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Diabetes Cooking - The Importance of Controlling Carbohydrates

Updated on January 6, 2012

Low Carb Meals for Diabetics

If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes you will know that it is important that you control the content of your meals and in particular restrict your consumption of refined and processed carbohydrates in order to keep your blood sugar levels steady.

This article will take a look at the different types of diabetes and how a low carb diet can help control both types.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetics have usually had diabetes since childhood or as a young adult. With this type of diabetes the pancreas does not manufacture enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels down therefore the diabetic becomes insulin dependent immediately. This means that they need to inject insulin every day.

Type 1 diabetes is less common than Type 2 and affects about 10% diabetes sufferers.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms diabetes include nausea, vomiting, weight loss, exhaustion, excessive thirst, frequent urination and constant hunger

Type 2 Diabetes

In contrast to type 1 diabetes, in type 2 diabetes the pancreas does produce insulin but the cells of the body resist it therefore it cannot be utilized by the body. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes include constant thirst, frequent urination, tiredness, blurred vision, tingling and numbness of the feet, skin infections and wounds which are invariably slow to heal.

For those with type 2 diabetes, following a diabetic diet as well as exercise is crucial to controlling blood sugar levels. Diabetics who are at their ideal weight and on oral medication can consume half of their calories from natural carbohydrates, but diabetics who are overweight should limit carbohydrates to 30%.

Consuming foods that are low GI and listed on the glycemic index should be the first choice of foods for type 2 diabetics. A Glycemic Index list is an excellent tool to use in meal planning as it list of foods ranked according to their carbohydrate content and how quickly they affect blood glucose levels.

Diabetics need to consume a low carb diet that contains wholegrain non-processed foods. They should avoid anything made from or that contains white products such as flour, sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals and biscuits. These products raise your blood sugar levels quickly, leaves you feeling lethargic and in a state of hyperglycaemia. In addition, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and pulses are also good for diabetics to add to their diets

Why the Glycemic Index Is Important In Diabetes

If blood sugar levels are not properly controlled, diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the heart, legs, brain, eyes and kidneys. That is why heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and blindness are more common in people with diabetes. These illnesses may be caused by the high levels of insulin, and some researchers think that high insulin levels might stimulate the muscle in the wall of the blood vessel to thicken, thus causing the flow of blood to slow down to the point that a clot forms and causes a heart attack or stroke.

Studies have proven that the GI (Glycemic Index) factor of food and its insulin response can help to control blood sugar levels. With low GI Foods there is a reduced secretion of the hormone insulin over the course of the day, but with high GI foods, the body produces larger amounts of insulin, resulting in higher levels of insulin in the blood.

Therefore it makes sense for people with diabetes to eat foods with a low GI factor to help control blood sugar levels, and by doing so wll lower levels of insulin.

A low GI diet improves the body's sensitivity to insulin, so that the insulin you odo produce works better.

Low GI Breakfast Basics

Start with some fruit or fruit juice.

Fruit contributes fiber as well as vitamin C which helps your body absorb iron. The lowest GI fruits and juices are:

  • Cherries (22)
  • Grapefuit (25)
  • Dried Apricots (31)
  • Apples (38)
  • Pears (38)
  • Plums (42)
  • Oranges (44)
  • Grapes (46)
  • Apple Juice (40)
  • Pineapple Juice (46)
  • Grapefruit Juice (48)

    Breakfast Cereals
    Another important source of fiber, vitamin B and iron.
    The top 5 Low GI cereals are:
  • All-Bran (42)
  • Oats Porridge (42)
  • Oat Bran (43)
  • Special K (54)
  • Muesli (56)

    Add milk or yogurt
    Low fat milks and yogurts can made a valuable contribution to your daily calcium intake. Always choose low fat and no sugar varieties.

    Bread or Toast.
  • The lowest GI breads are:
  • Pumpernickel (44)
  • Mixed grain bread (47)
  • Fruit Loaf (dense type) (47)

(the numbers in the brackets represent the average for that food using glucose as the standard. i.e. glucose has a GI value of 100 with other foods rated accordingly)


10 Low GI Breakfast Ideas

1. Spread raisin toast with low fat cream cheese and top with sliced apple.
2. Top a slice of heavy fruit loaf with sliced banana.
3. Sprinkle porridge with rasisins.
4. A low fat strawberry milkshake.
5. Spoon a sliced peach and raspberries into a tub of low fat natural yogurt.
6. Top a bowl of All-Bran with low fat milk and canned peach slices in natural juices.
7. 1 hard boiled egg sliced and spread over a slice of mixed grain bread and a small can of sugar free baked beans.
8. A bowl of oat bran topped with strawberries.
9. Grilled back bacon, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, 1 slice of pumpernickel bread. ( scramble eggs in a non-stick frying plan sprayed with fat free oil spray)
10. 1/2 grapefruit, grilled tuna and cheese toast.


Low GI Lunches to Go

1. Large green salad, top with a toasted pumpernickel bread spread with hummus.
2. 4oz cooked whole grain paste mixed with pestor or chopped fresh herbs and ricotta.
3. Mix 1 chopped apple and pear with a pot of low fat yogurt and topped with 6 almonds.
4. 1 roasted chicken breast on a bed of lettuce, tomatoes,and cucumber.
5. Bowl of minestrone soup, 1 2oz wholegrain roll and a piece of fruit.


Low GI Dinner Ideas

1. Wrap a salmon steak dressed with herbs and lemon or tomato and onion, in foil and bake. Serve with steamed green vegetables or a green salad.
2.Grilled steak, mushrooms, tomatoes and steamed sweet potato
3. Barbecued chicken, roasted vegetables and baked sweet potato
4. Chilli Con Carne on a bed of boiled wholegrain rice (use lean beef mince)
5.Stir-fry chicken, meat or fish with mixed green vegetables
6.Create a one-pot chicken casserole with your favorite vegetables and chunkc of sweet potato


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    • editorsupremo profile image

      editorsupremo 6 years ago from London, England

      Hi Kafsoa

      I'm glad that the information has been helpful to you. I am also a diabetic and I'm constantly researching ways that will make living with this illness easier.


    • kafsoa profile image

      kafsoa 6 years ago

      Thanks Editor, this is really helpful as I'm a diabetic. Good information! rated up and useful:)