Alongside exercise, a healthy diet is an important element of the lifestyle management of diabetes, as well as being preventive against the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Maintaining a good diet is also a vital part of keeping tight control of blood sugar levels, itself important for minimizing the risk of diabetes complications.1
The good news for people living with diabetes is that the condition does not preclude any particular type of food or require an unusual diet - the goal is much the same as it would be for anyone wishing to eat a healthy, balanced diet.2
Having diabetes does not involve any particularly difficult dietary demands, and while sugary foods obviously affect blood glucose levels, the diet does not have to be completely sugar-free.2
Dietary concerns vary slightly for people with different types of diabetes. For people with type 1 diabetes, diet is about managing fluctuations in blood glucose levels while for people with type 2 diabetes, it is about losing weight and restricting calorie intake.3
For people with type 1 diabetes, the timing of meals is particularly important in terms of glycemic control and in relation to the effects of insulin injection.3
In general, however, a healthy, balanced diet is all that is needed, and the benefits are not confined to good diabetes management - they also mean good heart health.2,4 A healthy diet typically includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils.4
The following are some general dietary tips for a healthy lifestyle:2-5
The video below from the American Diabetes Association gives help on meal planning. The organization also has a list of other useful videos on diet.
In the US, the Community Preventive Services Task Force run diabetes prevention programs that help with improving diet for people at risk of, or newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The programs may include:6
Participants in the national diabetes prevention program have access to a lifestyle coach to learn more about healthy eating and exercise.6
Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and obesity in people who already have diabetes results in poor control of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.6
Another concern with being overweight or having obesity is that it can worsen many of the complications of diabetes.6
Weight loss can be achieved by following the recommendations above and restricting the intake of calories.
Disclaimer: This informational section on Medical News Today is regularly reviewed and updated, and provided for general information purposes only. The materials contained within this guide do not constitute medical or pharmaceutical advice, which should be sought from qualified medical and pharmaceutical advisers.
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