Can a Diabetes Diet
Control My Diabetes?

Healthy eating can be very beneficial to those diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes by providing you with better nutrients, foods lower in carbohydrates, and foods with a lower gylcemic index. Foods that are high in carbohydrates or that have a high glycemic index (more on that in a moment), will raise your blood sugar levels too high. Then you will have no choice, but to control your diabetes with medication. However, if you eat properly and practice moderation, you can learn to control your blood sugar levels and will probably lose weight as well.

Diabetes Diet and Carbohydrates
What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on their effect on blood sugar level. The higher the glycemic index of a food (white potatoes and bananas for instance rank very high), then the higher impact it will have on your blood sugar levels (raising them). The lower the gylcemic index of a food, the lower impact it will have on your blood sugar levels. This is one way that you can look at your carbohydrates and help decide which carbohydrates are better for your consumption. For instance, if your blood sugar has dropped or if you are going to be doing some strenuous exercise, you may wish to eat a food with a higher glycemic index. However if you are finding that your blood sugar is too high, then foods with a lower glycemic index are going to be what you are looking for.

The problem with the glycemic index is that it can be a bit misleading.Different laboratories have come up with different numbers. And there are other factors that can determine how a food will change your blood sugar levels. These factors include: ripeness, cooking time, fiber and fat content, time of day, blood insulin levels and recent activity. And for some foods, they glycemic index is unknown. Like many tools and options you will read about regarding the correct diet for diabetes, this is a tool that can be helpful to you, but doesn’t provide all of the answers.

What are Carbohydrates?
Diabetic Food Pyrmaid to help with Diabetic Diet

Diabetic Food Pyramid

Carbohydrates include foods composed of starches, sugar and/or fiber. They are the most common source of energy found in food. Most carbohydrates break down into glucose (a specific type of sugar). Examples of carbohydrates are table sugar, fruit, milk, grains and vegetables. Proteins and fats make up the other two main sources of energy. They do not break down into glucose.
Diabetes and the Food Pyramid

When you grew up, you probably learned one kind of food pyramid. Then a few years ago, the federal government revamped what the pyramid looked like (see images below). But the new pyramid really is a lot like the original pyramid except they turned it on its side and added in exercise. And then there are other groups who have come up with food pyramids. Harvard has done a study and their pyramid is a good looking one. There is also a diabetic food pyramid which you see pictured to the side. This pyramid is much like the national one, with a few changes. Legumes and starchy veggies (lima beans, peas, potatoes) are lumped in with grains. Cheese is counted with meat instead of dairy. Serving sizes of carbohydrates are a bit smaller. There is a lot of information out there on the food pyramid and this is just one component of what you need to be aware of when you talk with your physician and nutritionist.
Pictures of the New and Old USDA Food Pyramids

New and Old USDA Food Pyramids

Overall Plan

In most cases, having to follow a diabetes diet simply means eating a variety of foods in moderation and creating a regular mealtime schedule for yourself. Different physicians and nutritionists will vary on how often they think you should eat. Some believe in several small meals/snacks, while others may prefer three good meals and limited snacking. You and your physician and nutritionist will work together to determine the best schedule for you and your body. Mainly, you need to focus on a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains with plenty of lean protein. Also, be consistent. Set up regular meal/snack schedules and stick to them and watch your portion sizes. By eating better to help control your blood sugar, you are very likely to experience the added benefits of more energy, weight loss and general sense of well being.
Bottom Line

You have some wiggle room in how you respond with diet to your diagnosis of diabetes. You need to decide for yourself if you want to try and use diet to help control your blood sugar instead of medication. It may be that you will have to be on medication in the beginning while you transition to a better diet and sometimes diet is not enough. Being informed is key. Be honest with your physician and yourself. The days of thinking ‘no one will know if I eat five cookies’ are over. You will know and your body will know and you have to behave accordingly. This is your life we are talking about and your future. There’s no better investment you will make than investing time, energy and commitment into your health and well being.