Diet and Diabetes
Why is diet important in diabetes?
Diet is important, because it is part of diabetes treatment. Many people need to change what they eat and how much they eat to help treat their diabetes. It is important for people to treat their diabetes so that they:
- Keep their blood sugar at or near a normal level
- Prevent long-term problems, such as heart or kidney problems, that can happen in people with diabetes
Changing your diet can also help treat obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These conditions can affect people with diabetes and can lead to future problems, such as heart attacks or strokes.
Must I eat at the same times every day?
When and how often you should eat depends, in part, on the diabetes medicine that you take. For example, people who use a certain type of insulin or who take diabetes pills that increase insulin levels (called “sulfonylureas”) should eat meals at the same time each day. This helps prevent people from getting low blood sugar.
People who use an insulin pump, insulin before each meal, or pills that improve the way insulin works (called “metformin”) do not always have to eat meals at the same time. That’s because people who use these treatments have a smaller chance of getting low blood sugar.
When planning what to eat, people with diabetes need to think about:
◦Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – Our bodies break down the food we eat into small pieces called carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrates, which are sugars that our bodies use for energy, can raise a person’s blood sugar level.
Foods that have carbohydrates include:
- Bread, pasta, and rice
- Vegetables and fruits
- Dairy foods
- Foods with added sugar
- Calories –People who are overweight and want to lose weight need to eat fewer calories each day.
- Fiber – Eating foods with a lot of fiber can help control a person’s blood sugar level.
- Cholesterol – People who have high cholesterol levels might need to reduce the amount of cholesterol they eat.
Foods with a lot of cholesterol include red meat, whole milk, and egg yolks.
- Salt – People who have high blood pressure should not eat foods that contain a lot of salt (also called sodium). People with high blood pressure should also eat healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods.
- Alcohol – Having more than 1 drink (for women) or 2 drinks (for men) a day can raise blood sugar levels. Also, drinks that have fruit juice or soda in them can raise blood sugar levels.
Can I eat the same foods as my family?
Yes. You do not need to eat special foods if you have diabetes. You and your family can eat the same foods. Changing your diet is mostly about eating healthy foods and not eating too much.
What can I do if I need to lose weight?
If you need to lose weight, you can:
- Exercise – Try to exercise for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Some people with diabetes need to change their medicine dose before they exercise. They might also need to check their blood sugar levels before and after exercising.
- Eat fewer calories – Your dietitian can tell you how many calories you should eat each day in order to lose weight.
What are the other parts of diabetes treatment?
The other parts of diabetes treatment are:
Some people with diabetes need to learn how to match their diet and exercise with their medicine dose. For example, people who use insulin might need to choose the dose of insulin they give themselves. To choose their dose, they need to think about:
- What they plan to eat at the next meal
- How much exercise they plan to do
- What their blood sugar level is
If the diet and exercise do not match the medicine dose, a person’s blood sugar level can get too low or too high. Blood sugar levels that are too low or too high can cause problems