When we eat foods that contain carbohydrates like whole grains, pasta, white bread, fruits, legumes, and vegetables like potatoes they are converted into simple sugar i.e. glucose in the body and released in the bloodstream. Junk foods high in carbs like fries, candies, sweets, or fruit juices also spike these levels faster.
Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps glucose get into the cells to be used for energy. Diabetes occurs when your body does not produce enough insulin or does not utilize insulin appropriately. Glucose thus remains in your circulation rather than reaching your cells.
Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are subnormally high but not as high as in diabetes patients, and if these symptoms are neglected, diabetes might develop.
There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes: In this, the body does not make any insulin hormone. It is an autoimmune disease and is detected in childhood or early adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes: the cells of your body do not use insulin properly. The pancreas may be making insulin but not enough to keep the blood sugars in check. Type 2 diabetes could lead to other medical conditions like high cholesterol, obesity, etc.
Diabetes is caused by a number of variables, including inheritance, a sedentary lifestyle, intake of processed foods with little fiber, stress, and a lack of sleep.
Diabetes can be better managed if you can change your lifestyle and become more active, according to research.
It is critical in diabetes management to maintain insulin levels, that is to achieve optimal insulin secretion. It is also critical to address insulin resistance, which occurs when cells are unable to absorb glucose even when insulin production is normal.
As clinical nutritionists, we have seen phenomenal changes in prediabetes and diabetes management just by making small changes in the diet.
To manage diabetes, the first and most crucial step is to avoid junk meals, highly processed foods, and sweets. Because these foods activate more insulin and are heavy in saturated fats, they can contribute to excessive sugar levels, obesity, and other metabolic diseases.
Make it a point to include protein in all of your meals. Include items like nuts and seeds, eggs, curd, buttermilk, or sprouts in your breakfast from the start of the day. Lunch and dinner should follow the healthy plate method, which includes a raw salad, cooked vegetables, millet or whole grains, and, of course, ghee.
Eating small and frequent meals helps in better management of sugar levels. But you need to be careful of what you include in these meals. Usually, 5-6 meals in the day which could be spread over 2 hours gap works in managing diabetes better. The meals are breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, midafternoon, evening snacks, and then dinner.
The healthy plate technique can be used for the main meals like breakfast, lunch, and supper, and the mid-meal can be low-calorie foods like salads or fruits, or protein-dense snacks like almonds, seeds, buttermilk, or curd.
Make sure that there are no carbs included in the mid meals like namkeen with tea, then it will defeat the purpose of the small meals.
Small and frequent meals will ensure that you do not end up feeling very hungry and do not consume extra calories for the main meals.
By having snacks that are non-carbs in between there is no spike in the insulin levels and you can ensure that you are satiated better.
In the management of diabetes, there are two schools of thought: eat small and frequent meals or two to three substantial meals followed by intermittent fasting.
Both methods have worked well with my clients, it’s about making sustainable lifestyle changes that will last. If the person is working and cannot stick to having small and frequent meals then go ahead with large meals but make it a point to eat by the healthy plate as suggested above.
In case a person is taking diabetes medication, in that case, small and frequent meals are more convenient.
It is all about moderation and diabetes management can be done by both these methods under expert advice. Diabetes management in early stages is possible with nutrition intervention, speak to your team or doctor and nutritionist to help you get the best results.
Avanti is India’s leading food science and nutrition expert.