Lowering Your Risk of Disease Complications

Health Professional

Recently we discussed how managing blood sugars, blood pressure and cholesterol can have a huge impact on reduction of disease complications for those who have diabetes.

We know that when blood sugars are consistently high it can result in serious damage to the coronary arteries. Therefore, if you have diabetes it's extremely important that you are pro-active in monitoring your health and follow a healthy lifestyle.

If you're recording your blood sugar levels at home, you'll probably already have a good idea if your diabetes is under control. The American Diabetes Association recommends that blood glucose readings should be:

  • Prior to a meal: 90-130 mg/dl (5.0-7.2 mmol/l)
  • Following a meal: <180 mg/dl (<10.0 mmol/l)

So, how can you keep your blood sugars within the normal range?

Actually, the dietary advice for diabetes doesn't differ from that of the healthy eating recommendations for the population as a whole. In short, this means eating:

  • Plenty of vegetables
  • Some fruit
  • Oat-based cereals
  • Multigrain breads
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lean meats, and fish
  • Low fat dairy
  • Olive oil etc

One of the main problems we have today is our perceived idea of what a suitable portion really is. However, controlling the portion size of our meals and snacks is absolutely key to weight maintenance, or weight loss. It is also important for controlling carbohydrate intake if you are diabetic.

Avoiding portion distortion

Here is a quick reminder of what our plate should look like. Every time you sit down for a meal draw imaginary lines on your plate dividing it into four sections:

25% whole grain

25% of our plate should be filled with starchy or whole grain products as opposed to processed grains. Choose wild or brown rice, whole grain barley, whole wheat pasta, buckwheat, whole oats, and multi-grain or seeded bread. Avoid foods such as white bread, white flour tortillas, white rice, and baked goods as much as possible.

Be aware that eating too many carbs can cause difficulties in controlling blood glucose levels. Opting for high fiber versions will help and it's recommended that we get at least 20 to 35g fiber each day.

25% protein foods

25% of our plate should be protein foods such as lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, or tofu. Beans, peas and lentils are also included in this group, as well as being part of the vegetable group because they are excellent sources of protein.

50% non-starchy vegetables or fruit

50% of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower or mixed salad leaves. Remember that variety is very important, so choose a range of colorful vegetables so that you can benefit from the maximum amount of nutrients available. By finishing your meal with a piece of fruit or fruit salad your overall diet will be pretty well balanced

Regular meals

Establishing a regular eating pattern is extremely important for everyone, but particularly if you have diabetes. Eating regularly will help to maintain your blood sugar levels within the normal range and prevent those unhealthy 'peaks and troughs.' Generally speaking, you should aim for 3 meals and 2-3 healthy snacks each day.

Related Information:

Diabetes Awareness Month: Understanding the Link Between Heart Disease and Diabetes

Silent Heart Disease in Diabetes: "Why Don't I Feel It?"

Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: How One Condition Impacts the Other

Find more information about diabetes on our partner site MyDiabetesCentral.com.

Melanie Thomassian is the author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible dietary advice, exercise tips, and much more!