While there may not be a cure for diabetes, proper management through diet, exercise and medication can help prevent diabetes related complications. Diet is especially important because the food you eat can increase blood sugar. You do not need to eat special foods, but you do need to make healthy food choices and eat them in moderate amounts.
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Carbohydrates in food increase blood sugar levels. As a diabetic, controlling the amount of carbohydrates you eat at each meal helps you better manage your diabetes. Carbohydrate-containing foods include all starches, fruits, milk and yogurts. The amount you need to eat each day depends on your calorie needs and blood sugar goals. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about your carbohydrate needs. The American Diabetes Association says most diabetics can start with 45 g to 60 g of carbohydrate at each meal. A single serving of a carbohydrate-containing food has about 15 g of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-containing foods and serving sizes for diabetics include a slice of bread, 1/3 cup of rice or pasta, 1/2 cup of potatoes, 1/2 cup of peas or corn, 3/4 cups of ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup of cooked hot cereal, one small apple or orange, 4 oz. banana, 2 tbsp. of raisins, 1/2 cup of unsweetened canned fruit, 1/2 cup of juice, 1 cup of nonfat or 1 percent fat milk, 6 oz. container of low-fat or nonfat sugar-free yogurt and 1 cup of soy milk.
For better blood sugar control choose whole grain starches instead of refined flour starches and whole fruits instead of juice. The fiber in these foods slows digestion and the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Nonstarchy vegetables contain small amounts of carbohydrates, but you do not need to count it toward your total meal carbohydrate intake, according to the American Diabetes Association. Nonstarchy vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Increasing your vegetable intake helps you manage your weight and diabetes. Healthy nonstarchy vegetable choices for diabetics include spinach, leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and mushrooms.
Meat and Meat Substitutes
Meats do not contain carbohydrates and do not affect blood sugar. However, diabetics have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and need to limit their intake of foods high in saturated fat. Choose lean cuts of meat to curb your intake of saturated fat. Lean meat choices include poultry, fish, pork tenderloin, lamb chops, veal and beef eye-of-round roast. Meat substitutes for diabetics include tofu, low-fat cheese and eggs.
Fats and Oils
Intake of fats and oils should be limited to prevent excessive calorie intake. You should also choose heart-healthy monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and peanut butter, and polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oil and walnuts. Other fats and oils for a diabetic diet include margarine, almonds, soy oil, canola oil, salad dressing and mayonnaise.