Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose – sugar – in your blood is too high because your body cannot process it properly. In Type 2 diabetes this happens because your pancreas doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin, which helps glucose enter the body’s cells, or the insulin that is produced does not work correctly, which is called insulin resistance, or a combination of the two. Here’s how to proceed, aside from any medication you may have been prescribed.
• Diabetes is a multifactorial illness. If you have been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it is essential to consult with a registered dietitian to understand what foods will cause your blood sugars to raise and how to handle hypoglycemia. It is important to have good blood glucose control to reduce the risk of complications.
• If you are overweight, losing weight is the most important thing you can do. Working with a dietitian will help you identify the changes in lifestyle, diet and physical activity you can achieve, enjoy and find sustainable.
• A healthy and balanced diet along with physical activity are advised. The frequencies of your meals, portion sizes and composition are all essential to keep your diabetes stable.
• Learn as much as you can about carbohydrates and how your body reacts to them – this is key to managing your diabetes. All carbohydrates are broken down to provide glucose. Glucose is used by our body’s cells for energy. Starchy or complex carbohydrates include bread, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, sweet potatoes and potatoes. Simple or sugary carbohydrates include biscuits, sweets, chocolate, jams and sugary drinks. Fruit and milk also contain natural sugars, as do dried fruit and juices, which contain them in higher concentrations. All types of carbohydrate will increase your blood glucose level.
• It is important to mix your carbohydrates with proteins and fats to lower the total glycemic load of your meals. Basically that helps create a slow release of sugar into your blood stream. Meals should be low in saturated fat, high in dietary fiber and include a variety of fruit and vegetables.
• Spreading out your carbohydrate intake throughout the day is important and you also need to look at the quantities to help control blood sugar levels.
• How much your blood glucose goes up will depend on: the amount and type of carbohydrate in your food and drink; what you have with them (protein and fats); how active you are; how much insulin your body still produces and how your body uses it; and any medication you are on.
• Foods labelled “suitable for diabetics” have no special benefit. They are often high in calories, may still increase your blood glucose level and may also have a laxative effect. Ordinary packaged food, eaten as part of a healthy diet is suitable; just remember to consider portion sizes and how often you have them and with what you mix them.
Victoria Pena-Acuna is a registered dietitian at Perfect Balance Rehabilitation Center and a livehealthy.ae expert.
Victoria Pena-Acuna graduated from the Institut Paul Lambin in Brussels with a BSc in dietetics. Victoria grew up in Burundi, and worked there in a private gym after university. She has also lived in Uganda, where she was the personal dietitian of a former rally driver, Peter Horsey, and the Ugandan rugby player Jayson Horsey. In 2010, she moved to Kenya and started her own company, NutriU Services, which provided a range of diet services. Since moving to Abu Dhabi, she served as the executive health and bariatric dietician at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi before joining Perfect Balance in 2017. Victoria is passionate about weight management and bariatrics and takes a holistic approach to her areas of practice, which include pregnancy (normal and gestational diabetes), glucose intolerance, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, gout, intestinal diseases, food allergies and food intolerance, as well as food disorder.