Diabetes: A Complex Disease, Yet Simple Nutrition Rules

Layal Al Hanna
Masters in Human Nutrition, USJ

“What am I going to eat now?!”

A common question we hear from overwhelmed and newly diagnosed patients.

The so called “complex” disease requires in fact simple rules to control glycemia and delay, better yet prevent the complications we all know. Simple rules involve frequent meetings with the physician, healthy eating habits and regular physical activity.

In regards to good nutrition, it is all about moderation, variety and planning. A nutritious day is based on 3 healthy meals with 2-3 snacks between meals.

TIP. Try not to skip breakfast for this is linked to increased insulin resistance.

A healthy meal includes all food groups: dairy, proteins, grains, fat, fruits and vegetables. Grains (bread, rice, etc.) are nothing to be afraid of because, if chosen carefully, will give you energy and provide you with essential nutrients.

TIP. Try to opt toward whole grains such as whole bread and never forget to have legumes in moderation (ex: beans) for they are a good source of fibers and proteins.

Milk and yogurt are an important component of your meal since they are rich in protein, calcium, vitamins D, A, some B vitamins and others. However, it is better to have skimmed milk, which is low in saturated fat that is bad for your heart and vessels. Fruits and vegetables contain a significant amount of vitamins, minerals and fibers and they (especially vegetables) should be present abundantly throughout the day.

TIP. Rule of colors: Try to have various colors of fruits and vegetables every day since every color corresponds to a certain antioxidant beneficial to your health. Orange, yellow, purple, red, green are all colors that help you prevent disease.

As for proteins, we recommend high biological value proteins found in grilled fish, lean meat, and grilled chicken breast with skin removed before cooking. “Good fat” (monounsaturated fat) is quite abundant in our traditional Mediterranean diet especially in olive oil, avocado and nuts.

TIP. Try to include sources of good fat in moderation and avoid bad fat (saturated and trans) found in margarine, ghee, butter, biscuits, processed food.

We add some water... Now your meal is ready to eat: A variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, good fat, skimmed milk, fluids, and a good source of protein. One more thing to complete all this... Exercise, Exercise, Exercise! Physical activity is essential to managing diabetes. These guidelines serve as general information for the management of diabetes as well as for the general population to stay healthy and prevent overweight, a leading cause of diabetes (Type 2). At the end, the most reliable resource for you is your healthcare team of physicians and dietitians.

Finally, to our dismay as healthcare professionals, diabetes prevalence is dangerously increasing despite that now we know much about the disease’s prevention and management and even more by the day. A team work of doctors, fitness consultants, community workers, and dietitians will certainly be of great benefit to prevent and control diabetes.

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