Diabetes, or as it's fully called Diabetes Mellitus, is in fact two completely different diseases type 1 and type 2, and from a nutritional point of view each should be treated differently, therefore we have a plan for both. Blood sugar (glucose) levels are controlled by a hormone called insulin, produced by the pancreas. Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy foods, such as bread and potatoes, from sugar and naturally sweet foods, and the liver where it is made and passed into the blood. In diabetes glucose cannot be used effectively as a fuel by the body, leading to increased levels in the blood, and the excess glucose passes over into urine making the patient pass more urine and feel thirsty. Other symptoms include tiredness, blurred vision and disorientation.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease caused by the inability of insulin to act properly on tissues, see our meal plan (coming soon). In type 1 diabetes the pancreas produces no insulin at all, so the patient has to be treated with injections of insulin as well as a suitable diet. There are a number of different types of insulin which your doctor will put you on. Older insulin regimens were a lot stricter and diabetics had to follow very strict eating times. Newer regimens encourage the patients themselves to take more control over their own nutrition and they can do this by having one injection of long acting insulin per day and an appropriate dose of super-fast acting insulin prior to a meal. However, regular meals and snacks are still encouraged, especially in respect of carbohydrate foods. Diabetics should aim for slow-released low glycaemic carbs as the basis of each meal and snack. See our Glycaemic Index Tables for GI values of foods.
It's important that diabetics follow a suitable diet because:
- What you eat affects your blood glucose levels
- Being a healthy weight helps control your blood sugar levels
- Diet affects the amounts and type of fats in blood, keeping these to a desired level reduces risk of heart disease
However, in reality there is nothing revolutionary and special about a diet for type 1 diabetics; it's simply based on the healthy eating guidelines which we all should be following.
A word of caution though, so called 'diabetic products' such as special chocolates, cakes, biscuits, etc are not recommended. Eating a range of low fat, low sugar, high fibre 'ordinary' foods is far better. Many of these 'diabetic products' are no lower in fat or calories and are normally more expensive. Some contain the sweetener sorbitol which can cause wind, stomach upsets and diarrhoea. However 'low sugar'/'sugar-free' products, like diet soft drinks, are fine, and can be enjoyed.
If you are a diabetic and partake in regular sports or exercise then you will need special considerations. Plan coming soon.
The following meal plan is an example plan of a healthy diet which is suitable for a type 1 diabetic. Use this to give you an idea of what are healthy nutritious foods to include, but don't forget to vary your food choices and to drink plenty of water through the day. Remember to check with your doctor or diabetes specialist nurse before following this plan.
As with all the meal plans this is merely a guide and you are encouraged to eat a variety of different meats / fish / alternatives, complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables every day, and drink plenty of water. Adapt the plan to suit your own needs and daily routine and vary portions and food choices from day to day.