For a person with diabetes, a wide array of devices, monitors and testing apparatuses exist to help you manage your disease. However, one of the most simple and effective means to stay in control is monitoring the kind of food you put in your body. Eating right and getting the essential nutrients you need can help manage diabetes to keep you healthy.
Nutrition and Diabetes: The Big Picture
The food you ingest directly affects your blood sugar level. At the same time, the right balance of nutrients helps keep blood sugar levels in check. A diet high in junk calories and fat for example, will cause a spike in glucose levels, which produces undesirable symptoms of diabetes, including long term damage to your heart, nervous system, and kidneys.
Getting the essential nutrients for health may sound like a grueling diet, full of strange vegetables and tasteless meals. Actually, it’s quite the contrary. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and grains is anything but boring or restrictive. In addition to managing diabetes effectively, a nutrient-rich, balanced diet will help you meet your weight goals, maintain your energy levels, and keep all body systems functioning optimally. A diet plan packed with essential nutrients isn’t merely a good idea for people with diabetes; it’s a great plan for anyone.
Best Nutrients for Diabetes
Everyone needs the proper nutrients, regardless of their medical condition, health, weight, gender, or age. Here is the list, divided according to vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A – aids in the growth and health of body cells – especially of the mucosal membranes and helps Prevent infection
Vitamin B1 – helps the body produce energy from carbohydrates
Vitamin B2 – helps the body produce energy in the cell
Niacine (Vitamin B3) – helps the body produce energy by participating in the metabolism of fat and sugar
Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) -helps with production of energy in the cell
Vitamin B6 – important in helping the body make protein
Vitamin B12 – helps metabolize protein and fat
Vitamin C – —
- Synthesizes collagen
- Strengthens blood vessels
- Promotes healthy gums
- Heals cuts and wounds
- Strengthens immune system
- Provides anti-oxidant protection
- Prevents damage by free radicals
Vitamin E – is a fat-soluble antioxidant – protects cell membranes
MineralsIron – Sufficient levels of iron are important for blood health and overall strength and stamina.
Calcium – is important for muscle contraction, including heart and with Nerve function
Magnesium – —helps regulate blood pressure and heart rhythm; provides structure, along with calcium and phosphorus, to bones and teeth
Sodium – Extremely high levels of sodium are bad, but the right amount of sodium in the system is needed to maintain the body’s water balance, which is especially crucial for people with diabetes.
Potassium – Potassium has a lot of benefits for the entire body, but its particular benefit to people with diabetes is its ability to lower blood pressure.
Zinc – Growing and repairing your body is an important component of health, and it is only possible with sufficient amounts of zinc.
Chromium – Helps balance blood sugar
How to Obtain the Nutrients You Need
Merely knowing the best nutrients isn’t enough. You must also understand the best way to ingest. Here are the major food groups that are paramount for a diabetes nutrition plan.
Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils and other legumes are a great source of fiber and complex carbohydrates, both of which pack plenty of nutrients in every serving. You can easily obtain daily legumes by adding them to salads, enjoying them in soup, or eating them plain.
Fruits: Fresh fruit is rich in nutrients and minerals. Keep your fruit selection varied.
Vegetables: Vegetables are legendary for their high nutrient content. Avoid processed vegetables of any kind, and aim for vegetable intake that includes leafy green veggies.
Fiber sources: Fruits, vegetables, and legumes all contain high amounts of fiber. Another good source of fiber is oatmeal, wheat bran, and other whole-grain foods.
Nuts and Seeds: Getting the right kinds of fats is a great way to get plenty of nutrients and beneficial oils. Good sources are almonds, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, olives, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
Go for foods with a low glycemic index. If you have been regulating your food intake according to the glycemic index, you’re off to a great start. Most of the foods that are rich in nutrients (such as the ones listed above) will produce minimal blood sugar increases. Keep in mind that just because something is a low index food doesn’t mean that it is necessarily healthier. It is best to structure your diet according to nutrients than according to the glycemic index.
See a naturopathic physician or other health care provider specializing in nutrition to help you with a daily plan and to ensure that you are meeting your health goals.
A healthy diet won’t necessarily “cure” diabetes, or prevent the need for regular checkups with your physician. However, the right diet is one of the most important things you can do for your health and to avoid diabetes complications.