Choosing the right food when you have diabetes can be tricky. Not all healthy foods are good food for diabetics. The goal is not only to find foods that are healthy but is enjoyable to your palate and makes you feel happy.
Before going further, let us know a little bit more about diabetes and what are its symptoms.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a type of disease that occurs when your blood glucose level or blood sugar is higher than the normal range.
Blood glucose gives us energy and is derived from the food we eat. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and helps our body to use this energy. Sometimes, the insulin that is produced is not enough or is not used properly. The blood retains the blood glucose and it does not reach the cells of our body. This causes elevated blood sugar or diabetes.
Uncontrolled diabetes can cause many health problems or can be fatal if not treated properly. Diabetes cannot be cured completely but can be managed with a balanced diet and proper health care.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Early signs and symptoms of diabetes are often difficult to detect and may cause serious health problems if not treated on time.
The common symptoms of diabetes for both men and women include:
- Frequent urination.
- Increased thirst and hunger.
- Unusual weight loss or gain.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Slow healing of the wounds.
- Blurry vision.
- Acanthosis nigricans or darkening of the skin in and around the area of skin folds.
- Mouth odor.
- Skin infections.
- A tingling sensation of the hands or feet.
Men may experience some additional symptoms related to their sexual health. Diabetes symptoms in men include:
- Erectile dysfunction or ED. Men with diabetes are at high risk of erectile dysfunction.
- Damage of the autonomic nervous system or ANS. This may result in erectile dysfunction.
- Retrograde ejaculation. In retrograde ejaculation, semen is released into the bladder. This causes less amount of semen being released during ejaculation.
- Urinary tract infections or UTIs.
- Overactive bladder and difficulty to control urine.
- Low testosterone levels may result in male infertility.
- Decreased libido or sex drive.
Women may also experience some specific problems due to diabetes. Signs of diabetes in women may include:
- A decrease in sex drive.
- Reduced sensation in the vagina.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Risk of vaginal yeast infections. Yeast infections may result in painful sex, vaginal discharge, and itching.
- An increased risk of urinary tract infections or UTIs. UTIs may cause painful urination, cloudy urine, and burning sensation.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. This may result in acne, irregular periods, depression, and infertility.
- Diabetes during pregnancy may cause high blood pressure or developmental delay of the fetus.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Children
There has been a significant rise in diabetes among the young population and even in children below 16 years.
Diabetes in children known as Juvenile Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin. This can cause serious health damage and should be treated at an early age to combat the side effects and lead a healthy life. Signs and symptoms of juvenile diabetes include:
- A sudden increase in thirst.
- Frequent urination.
- An urge for hunger.
- Blurred vision.
- Sudden weight loss or gain.
- Slow healing of the wounds.
- Odor in the breath.
- Itching of the genitals especially due to yeast infection.
Diabetes is less common in children. Parents often tend to ignore the early signs of diabetes in children and confuse them with common illnesses. Parents are advised not to ignore the early signs especially if your child is complaining of increased hunger, urination, or fatigue. Diabetes can be fatal and early detection can save severe complications in children.
Now that we have learned a lot about diabetes, let us now look into some foods that are best for diabetics and how to take them.
Factors Determining Good Food for Diabetics
Good food for diabetics does not only mean eating healthy and following a particular diet. Some factors determine which food is good for you especially if you are diabetic such as:
- Overall activity.
- The severity of the disease.
If you have diabetes, there will be food restrictions. This means you have to cut down the consumption of certain kinds of food. Your diabetic food chart should be well-balanced. A healthy diet will keep your energy levels up, protect your heart, and keep your weight under control.
Good food for diabetics
Here is a list of 11 good food for diabetics
1. Fish for Diabetics
Fish, especially fatty fish is good food for diabetics. Seafood like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and EPA. They are good for the heart.
Diabetics are at risk of heart diseases. The Omega-3 oil is good for the heart and protects it from a sudden stroke and other heart problems. Regular consumption of fatty fish can help you in controlling these symptoms.
DHA and EPA reduce inflammation and helps in the proper functioning of the arteries.
Research shows that daily consumption of fish at least 5 times a week can reduce triglycerides and inflammation. It is good food for older people as it increases the metabolic rate.
2. Green Vegetables
Want to limit your carb intake? Include some fresh green vegetables in your daily diet. Green leafy vegetables are not only rich in vitamins and minerals but they have low calories which are extremely helpful for diabetic patients.
Leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in vitamin C and also is a good source for antioxidants. They are good for your heart and protect your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.
Green vegetables also help in digestion and prevent the formation of cancerous cells. Daily consumption of at least 5 portions of green vegetables is recommended for diabetic people. Vegetables like carrots, green beans, peas, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and celery are good food for diabetics.
A special mention goes to broccoli. It is low in calories, reduces insulin levels and protects our body from harmful free radicals. It is easy to digest, is rich in antioxidants, and contain lutein and zeaxanthin that are good for your eyes.
3. Berries for Diabetics
Berries such as strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and are good for your eye health. They have anti-inflammatory ingredients and protect your body from heart ailments and cancer.
4. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges and grape are good food for diabetics. To get maximum results, eat the whole fruit rather than just drinking the juice. The glycemic index or GI score in whole fruits is lower than fruit juices and reduces the risk of diabetes.
Grapefruits have the lowest GI score and are good for diabetes. Fruits are essential sources for fiber, helps in digestion, are rich in vitamins and minerals, and are good antioxidants. Eating seasonal fruits will boost your immunity and will protect your body from seasonal infections and allergies.
5. Flaxseeds and Chia Seeds
Did you know that flaxseeds are an excellent remedy for controlling blood sugar and heart diseases? Seeds like flaxseeds and chia seeds slow down the blood sugar rate in your body.
Flaxseeds contain lignans, an insoluble fiber. Regular consumption of flaxseeds can improve your blood sugar levels, reduce risks for stroke and heart problems, improves insulin functioning and is good for your gut health. Flaxseeds are difficult to consume as a whole, so you can grind them before use.
Chia seeds are similar to flaxseeds. They are rich in fibers, make you feel full, reduces hunger, have anti-inflammatory components, and are good for controlling blood pressure.
6. Nuts for Diabetics
Who doesn’t love nuts? They are healthy, nutritious and equally tasty. Nuts score high in magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber.
Walnuts are a good source of vitamin E, folic acid, zinc, and alpha-linolenic acid that helps to lower cholesterol. Regular consumption of 30 grams of walnuts can lower insulin levels and help in the reduction of weight.
Health benefits of nuts for diabetic patients include:
- Controls high blood pressure.
- It lowers LDL and HbA1c levels.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Controls obesity especially in type 2 diabetes.
- It lowers high insulin levels.
High insulin levels can also increase the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nuts that are good for your health include almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, etc. For best results, take nuts in limited proportions or as directed by your dietician.
7. Olive Oil
Olive oil has numerous health benefits and is good for your heart and overall health. Use a reputed brand of extra-virgin olive oil for cooking instead of the regular olive oils available in the market. Regular olive oils are often adulterated with cheap oils.
Olive oil is helpful in many ways.
- Olive oil contains oleic acid that helps to improve the levels of triglycerides and HDL in type 2 diabetes.
- Reduces heart problems.
- Reduces inflammation by protecting the linings of the blood vessels.
- Controls high blood pressure.
- Regulates cholesterol.
- Rich in antioxidants.
8. Apple-Cider Vinegar
Have you ever tried apple cider vinegar for diabetes? It may sound unconventional, but is good food for diabetics.
Do not get alarmed by the sugar content in apple cider vinegar. The sugar that is added in apples gets fermented into acetic acid and there is little or even less than 1 gram of carb in a spoonful of vinegar.
It is very helpful for individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes. Apple cider vinegar keeps your stomach feel full for a long time and reduces weight. It improves insulin sensitivity.
Take two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar each day. Remember to dilute it with a glass of water.
9. Lentils and Whole Grains
Another good food for diabetics is lentils. Lentils, as we know, is an essential source for iron, vitamin B, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Research shows that if you replace starchy foods like rice and potatoes with equal portions of lentils, there is approximately a 20% drop in blood glucose level.
Lentils slow down the absorption of glucose and are rich in fiber that helps to reduce blood glucose levels.
Whole grains have antioxidants and insoluble fiber that helps in the digestion. They lower blood cholesterol levels and have a low GI score.
Whole grains like wheat bread, cereals, oats, and wheat flour are good for health and should be included in a regular diet.
10. Spices to lower Diabetes
A recent study shows that adding certain spices to your food can lower risks of diabetes and manage blood sugar levels.
Spice up your menu with this list of spices and herbs and most of them are readily available in the kitchen.
Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin and is an essential ingredient that is used in everyday cooking. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components that are good for our health.
Turmeric is good for our kidney and brain functioning. It helps in regulating blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon: Fresh and aromatic, cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants. Scientists believe that cinnamon reduces hemoglobin A1c levels which is a standard protocol for measuring blood sugar levels. The benefits of cinnamon include:
- Improves insulin sensitivity.
- It helps to digest food.
- It lowers blood sugar.
- Control lipids and fats in the blood.
- It improves good cholesterol or HDL.
- Lowers LDL level.
Fenugreek: Fenugreek seeds are easily available and helps in digestion, improves cholesterol levels, and lowers blood glucose levels. You can use it in powdered form or soak it in warm water and then grind it into a paste.
Sage and Oregano: These herbs can be used fresh or in dried form. They will add flavor to your food as well as are potent sources of antioxidants.
Garlic: Garlic is an age-old therapy for diabetes. Garlic is known to:
- Reduce blood cholesterol.
- Regulate blood sugar levels.
- Control blood pressure.
- Reduce inflammation.
11. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is different from regular yogurt. The yogurt is strained thrice which removes all the water content, lactose, and whey. Greek yogurt is rich in proteins and contains fewer carbohydrates than regular yogurts.
Unsweetened Greek yogurts are good food for diabetics and may result in weight loss if consumed daily.