The food you eat not only makes a difference in how you manage your diabetes and weight but also to how well you feel and how much energy you have. In general, people with diabetes should focus on having a balanced diet with various food products and vegetables rather than depending completely on one specific item. While at least half of their main meal should consist of veggies, the remaining half of the meal should be protein and high-fibre starches or whole grains. Many experts also recommend including healthy fat with each meal to encourage feeling fuller and enhance absorption of antioxidants and vitamins. In order to help you along, we have put together some food alternatives that you can incorporate in your diet for a fitter you.
Olive oil over regular cooking oil
Olive oil has the highest levels of polyphenols, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids when compared to other oils. It also has high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, it’s best to go with an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) since the amount of acidity and free fatty acids are minimal to none. This is what makes it perfect for salad dressing, drizzling on bread, and for cooking. When cooking with olive oil, it’s best to use lower heat levels to reap maximum benefits as this keeps the nutritive elements intact.
Stevia over sugar or artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose
Contrary to the popular belief, stevia is not an artificial sweetener, technically speaking. It’s made from the leaves of the stevia plant native to North and South America, which makes it natural. This is why it’s an ingredient in many natural-sweeteners.
Stevia contains steviol glycosides, a compound that is about 150–300 times sweeter than sugar but very low in calories. This makes it a “zero-calorie” product, perfect for anyone who wants to replace sugar in their diet. This is why stevia has gained popularity recently, especially among people with diabetes.
Eat flax Seeds
Flax seeds are one of the world’s oldest crops. It has been cultivated for use in food since ancient times. The seeds comprise about 45% oil, 35% carbs, and 20% protein and have exceptional nutritional characteristics. Flax seeds are also one of the best plant sources of the omega-3 fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid that your body can’t produce. Hence, it must be obtained from an external source.
The carbohydrate content in flax seeds consists mostly of soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre forms a viscous mass when mixed with water, helping manage blood sugar levels. On the other hand, insoluble fibre, which is not water-soluble, acts by increasing faecal bulk, helping prevent constipation. Finally, flax seed contains a large amount of digestible, high-quality protein, and amino acids as well, providing the body with enough protein and fibre.
Healthy snacking with sugar-free cookies
Our body uses nutrients such as Vitamin B, chromium, and potassium to digest sugar. And we deplete these nutrients by repeatedly consuming sugar. These nutrient stores are needed to help the body deal with inflammation. So, sugar itself is a food that takes more from the body than it adds. This can cause hunger pangs rather than fill you for a longer time. Besides, as the sugar metabolizes it can cause you to feel lethargic. Therefore, opting for snacks such as sugar-free cookies helps to balance your energy levels and eliminates such unhealthy cravings.
Incorporate healthy nuts and seeds
Many nuts and seeds are great sources of healthful unsaturated fats. Moreover, vegetable oils derived from them are also usually very good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They are also rich sources of vegetable protein and dietary fibre and are relatively low in carbohydrates. Certain nuts and seeds, such as almonds and sunflower seeds, are high in Vitamin E, zinc, and calcium. They are also one of the best sources for magnesium, which is a vital mineral in regulating blood glucose levels for diabetics and those at risk of developing it.
Use high fibre cereals and whole grains
High-fibre foods such as wholegrain cereal products speed up the movement of food through the digestive tract. This provides a good environment for beneficial bowel bacteria while decreasing levels of destructive bacteria and the build-up of carcinogenic compounds. Wheat fibre can even bind certain toxins and remove them from the bowel. A high-fibre diet, especially one high in insoluble fibre, has been associated with a healthy digestive system, making it great for those with diabetes.
Consume fresh fruits and vegetables
People with diabetes should eat a balanced diet that provides enough energy and helps to maintain a healthy weight. Some fruits are high in sugar (such as mangoes) but can be included in moderate amounts. Fruits can also satisfy a sweet tooth without resorting to candy and other foods with low nutritional value. Most fruits are high in nutrients, low in fat and sodium, and often contain nutrients not found in other foods. For instance, bananas contain potassium and tryptophan, an important amino acid. Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are high in Vitamins A and C, which are powerful antioxidants. These can be highly beneficial in supplying essential nutrients.
Although there is no ‘one diet fits all’ for diabetes, it has some common guidelines to follow. Eating food in smaller quantities, multiple times a day can help keep insulin levels in check. Apart from maintaining an optimum intake of food, this lifestyle disorder can be best tackled minimizing stress and maximizing physical activity in your daily routine.
(The author is Founder and Director at Cosmic Nutracos Solutions Pvt. Ltd. The above article is for information purpose only. Please consult a medical professional/doctor before starting any medication/therapy. Views expressed are personal.)