Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic condition, characterised by raised blood glucose levels than normal.
By Dr. Adarsh K S,
Glucose is an important source of fuel for our body. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is a key regulator of blood glucose levels. Insulin helps the body cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream and thereby normalises the glucose levels in the blood (<100 mg/dL in fasting state). Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic condition, characterised by raised blood glucose levels than normal. When our body does not produce enough insulin, glucose is not transported to cells from the bloodstream efficiently. High blood glucose levels, over time, can adversely affect your heart, vision, nervous system, kidney, etc. “India is regarded as the world capital for diabetes, accounting for >69.2 million cases. We Indians are at a higher risk of developing diabetes as compared to the Western population due to genetics. This coupled with unhealthy food habits, sedentary lifestyle and high stress levels are the key driving force for the alarming diabetes rates in our country. Awareness about the condition, a healthy lifestyle and regular check-up can go a long way in reducing the morbidity and mortality related to diabetes.
Diabetes can be classified as 3 types, primarily
Type 1 diabetes An autoimmune condition not related to lifestyle, where the body does produce sufficient insulin and the patient requires insulin injections for the rest of his life.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when our body is not able use insulin effectively. This develops later in life. Excess weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle are major causative factors for type 2 diabetes
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and is a risk factor for several complications in the mother and the new born baby.
Importance of nutrition in diabetes prevention and management
Nutrition is the cornerstone of preventing and managing diabetes. The key aims of nutrition in diabetes should be
- Adequate blood glucose control and prevent complications of diabetes
- Provide your body the essential nutrition for proper functioning.
- Helps to cut down obesity and other risk factors of heart diseases, such as hypertension and cholesterol.
Here are some tips to manage your diabetes:
- Avoid high-calorie foods like sweets, cookies, cakes, sugary beverages, etc. Such foods tend to increase blood sugar levels too quickly. It is a good idea to skip sugar in tea and coffee too.
- Choose healthy carbohydrates and fibres: Include lots of complex carbohydrates such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc, over simple carbohydrates such as white rice, all-purpose flour in your diet regularly. Complex carbohydrates are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Such food not only provides your body essential nutrition but also keeps you full for a longer time thus helping to maintain a normal blood glucose level.
- Eat smaller portions throughout the day: Eating in smaller portions at regular intervals is a good idea to aid better use of insulin produced by the body.
- Include good quality proteins like egg white, chicken, fish, nuts, dried beans, chickpeas, tofu, etc., in your meals regularly to keep you full for a longer time and maintain healthy muscle mass.
- Eat healthy fats in moderation: Food rich in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol such as fried foods, butter, red meat, palm oil is harmful for heart health and should be avoided. Choose food rich in monosaturated fats (MUFA) and polysaturated fats (PUFA) good for heart health. Food rich in MUFA and PUFA include olive oil, seeds, nuts, sea fishes, ghee, etc.
- Follow plate method: Half of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, etc. One-fourth should be protein such as chicken, fish, tofu, etc. the rest one-fourth should be whole-grain item, such as brown rice, or a starchy vegetable, such as green peas.
- Create a meal plan: It is always a good idea to create a meal plan with the help of a dietician to achieve your target blood glucose levels. A dietitian can also help you in understanding and interpreting food labels. In case you are on insulin, a dietician can teach you how to adjust insulin dose depending on your food intake.
Diabetes is a known risk factor for heart diseases, kidney damage, nerve damage, eyesight problems, etc and there is no cure for diabetes so far. Healthy lifestyle including eating a diabetes-friendly diet, regular exercising and stress management are associated with maintaining ideal body weight and normal blood glucose levels, and reducing the rate of associated complications.
(The author is Consultant – Diabetes & Endocrinology, Manipal Hospitals Old Airport Road, Bangalore. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult health experts and medical professionals before starting any therapy or medication. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)