Diet for diabetics

Posted on July 31, 2009. Filed under: Diabetes/diabetic recipe | Tags: , |

Diet & Diabetes
Effective management of diabetes depends on a delicate balance between medication and diet control. The main goals in looking after diabetes are:

1. To achieve or to maintain ideal body weight: Being overweight or underweight are equally harmful for a diabetic. Hence if you fall in either of the categories, do ensure that you take the necessary precautions to stay at your ideal body weight. You may now wonder what ideal body weight is and how we can determine our ideal body weight.
Here is a formula of Broca’s Index to help you determine what weight is appropriate for your height.
For men: Height (cm) – 100 = Ideal body weight (kgs).
“100” mentioned in the formula is the standard figure for men to determine their ideal body weight according to their height.
For women: Height (cm) – 105 = Ideal body weight (kgs).
“105” mentioned in the formula is the standard figure for women to determine their ideal body weight according to their height.
2. To maintain blood sugar levels close to the normal levels…
3. To improve over all physical and mental health by following a balanced routine for exercise, diet and also minimizing stress levels as that also can aggravate the situation.
4. To maintain the blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels , as most diabetic patients are prone to heart disease. Avoid eating sweets and fried foods and also include plenty of fibre in your diet to cut down on any accumulated bad cholesterol.
5. To prevent or to delay any further health ailment associated with diabetes by early detection and prompt treatment.

A diabetic diet should consist of a good combination of nutrients i.e. carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to stay fit and fine and to keep the blood sugar levels in check.

Every adult requires approximately 2000 kilocalories (or calories as we regularly say) every day to maintain optimum health. However, if the person is either obese or underweight then we need to cut down or add on to these calories as recommended by a doctor or nutritionist.

Plan your daily energy requirements, eating patterns and physical activities with your doctor or nutritionist to bring your weight close to your ideal body weight.

Here are the nutrients you need to know about, along with their distribution you need in your daily diet.



Carbohydrates should fulfil approximately 60 to 65% of your daily energy intake (calories).
A common misconception is that most carbohydrates are regarded as sugars, as a result of which they are completely avoided in the diabetic diet whereas actually one should choose carbohydrates carefully.
Carbohydrates are divided into two groups, viz. simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like sugar, honey, jaggery etc do not need to be metabolized and hence will raise the blood sugar levels immediately. These should be avoided. Refined cereals like maida, pasta, semolina etc. should also be avoided as the process of refining breaks down these complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates that raise the blood sugar levels rapidly.
On the other hand, consumption of complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat, jowar, bajra, oats, brown rice instead of white rice etc. should be given more emphasis. These complex carbohydrates are preferred as they take longer to digest and thus give rise to a gradual increase blood sugar levels is gradual, making it easier for a diabetic person to adjust to the changes in blood sugar levels.

The important thing for diabetics is not to completely restrict their consumption of carbohydrates, but need to alter the type of carbohydrates consumed. For example, it is better to have unpolished or brown rice instead of polished white rice.
A simple way to find out how quickly foods raise your blood sugar levels is by means of the glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index are those that raise the blood sugar levels very rapidly.
It is a misconception that only table sugar shoots up the blood sugar levels. The glycemic index shows that certain foods like potato, yam etc. also show a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and are hence termed as high glycemic index foods.

It is advisable for diabetics to consume foods with a low glycemic index (as they bring about a gradual rise in the blood sugar levels) such as guava, plums, cluster beans, broccoli, cauliflower etc. and to mix foods with medium glycemic index such as pineapple, muskmelon, pastas etc. with low glycemic index foods.



This nutrient is required for the regular maintenance of our body and wear and tear of our tissues. Protein should form approximately 12 to 20% of our daily caloric (energy) intake.
It is essential to include protein in our diet, but only just enough to meet our daily requirements as excess protein puts a lot of burden on our kidneys to excrete its by-products.

We need not drastically reduce the protein in our diet, but should consume it in moderation. Try and include only one source of protein in each meal. For example, either eggs or milk for breakfast, either curds or dal for lunch or dinner etc. Avoid having dal, paneer and curds in the same meal, as that becomes a very heavy dose of protein.



