Friday, June 8, 2012

Diabetic Meal Planning

Your body uses insulin, made by the pancreas, to convert the food you eat into a simple sugar called glucose.  This glucose is then carried through your body and used by each and every cell as fuel.  Diabetes is a disease that affects this process.  You pancreas either is no longer able to produce insulin or your body has become resistant to the insulin.  The food your body eats cannot be converted into the simple sugar glucose, and these complex sugars build up in the body causing great distress to your kidneys.  Until the development of insulin in the early part of the 1920s, diabetes nearly always resulted in death due to kidney failure.

There are two types of diabetes.  With Type 1 diabetes, the body is completely unable to produce insulin and the person will need to inject insulin several times a day to maintain healthy glucose levels.  Type 1 diabetes generally manifests in people under the age of 30, although it can appear later in life as well.  There are several theories as to the cause of this illness, including a genetic predisposition, but additional research is still needed.

Type 2 diabetes can occur any time during one’s life, although it is most common in adults over the age of 35.  Unlike Type 1 diabetes, the body produces enough insulin but the cells have become resistant to it.  This form of the disease is what is termed as a “lifestyle disease.”  It can be managed without insulin injections in most cases if the patient is willing to make changes in their eating habits, lose weight, control cholesterol levels and start an exercise program. 

When planning meals, keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal is the goal.  One way to accomplish this is by eating a diet rich in fiber, whole grains and fruits and vegetables.  It is not so much what you are eating as to learning to control portions.  The American Diabetes Association recommends using the “plate method” to help with meal planning.  First, divide your plate down the center with an imaginary line.  Next, divide one of the “halves” in half again, giving you three sections.  In the largest section, place non-starchy vegetables, like carrots, tomatoes, green beans, beets and onions.  In one of the small sections place your starches, like potatoes, corn, cooked beans, whole wheat bread or grits.  Finally, place proteins in the other small section.  Fish, chicken, lean cuts of beef, tofu and low-fat cheeses are good examples.

This doesn’t mean, however, that your meals need to be boring.  With a little creativity, you and your family can still have delicious food that fits within your new lifestyle.  Try cooking your meals in a crock-pot or slow cooker to maximize flavor (and save you some time)!  A lean cut of pork tenderloin lends itself especially well to this method.  Consider adding some vegetables, like carrots, cabbage or onions and seasoning with sea salt, pepper, a bay leaf and a few cloves.  You can serve your dish with a hearty rye bread for a complete, diabetes-friendly meal.  For a quick stir fry, cut tofu into 1” cubes and marinate with some soy, hoisin sauce and chili flakes.  Fry these quickly in some hot oil along with a variety of vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, bok choy and celery.  Along with a bowl of brown rice, you have a quick, delicious and filling meal that doesn’t send your blood sugar through the roof. 

Diabetes is a chronic condition.  Learning how to eat effectively to manage this ailment will ensure that you can continue to enjoy your life with minimal complications.
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