Living with Diabetes - Diabetic Diets and Why They're Good for You
Irene Wong was in her early 70’s, living in Kuala Lumpur when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Her initial reaction was shock and fear, overwhelmed by all the information thrown at her by her physician. She had to test her blood sugar at least four times a day, take Metformin, and inject herself with an insulin pen. She decided to look for a diabetes specialist, and learnt how to take care of herself whilst living with type 1 diabetes. With much difficulty, she managed to learn to deal with her condition. Irene recommends moderate exercise and cutting back on carbohydrates: “I mean if you desperately want that apple pie, go ahead and have it, '' says Irene - Just don’t combine it with a plate of fries and a large soda.”
In 2006 the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution to designate November 14 as World Diabetes Day, with the idea to raise awareness around diabetes: its prevention, the complications that can arise, and the care of people with the condition. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, amputation, heart disease and kidney failure, and is also one of the leading causes of death in the world.
The theme for 2021 World Diabetes Day is access to diabetes care. Millions of people with diabetes around the world do not have access to diabetes care. People with diabetes require ongoing care and support to manage their condition and avoid complications, hence, world governments should take action to ensure medicine, technology, support, and care should be made available to all diabetes patients that require them.
Diabetes is a quiet disease, it creeps up on you, but taking regular tests allow you to monitor yourself and see how you are doing. Simply put, the goal of a diabetic diet is to control blood sugar levels. Preventing spikes in glucose levels will help manage the level of insulin your body produces. The diet is also intended to promote weight loss, as this is a large component of diabetic health, especially for seniors with limited mobility.
Here are some simple steps to help a diabetic to manage their diet, especially your elderly loved ones.
- Aim for portion control especially when relating to carbohydrates. It does not mean diabetics need to avoid all carbs. The type of carbohydrate is what’s important. Don’t eat processed, refined carbs from foods like sweets and desserts. Choose fruits, legumes, and vegetables instead. These are known as complex carbs, which are digested much slower, and do not cause a spike in blood sugar. This is one of the most important points for managing diabetes in the elderly.
- Have regularly set mealtimes. Not skipping meals will help regulate glucose levels. The time at which you eat is just as important as the food that you eat. To avoid sugar level fluctuations, eat at consistent times each day. Eating every 4-5 hours is recommended to prevent hypoglycemia for the elderly. Caregivers should help by ensuring the diabetic person eats at regular intervals, and takes their medication as needed.
- Limiting sugar intake is the most important rule. Sweets and desserts, soft drinks, honey, and other sweet foods are a big NO. You can have them as an occasional treat in tiny amounts. For proper control over diabetes in the elderly, sugar cravings should be assuaged with fresh or frozen fruit. Cut out fruit juices from your diet, as these are high in sugar. Low-fat foods, such as yogurt and other dairy products, should also be avoided, as they often have added sugar to compensate for the reduced fat content.
- Fiber is an important element of an enjoyable diabetic diet. Dietary fiber has many health benefits for the body. Seniors with diabetes should consume more high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- A diet high in whole foods and low in processed foods is best. Highly processed foods often contain excessive sodium, sugar, and unhealthy saturated fats. Preparing your own meals or having a caregiver prepare them for you is a good way to avoid unnecessary salt and sugar.
- Avoiding excess salt, as diabetics are more at-risk for heart disease than non-diabetics. Excessive sodium can lead to many complications, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
The whole idea is to REPLACE and not REMOVE to make a Diabetic Diet more enjoyable. Do not let Diabetes become an unwelcome visitor in your life.