08 November, 2010

Great Food for Diabetics

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 7.8 percent of Americans, or 23.6 million children and adults, have diabetes. There are four major types of diabetes with type II diabetes--the kind that tends to develop late in life as a result of genetic disposition and poor health habits--being the most common. While there is presently no cure for diabetes, diabetes can generally be controlled with a proper diet and exercise.

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to produce or use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone the body needs in order to convert sugar, starches and other foods into usable energy. Whether an individual is at risk for diabetes depends on that individual's genetic predisposition and diet.

The Four Types of Diabetes
There are four major types of diabetes: type I, type II, gestational and pre-diabetes. Type I results from the body's failure to produce insulin and is genetic. Type II results from insulin resistance in the body in combination with relative insulin deficiency. Unlike type I, type II is usually brought on by diet. Lastly, gestational diabetes occurs in women after pregnancy and pre-diabetes occurs when an individual's sugar levels are higher than normal but are not high enough to warrant a diagnosis of type II diabetes.

Foods to Eat
People with diabetes should focus on eating balanced, low-fat meals filled with an array of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy. This helps to keep body weights down and blood sugar levels on an even keel, which reduces the stress on a diabetic's compromised insulin system.

Diabetics should include an abundance of nonstarchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and green beans at both lunch and dinner. Eat fish two to three times a week and select lean meats or vegetarian meals using lentils, pinto beans or kidney beans at other meals. Also choose whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat noodles and whole wheat bread over traditional white counterparts. Enjoy at least one serving of permitted fruit each day and use low fat dairy products such as skin milk and fat free yogurt regularly. Also be mindful that eating too much food, even if it is a healthy food, will result in weight gain. Keep portion sizes in check.

Safe Additives and Substitutes
Artificial sweeteners such as Sweet'N Low, Equal and Splenda are safe for diabetics and can be used as a substitute for sugar in most recipes. Foods containing artificial sweeteners such as diet sodas and sugar-free candies are also safe for diabetics and should be chosen over regular soda, fruit punch, sweet teas, sugary drinks and regular candies.

Foods to Avoid
Since diabetes affects blood sugar levels, it is important that people with diabetes avoid most sugars including foods and drinks that contain sugar such as candy, gum, desserts, sodas, pastries and syrups. Meats, fats, processed grains, salt and caffeine can also aggravate diabetes in some individuals.

By Lindsay Nixon