There is never a better time to start considering your nutrition intake and the effects it may have on your health, so you better start now. Diabetes is a disease that is caused by insulin imbalance. Insulin is our glucose regulator in our body and is produced by the pancreas. When there is extra sugar in our blood, insulin helps cells within your body to absorb extra glucose from blood.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and the cause of hyperglycemia (an abnormally high blood glucose level in the blood) in that the body cannot produce insulin. Someone who has type 1 diabetes would have to have injections of insulin to regulate their blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes is where the body produces enough insulin, but the problem is with the insulin receptor – it can be blocked due to obesity, especially in the abdominal area, which is a result of consuming high fat and high sugar foods and a sedentary lifestyle.
Banin Shahine, Nutrition Manager for Fitness First Middle East, expounds on the link between nutrition and diabetes.
According to her, nutrition education is a must for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes as insulin dosage and carbohydrate quantity needs to be balanced – which is sometimes referred to as ‘Carbohydrate Count’. “As nutritionists, we teach someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes how to calculate carbohydrates in food and how to match with insulin dosage and type. Around six out of every 10 of my clients has diabetes or pre-diabetes and around 40% of them are aged 14 -30,” says Shahine.
Foods to avoid
Shahine stresses the importance of types of carbohydrates when looking at nutrition and diabetes: “When looking at foods to avoid for people who have diabetes, it is important to look at the types and quantity of carbohydrates. This is where education is essential as carbohydrates are found in different foods such as grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, legumes and nuts, just to name a few.”
15g of the carbohydrate is the equivalent of one of the following:
- 1 slice of bread
- 30 g of Pita Bread or Baguette
- 1/3 cup of cooked rice
- 160 g of baked potato
- ½ cup of cooked pasta
- ½ cup of cooked oats
- 1 cup of popcorn
- 67g of cooked quinoa
- 1 rice cake (11g)
- ½ cup of legumes
Frequency and timing of carbohydrates:
“The most important thing with carbohydrates is the quantity and timing. Rather than eating a large amount of carbohydrates in one sitting and causing a spike in blood glucose, it is much better to divide carbohydrates into small frequent meals to allow the body to take its time to absorb carbohydrates and maintain blood sugar.”
Quality of carbohydrates:
The quality of carbohydrates you are consuming, explains Shahine, is very important – they must be high in fiber, and complex carbohydrates. The Glycemic Index (GI) is also an indicator that will help you identify the quality of the carbohydrates you are consuming. “The Glycemic Index looks at how much certain types of carbohydrates raise the blood glucose levels, the lower the Glycemic Index, the better. Low GI means the carbohydrates you’re consuming will be digested and absorbed slowly, which will result in a slower rise in insulin and blood sugar.”
What about supplements?
“Chromium is one of the minerals that helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that chromium helps with the pre-diabetes stage and controls sugar cravings. Recent studies have also shown that vitamin D supplements can help the pancreas control the amount of insulin that is released.”