While there may not be a cure for diabetes, proper management through diet, exercise and medication can help prevent diabetes related complications. Diet is especially important because the food you eat can increase blood sugar. You do not need to eat special foods, but you do need to make healthy food choices and eat them in moderate amounts.
Carbohydrates in food increase blood sugar levels. As a diabetic, controlling the amount of carbohydrates you eat at each meal helps you better manage your diabetes. Carbohydrate-containing foods include all starches, fruits, milk and yogurts. The amount you need to eat each day depends on your calorie needs and blood sugar goals. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about your carbohydrate needs. The American Diabetes Association says most diabetics can start with 45 g to 60 g of carbohydrate at each meal. A single serving of a carbohydrate-containing food has about 15 g of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-containing foods and serving sizes for diabetics include a slice of bread, 1/3 cup of rice or pasta, 1/2 cup of potatoes, 1/2 cup of peas or corn, 3/4 cups of ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup of cooked hot cereal, one small apple or orange, 4 oz. banana, 2 tbsp. of raisins, 1/2 cup of unsweetened canned fruit, 1/2 cup of juice, 1 cup of nonfat or 1 percent fat milk, 6 oz. container of low-fat or nonfat sugar-free yogurt and 1 cup of soy milk.
For better blood sugar control choose whole grain starches instead of refined flour starches and whole fruits instead of juice. The fiber in these foods slows digestion and the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Nonstarchy vegetables contain small amounts of carbohydrates, but you do not need to count it toward your total meal carbohydrate intake, according to the American Diabetes Association. Nonstarchy vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Increasing your vegetable intake helps you manage your weight and diabetes. Healthy nonstarchy vegetable choices for diabetics include spinach, leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and mushrooms.
Meat and Meat Substitutes
Meats do not contain carbohydrates and do not affect blood sugar. However, diabetics have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and need to limit their intake of foods high in saturated fat. Choose lean cuts of meat to curb your intake of saturated fat. Lean meat choices include poultry, fish, pork tenderloin, lamb chops, veal and beef eye-of-round roast. Meat substitutes for diabetics include tofu, low-fat cheese and eggs.
Fats and Oils
Intake of fats and oils should be limited to prevent excessive calorie intake. You should also choose heart-healthy monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and peanut butter, and polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oil and walnuts. Other fats and oils for a diabetic diet include margarine, almonds, soy oil, canola oil, salad dressing and mayonnaise.
Broccoli and Diabetes
People with diabetes need to take special care with their diet to keep their blood sugar levels within the appropriate range. Although careful planning can make it so you can eat any food, at least in small doses, there are some foods that are particularly healthy for diabetics. Broccoli is among them.
The main principles of a diabetes diet are to consume plenty of whole grains, vegetables and fruits and to limit both fat and calories. High-fiber foods, fish and unsaturated fats are recommended, while saturated fats, sodium, cholesterol and trans fats should be avoided as much as possible, according to the American Heart Association. Meals should be planned to keep you from experiencing spikes in blood sugar, as this can bring your blood sugar levels too high. Counting carbs, using the glycemic index or using diabetes exchange lists can make it easier to keep your blood sugar even throughout the day.
Broccoli and Diabetes
Broccoli contains 5 grams of fiber for a 1/2-cup serving and contains only 50 calories, but it is also recommended because certain chemicals in broccoli may help prevent damage caused to the blood vessels by diabetes. A study led by Paul Thornalley published in the journal “Diabetes” in 2008 found that the sulforaphanes in broccoli may activate protective enzymes that limit this type of cell damage. The study was conducted in a lab using sulforaphane and blood vessels with damage from high levels of blood sugar, which is still a long way from proving that eating broccoli will prevent this type of damage, according to the U.K. National Health Service. Further studies need to be done to document this effect, including human trials.
Other Possible Benefits
The sulphurophanes and other phytonutrients in broccoli may also lower your risk for cancer. They help to remove toxins from the body, get rid of free radicals and help stop the division of cancer cells. Eating broccoli may slow down the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. A study in the May 1, 2010 issue of “Clinical Cancer Research” states that sulphurophanes in broccoli may specifically help prevent the development and spread of breast cancer.
Broccoli is a very nutritious food that is healthy for diabetics. A 1/2-cup serving contains 220 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, 50 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, 20 percent of the daily value for folate, 15 percent of the daily value for vitamin B-6, 10 percent of the daily value for phosphorus, magnesium and riboflavin, 8 percent of the daily value for thiamine, calcium and iron and 6 percent of the daily value for niacin and zinc. A serving of broccoli is fat-free and provides 5 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbohydrates.
Diabetics should use medications and diet to control their diabetes, according to the UK National Health Service. Broccoli can be a part of that healthy diet, since it provides a lot of nutrition while being low on the glycemic index so it won’t have a large effect on blood sugar levels. However, eating broccoli does not allow you to stop taking your diabetes medications.
Foods and Fruits That Diabetics Should Not Eat
A healthy diabetic diet can include any food in moderation, as long as it allows you to keep your blood sugar levels within target. However, “moderation” may be difficult to apply to some foods because of their very high carbohydrate content. Some foods also seem to trigger cravings or promote overeating. If you have diabetes, it may be best to avoid eating these foods, to prevent problems with your blood sugar that could compromise your health.
Many fruits at the supermarket today are made to be larger in size, which means they contain a lot more carbohydrates per serving. Diabetics should keep their carbohydrate intake moderate, because carbs influence your blood sugar more than other nutrients. Avoid large apples, which contain over 30 g of carbohydrates; choose a very small apple to cut your carb intake in half. The same goes for oranges and pears. If you enjoy mango, papaya or melon, keep your serving to no more than 1/2 cup.
Juice may provide some of the nutrients found in fruits, but a very important factor is missing: fiber. Without the fiber, fruit juices are a lot less satisfying compared to whole fruits, and can result in a quicker rise in your blood sugar levels. In addition, most diabetics do not keep their serving to 4 oz., and consume up to 12 oz. or 16 oz. at a time, resulting in consumption of up to 40 g to 55 g of carbohydrates.
Dried fruits are a very concentrated source of carbohydrates. Unless you can stick to a serving of no more than 1 tbsp. to 2 tbsp., you should not eat them. Because dried fruits are dehydrated, they take less space in your stomach, and it is easy to overeat. For example, if you eat about 1/2 cup of raisins, dried cranberries, dried figs, dried banana or dried apple, it adds up to close to 50 g to 60 g of carbohydrates
All foods containing refined flour contain large amounts of quickly digestible carbohydrates, or carbohydrates that can result in a quick and large elevation in your blood sugar levels. Read food labels, and avoid products made with white or refined flours. Don’t eat white bread, white buns, white pizza dough, crackers, pasta, fiberless breakfast cereals or baked goods if you want to better control your diabetes, blood sugar and weight.
Diabetics should stay away from foods and beverages containing added sugar, whether it is table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, dextrose, glucose or fructose. All these foods are rich in carbohydrates; they are not good sources of important nutrients. Eliminate soft drinks, energy drinks, sugary coffees, candies, cookies, pies, cakes, chocolate bars and other desserts.