Effective management of diabetes cannot be achieved without an appropriate diet.
People with diabetes represent a large subsection of society and there will be range of variety in terms of dietary requirements from person to person.
As a result, there is no one diabetic diet that will work for everyone and people should pick a diet that matches their individual needs.
Ideally, patients with newly diagnosed diabetes should receive advice from a dietitian soon after diagnosis.
Which diet is right for me?
There are a wealth of diets that have proved to be either popular with or of interest for people with diabetes.
We’ve compiled some of the more prominent of these diets, looking at both the benefits and disadvantages of each diet.
- Diet for type 1 diabetes
- Diet for type 2 diabetes
- 5:2 diet
- Acid-alkaline diet
- Atkins diet
- Carbohydrates and diabetes
- DASH diet
- Detox diet
- Dukan diet
- Gluten free diet
- Glycemic index diet (GI diet)
- Glycemic load
- Ketogenic diet
- Low calorie diet
- Low carb diet
- Low carb high fat diet
- Low fat diet
- Meal replacement diet plans
- Mediterranean diet
- Newcastle study diet
- NHS diet advice
- Paleolithic diet
- Raw food diet
- South beach diet
- Vegan diet
- Vegetarian diet
- Very low calorie diet
- Zone diet
You will often hear people saying you should eat a healthy, balanced diet but what exactly does this mean? A healthy diet should contain plenty of fruit and vegetables - try to include fruits and vegetables of different colours to get a wide range of nutritional benefits
Starchy foods tend have a direct influence on blood sugar so it’s good to go for either smaller portions of these and/or lower GI versions of these. Lower GI versions will be those that have a higher amount of fibre like whole grain breads and whole wheat pasta.
Potato can hit blood sugar quite hard so a good tip is to swap potato for either sweet potatoes, or for even lower carb counts you can use swede for mash or celeriac for chips.
Fat plays a part in our diet and some fats are healthier than others. The unsaturated fats that are found in avocados, nuts and oily fish come particularly recommended.
The fats that are best to avoid are the fats in crisps, pastries, chips and sweet foods such as cakes, doughnuts and biscuits.
We’re generally advised to have a decent intake of oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel or herrings, in our weekly diet. Lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey breast are often cited as good choices because of their lower calorific content.
The worst meats to choose are processed meats, such as hotdogs and typically found in other pre-prepared meals or snacks. If weight is an issue, stick to smaller portions of food. Research is showing that most people in the UK are eating more than they need.
Cutting back on portions and having water before eating come recommended for those looking to lose weight. Home cooking is a great way of improving your diet as the food is fresher and you avoid the uncertainties of what’s gone into pre-packaged foods and sauces.
What are the aims of dietary advice?
When you receive advice from your doctor or diabetes team about your diet, they will often make suggestions in order to:
- Provide a knowledge of healthy eating
- Encourage lifestyle changes in order to reduce obesity and ensure optimal weight
- Maintain blood glucose and lipids as near normal as possible
- Reduce the acute (short term) complications of diabetes such as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia
- Ensure an adequate and balanced nutritional intake
- Limit rapidly absorbed carbohydrate intake
- Monitor body weight encouraging weight maintenance and weight reduction when necessary
- Avoid hypoglycemia
If you are carrying extra weight, and are classed as either overweight or obese, weight loss has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
Modest weight loss of 5-10 kg in one year can significantly improve health outcomes.
General guidance on healthy eating
General guidance on healthy eating from the NHS will generally be based upon the following set of guidelines:
- Increasing intake of low GI carbohydrate foods
- Increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
- Reducing saturated fat intake
- Reducing sugar intake
- Reducing salt
- Safe and sensible alcohol consumption
The NHS advice on carbohydrate intake in particular has met a fair amount of criticism from people with diabetes.
Read more on the debate surrounding NHS dietary advice.
Patients should follow dietary advice as part of lifestyle modification including appropriate exercise regimes and smoking cessation.