Fat is a concentrated source of energy and it makes us feel satiated. It is also necessary for our body in small quantities as apart from calories (1 gm. of oil or fat = 9 calories), it contains essential fatty acids, which are required to perform certain vital functions in our body. Since These fatty acids cannot be produced naturally by our body, if we do not consume the recommended amount of fat per day, our body becomes deficient in these fatty acids causing visible symptoms like fatigue, weakness, mood swings, dry skin and dry hair.

Oil also helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Vitamin A and E are important in our daily diet, as they are antioxidants which means they help us to build up our immune system to fight against the odds of infection. Vitamin D helps in strengthening our bones and teeth, whereas vitamin K helps in clotting our blood during injuries.

Care should be taken in choosing the right type of fat, to prevent another common consequence of diabetes viz.. heart disease. Oil, butter, vanaspati or ghee – which of these is better? We often wonder…. Well, here are the answers to that.

Oil is a healthier cooking option, although you can include small amounts of ghee and butter, using it sparingly. It is advisable for healthy individuals to consume no more than 6 teaspoons of fat (30 grams) per day and for diabetics not more than 3 teaspoons of fat per day , to avoid any health complications. Another way of keeping count is to measure out ½ litre (approx. ½ kg) per person per month.
This recommendation is for diabetics with normal blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In case the levels are higher, check with your physician as to whether to cut down on fat or change the type of fat you are using.
Excessive fat on the other hand, apart from making us put on weight can also disturb the absorption of important nutrients like calcium in our body.



Fibre is a complex carbohydrate present in foods and although it is not really a ‘nutrient’, it is nevertheless an important component of our diet. It cleans up our system, prevents constipation and reduces blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels thus helping to prevent heart disease.
Our diet should include approximately 15 to 25 grams of fibre daily.

Fibre is extremely essential for diabetics, as it satiates us for longer periods and due to its low glycemic index causes slow release of sugar in the blood stream, thus helping to control diabetes. This also improves the efficiency of insulin in the cells and hence may decrease the need for external insulin if the person is insulin dependent.

Fibre is found only in foods derived from plants and how much depends on whether it has been processed. For example, unpolished rice contains much more fibre than processed/polished rice.

Here are some easy ways to include fibre in your diet.

Start the day with a high fibre dish like Muesli, Green Pea Pancakes etc. Have plenty of vegetables, especially raw vegetables in the form of salads and raitas. Do not peel vegetables and fruits like cucumber, carrot and apples as their peels are edible. Do remember to wash them thoroughly, or scrape the peels slightly before eating.

Eat high fibre foods like dried peas, beans and lentils.

Choose brown bread or rotis made with whole wheat flour instead of instead of white bread or pasta made from refined flour.

Try to use the bran of cereals like wheat, oats and rice in your regular meals. For example, adding 1 tablespoon of bran in the chapati dough or in the vegetable dishes will provide plenty of fibre. Bran is also a good thickening agent that can add low calorie bulk to soups, gravies etc. Bran is easily available at most health food stores and larger grocery stores.


Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are needed for the regular maintenance of our body. Iron (for blood), Calcium (bones and teeth), Folic Acid (cell maintenance), vitamin A (for clear vision and skin), vitamin D (for the absorption of calcium), vitamin E (for healthy skin), vitamin K (helps in clotting blood), vitamin B (for metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fat) and vitamin C (helps in immunity).
Fresh leafy vegetables like spinach, chawli leaves etc. and other vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower etc. are an excellent source of these vitamins and minerals. Fresh fruits like orange, sweet lime, apple etc. also contribute substantially by providing vitamins and minerals to our diet.

Along with the above nutrients one very important part of our diet is fluids . They are required to flush all the wastes out and to maintain the fluid (water) balance in our body.
Diabetics need to have plenty of fluids as they help to keep the urine diluted, so that the kidneys can flush it out without being taxed.

Water is not the only source of fluid that one can have. Vegetable soups and fruits and their juices are beneficial. Avoid carbonated beverages as far as possible as these provide no real nutrients, but only empty calories, which means they only help in


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