WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose (a form of sugar). Glucose builds up in the bloodstream — causing one’s blood glucose (sometimes referred to as blood sugar) to rise too high. While the level of glucose in the blood is elevated, it cannot get into the cells of the body where it would normally be providing energy for them to function. Also, elevated blood glucose levels can be harmful to the tissues of the body, leading to long-term complications that impact parts of the body, including the eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. While there are different types of diabetes, all require treatments involving striking a proper balance among food, exercise and medicines.
Type 1 diabetes
In type 1 diabetes, there is an absolute lack of insulin production, requiring it to be given either through injections or an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, occurs when some insulin is being produced but the body is resistant to using its effect in allowing glucose to get into the cells for providing energy or for storage. Over time, people with type 2 diabetes can also have a reduction – often a significant reduction –in their ability to produce insulin as well.
Gestational diabetes is a third and separate type of diabetes, that women may get during pregnancy in instances where hormones produced by the mother during pregnancy may also block the ability of the mother’s insulin to be effective.
As a result, glucose builds up in the mother’s blood and can also cause problems for the baby both pre and post birth. These women may require treatment with external insulin injections during pregnancy. This type of diabetes usually develops between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, affecting a total of four percent of all pregnancies.
A healthy diet is part of the treatment for all types of diabetes. Ideally, everyone with newly diagnosed diabetes (no matter what the type) should see a registered dietitian (RD) for an individualized meal plan.
Type 1 Diet
The initial food plan for type 1 diabetes focuses on a detailed understanding of carbohydrates (carb), the nutrient that has the most impact on blood glucose levels. Limiting intake of foods high in carbohydrates leads to better control over blood sugars. In addition to controlling carbohydrate intake, calories and portions, healthy eating habits are recommended such as eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, heart healthy fats (such as olive and canola oils), lean sources of meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy foods and minimizing sugar sweetened beverages and other highly sweetened foods.
Type 2 Diet
Most people who get type 2 diabetes have a history of being overweight. While type 2 diabetes is more common in adults, it can affect children and adolescents who are overweight. That is why the first line treatment includes increasing ones activity levels and eating a lower calorie meal plan designed to help drop 5-10% body weight. It is important to recognize that glucose levels can improve with just a moderate weight loss. In addition to controlling calories and portions, healthy eating habits are recommended such as eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, heart healthy fats (such as olive and canola oils), lean sources of meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy foods and minimizing sugar sweetened beverages and other highly sweetened foods. Another main component of the diet for type 2 diabetes is counting total carbohydrates (total of starches, sugar, and fiber in a food), which is key to keeping blood glucose levels within your target range. Speak with your medical care team to determine your recommended daily total carbohydrates.
Gestational Diabetes Diet
See a registered dietitian (RD) for an individualized meal plan. It is extremely important for women with gestational diabetes to follow a carefully designed meal plan that will provide all the right nutrients for the growing baby yet be controlled in carbohydrate to ensure blood glucose levels stay within tight targets.