Diabetes has become a very serious condition in the last few years. These days, diabetics are very concerned and do have a lot of questions related to diet during diabetes. We have answered a few questions that will help manage your diabetes better.
Q1 – What are the ideal foods for a diabetic like me?
Ans – Foods rich in soluble dietary fiber and magnesium like cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, lentils and peas, beans, rajma, soya, whole grains and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax) should constitute a majority of your diet. Other regulars include tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onions, carrots, gourds, raw or boiled vegetables, whole grain foods (atta/cereals) and brown rice. Soluble dietary fiber has been demonstrated to slow down digestion and absorption and effectively reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Q2 – I happened to skip a meal, should I have my diabetes medicine or should I have half dose or should I not take the medicine at all?
Ans – It is essential for a diabetic never to skip any meal or food serving in a day. It will dysregulate the insulin-blood sugar balance and can lead to serious unwanted consequences. Insulin is generally taken before a meal and the tablet after a meal. Hence, if you have taken insulin, you need to follow it up with a meal and if you have skipped a meal, you would naturally skip the tablet that follows the meal.
Q3 – Which fruits can I have?
Ans – Fruits rich in vitamin C are your best companion. Examples include amla, guava and citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruits. Berries (strawberries and blueberries), pears, apples, grapes, avocados, kiwi fruit, papaya, watermelon, pomegranates which are rich in antioxidants are good for a diabetic. They do not add much to your blood sugars and at the same time protect you from other complications.
Q4 – Can I eat rice in moderation or should I stop it completely?
Ans – White rice is high in sugar and is low in fiber. If you avoid rice completely, especially if you are from a place like south India, it can be difficult and may get you starved. But, for effective control of blood sugars, do not have rice or rice flour items more than once a day. Limiting the consumption to small servings is the secret to not having to avoid it completely. Sprinkling some cinnamon powder or flax seed powder on your rice (or curries) will help to keep blood sugars under check.
Q5 – I had lots of sweets during a festival, should I take more dose of insulin to compensate for it?
Ans – If you are type 1 diabetic on insulin, the best way is to check with a glucometer. You should think of increasing the dose only if 2 or more consecutive measurements are higher than usual. Do not titrate the dose of insulin without checking on glucometer. One-odd higher value does not need a dose change. But if you are a type 2 diabetic, there is no need to change the dose or dosage of your tablets. Add in a bit of more exercise and foods that reduce sugar level quickly like bitter gourd, raw or boiled vegetables. Avoid fried, spicy and non-vegetarian foods for the next couple of days.
Q6 – Any useful dietary tips for diabetics like me?
Ans – Drink plenty of water (preferably with a tinge of lemon). Have green tea daily (not more than twice a day). Limit the intake of caffeine, dry fruits and fruit juices. Nuts like peanuts, almonds can be taken in small portions as they are high in energy and low in sugar. Peas or beans with pods are of great benefit in diabetics. Consumption of animal protein like milk, eggs and meat should be cut down. There should be a gap of 5 hours between 2 servings of food. Regularize your food habits (have food at the same time every day).
Q7 – What is the normal range of blood glucose level?
Ans – Normal range of fasting blood glucose levels are between 70-110 mg/dL and the postprandial (meal) or random glucose levels should not exceed 140 mg/dL. In general, blood sugar levels in non-diabetics should never exceed 140 mg/dL. If your fasting glucose levels are more than 125 mg/dL or random/ post-meal glucose levels are more than 140 mg/dL on two different measurements, you would be diagnosed to have diabetes.
Q8 – What does fasting blood glucose mean?
Ans – Fasting blood glucose is the measure of glucose levels in your blood after a fasting period of more than 8 hours. For convenience, it is usually done early in the morning before you have your breakfast or take diabetes medicines. It gives a measure of the rate of glucose production by the liver and the body’s production of insulin. For this reason, fasting blood glucose is a more reliable test in type 2 diabetics than type 1 (insulin-dependent).
Q9 – What is HbA1c? Why is it important to do this test?
Ans – HbA1c or glycated hemoglobin gives you the level of glucose that binds to hemoglobin. Though the average lifespan of a red blood cell is 120 days, cell death and new cell formation is not uniform. Hence, HbA1c is calculated as an average of new and old blood cells and is used to estimate the glycemic status of the last 60 days. Another advantage of this test is that it can be done any time of the day and values are usually the same. An HbA1c level of more than 6.5% usually confirms if a patient is diabetic. It is usually recommended to check your HbA1c every 2 months if you are a diabetic or at risk.
Q10 – How often should I check the blood sugar level at home with glucometer?
Ans – Glucometer testing at home is most beneficial in diabetics who take insulin injections. If you are on a fixed dose of insulin, it would be good enough if you check your blood sugars once or twice a week. But if your sugars are fluctuating, you have frequent episodes of high and low sugars, pregnant or breastfeeding, you are ill or had a recent surgery and on a prescribed insulin, you need to check your blood sugars before each meal and at bedtime every day. Frequent checking of blood sugars at less than 1-month intervals will usually be not necessary for diabetics on tablets.