Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases associated with the inability of the body to properly produce or assimilate the hormone insulin. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose levels, which requires control over carbohydrate intake.
Below you will find excerpts from the World Health Organization ¹ recommendations on healthy nutrition to counteract diabetes, normalize blood sugar levels and restore insulin sensitivity.
- Type 2 Diabetic Diet – Sample Menu with PDF
- What is prediabetes and how to reverse it?
- Sweet things for diabetics
How to eat healthy if I have diabetes?
The essence of healthy nutrition to normalize blood glucose levels can be reduced to avoiding sugar (including added sugar in food), eating moderate amounts of fat (especially avoiding saturated animal fats and trans fats), and emphasizing starch-free plant foods.
In addition, for diabetics it is healthy to include foods with a low glycemic index, these will add nutrients without causing spikes in blood sugar levels.
In addition, the WHO evaluates as possible beneficial effects of foods with omega-3 fatty acids. Regarding supplementation with vitamin E, magnesium and chromium, it is considered that there is a lack of evidence to recommend them in a generalized way. Other nutrients have not been reported to have a significant effect on diabetes.
Top nutritional guidelines for diabetics
Although the nutritional standards of a particular person depend on their sex, age, weight and level of daily physical activity, it is possible to develop general guidelines with which it is possible to create practical examples of foods for type 2 diabetics. The figures below are calculated for a person of normal body weight and in order to maintain their weight:
For a woman with a recommended caloric intake of 2000 kcal:
- Carbohydrates (55%) – 275 g, of which fiber – 18-20 g
- Fat (30%) – 65 g, of which saturated – 20 g
- Proteins (15%) – 75 g
For a man with a recommended caloric intake of 2500 kcal:
- Carbohydrates (55%) – 340 g, of which fiber – 20-25 g
- Fat (30%) – 80 g, of which saturated – 25 g
- Proteins (15%) – 95 g
First of all, the figures mentioned above include at least 400g of vegetables per day (they contain 40-50g of carbohydrates), this is recommended by WHO. Eating non-starchy vegetables can help you meet your fiber and mineral needs, as well as normalize your body’s response to insulin.
Second, whole grains should be the main source of carbohydrates, while it is recommended to limit bread and pastries as much as possible. Separately, it is mentioned that potatoes and other starchy vegetables should also be limited.
Third, avoiding saturated fat means minimizing butter and switching to vegetable oils. NutritionUstad recommends choosing oils low in omega-6, such as olive and rapeseed oils.
Finally, people with active physical activity need more protein to maintain and gain muscle mass, this figure is around 2 g per kg of body weight. These figures (15% of caloric intake) are relevant for a sedentary lifestyle.
Alcoholic beverages with diabetes
Regarding alcoholic beverages, the WHO manual points out that there are strong reasons to believe that moderate alcohol consumption (2-4 drinks per week) reduces the risk of developing diabetes. The recommendation is given on the basis of the observation of 20 thousand men and 15 thousand women, in a time interval of approximately 12 years.
Despite the possible health benefits of drinking alcohol, there are also some precautions. The biggest concern is hypoglycemia. When alcohol consumption is combined with medicines used to treat diabetes, particularly insulin and sulfonylureas, low blood sugar can occur.
The reason for this is how your liver works. This organ stabilizes glucose levels by storing carbohydrates and releasing them into the bloodstream between meals and at night.
The problem is that the liver is not good at multitasking. Your liver will choose to metabolize alcohol instead of maintaining blood sugar, which can lead to hypoglycemia. Alcohol does not allow the liver to produce glucose . This is even more true when you drink without eating, so if you drink alcohol consider snacking while you drink.
In type 2 diabetics, being overweight is common and undesirable
WHO guidelines emphasize that keeping weight in the lower BMI range and shedding belly fat is key to countering diabetes. We are talking about a body mass index of the order of 21-23 units.
If you are overweight, a nutritionist may recommend reducing the calorie content of the diet by 15-20% of the norm, but not more than 300 calories per day. The reduction is usually achieved by reducing carbohydrate intake.
If diabetes is present against the background of metabolic syndrome (BMI is greater than 30, the waist circumference in men is more than 94 cm, in women more than 80 cm), the diet requires a special approach.
Low Carb Diet Can Reverse Diabetes 2
Recall that several studies show that a low-carbohydrate diet is an easy way to control blood glucose levels that can reverse type 2 diabetes. (1,2)
It has been observed that within 6 months of following a carbohydrate restriction, more than half of the participants significantly improved their parameters.
Even these studies make it clear that the low-carbohydrate diet for diabetics shows better results than taking antihypoglycemic drugs. However, the WHO recommendations emphasize that there is no single, universal figure (“carbohydrate rate”) for diabetes. (3)
For people without diabetes, it is recommended to limit carbohydrates to 55% of the daily calorie intake (approximately 250-300 g), including at least 18-25 g of fiber. For people with diabetes this recommendation may be valid, but it is necessary to study each case professionally.
Eating type 2 diabetes includes avoiding sugar (including added to foods), eating non-starchy vegetables with a low glycemic index, controlling total fat, and limiting saturated fat. Reducing carbohydrates in your diet can be helpful in stabilizing blood sugar levels.