role of Self-care in Management of Diabetes Mellitus published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders .

This statement should be taken seriously by every individual suffering from diabetes as it holds the key to making their illness manageable. This article focuses on the role of healthy eating as an aspect of diabetic self-care.

Grilled summer vegetables

When someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, one of the first questions he/she may ask is “what can I eat?” Some well-meaning friend or relative may say, “cut out all carbs,” or, “don’t eat meat.” According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there is no “magic diet” for diabetes. However, the ADA does recommend that you eat more non-starchy vegetables than starchy ones.

Why are carbs so important?

Most of us eat meals that are loaded with starchy carbs. Think of your breakfast foods – toast, bagel, muffins, pancakes — and your lunch —burgers and fries, rice, potatoes, pasta — and you get the picture. Carbs are important because they provide your body with energy. There are three main types of carbs — starches, sugar, and fiber.

Foods containing non-starchy carbs

These are whole, unprocessed, non-starchy vegetables. Lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes and green beans have a lot of fiber and very little carbohydrate, which results in a smaller impact on your blood sugar. If you are using the plate method, this will form the largest division of your plate.

Foods containing starchy carbs

These are your starchy carbohydrates and include whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin and plantains; fruits such as apples, blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe; and beans and lentils such as black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and green lentils. If you are using the Plate method, these would occupy about a quarter of your plate.

Highly processed carbs

These are the ones the ADA recommends you use sparingly. They are refined, highly processed carbs such as white bread, white rice, cakes, candy, and cookies; sugary drinks, sugary cereal, candy, and chips.

What happens to carbs in your body

When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into sugar or glucose to be used by your cells for energy. Your pancreas then releases insulin to help your cells convert the sugar into energy, but if your body is not managing your insulin well, then the excess sugar ends up in your bloodstream. High blood sugar is called hyperglycemia; low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia.

How the Diabetes Plate Method helps you control carbs

A registered dietitian can help you plan your meals so that you get a healthy balance of carbs or starches, but if you are not working with a dietitian, you can use the Diabetes Plate Method to help you stick to a reasonable amount of starchy vegetables. The amount of carbs you need is determined by your size and activity level, which we will talk about in the next post.

Remember, there is no magic diet if you are suffering from diabetes. Many times your body will tell you if you have eaten something that was not right for you. By following the Plate Method of healthy eating you should be able to master this aspect of your self-care and be well on your way to controlling your diabetes.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can send your life into a tailspin. It can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to. Join my type 2 diabetes network group and get the help and support you need.

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