If you have type 2 diabetes, you likely realize that your days of eating like a hedonistic teenager are over.
No more cold pizza for breakfast, or donuts and beer for dinner. Instead, meals must revolve around precisely calibrated amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, or “carbs”.
For diabetics, carbs are key to maintaining blood sugar levels. This is because carbohydrates are the one food group that – in the absence of naturally manufactured insulin – can trigger diabetic hyperglycemia, or the high blood sugar levels typical of uncontrolled diabetes.
Of course, overall diet is important to diabetics as well. Too much food means weight gain, which is bad for type 2 diabetics because it leads to a slowing of metabolism. Too much salt or saturated fat is equally dangerous, because diabetics are at much greater risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol than most.
However, the focus for diabetics remains carbs, and particularly highly refined flours and sugars. In fact, on a 1,600-calorie diet, diabetics are advised to include no more than 50 percent carbs – and this only if diabetic blood glucose levels are in the 80-120 (milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dl) fasting, or 160 (mg/dl) 2 hours after a meal, range.
Higher than that and your doctor may recommend that you, the diabetic, reduce carbs even further, perhaps as low as 25 percent of daily calories, at least until your blood sugar levels are under better control.
So pile on the veggies – but don’t forget that dips and sauces contain carbs you may never have considered. These “hidden” carbs often go the whole distance in filling up your daily, diabetic carb allotment. On the other hand, many green vegetables provide fiber, which is essential in reducing your diabetic body’s carbohydrate load.
Don’t forget protein, but it doesn’t always have to be meat. In fact, high-quality proteins are also available from nuts, seeds, beans, peas; dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese; and whey protein isolates like those used in sports drinks.