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Diabetes and Diet

Updated on August 19, 2011

Diabetes and Diet

Diabetes is one of the most common reasons why a member of your family may be on a special diet. It affects all ages, from toddlers to the elderly and although rarely a killer, it can mean a life of restricted and dull eating, unless catering is approached sensibly and with imagination.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to use carbohydrates (starches and sugars) effectively. The reason for this is that there is an insufficient supply of insulin. Insulin plays an important role in converting starches and sugars to energy, and so controlling the level of sugar in the blood.

When we eat carbohydrates of any kind, they are broken down during the digestive process into several simple sugars, the chief of which is glucose. The is absorbed into the bloodstream and taken to the tissues where it is burnt, with the help of insulin, to provide energy. When insufficient insulin is available (as in diabetes), the glucose is not efficient converted but accumulates in the blood and is finally dispersed via the kidneys. A large amount of water is needed to enable the kidneys to cope with this. Perpetual thirst and the passing of large amount of urine are the earliest symptoms.

How diet is modified

The way diet is modified for a diabetic depend on whether or not insulin has been prescribed. A diabetic who has not been prescribed insulin (usually someone who is overweight) is normally told to follow a 1000 Calorie diet in which intake of carbohydrate is naturally reduced. Diabetics who are prescribed insulin need controlled amount of carbohydrate for the insulin to act. This is usually achieved by having meals at prescribed intervals, each meal containing a limited amount of carbohydrate. Diabetics on insulin are told at what intervals they should have meals and how much carbohydrate they should have.

Carbohydrate Savers

The amount of carbohydrate allowed for even an insulin diabetic is very low. For this reason, it is useful to save wherever possible. Here are some tips on carbohydrate-savers:-

· Use saccharin for puddings and sweetened fruit. Choose the liquid kind and add after cooking.

· Make use of products like diabetic chocolate, jam, canned fruit and vegetables, substituting these for high-carbohydrate versions.

· Thicken gravies and sauces by rapid boiling rather than using starch.

· Instead of roux-based sauces, try vegetable puree based sauces.

· Make fresh fruit jellies and sweeten them with liquid saccharin.

· Use soured cream or natural low-fat unsweetened yoghurt to thicken casseroles.

· Replace mashed potato with other pureed vegetables such as celeriac, turnips, swede or carrots.

· Take a tip from fashionable cuisine minceur and use low fat cream cheese as a thickener for soups and casseroles. Jockey cheese is suitable.

Choosing Dishes

Depending on medical advice, choose dishes for diabetics from the following:-

· Roasts of all kinds, but not a stuffed roast, if the stuffing uses breadcrumbs, rice or pasta.

· Grills, but not coated in crumbs.

· Baked , steamed, grilled or poached fish.

· Savoury egg dishes as long as they do not contain crumbs.

· Vegetables from the list recommended by your doctor.

· Fruity puddings sweetened with artificial sweetener, but not any using bread or a sponge topping.

· Puree soups and veloute soups as long as they do not contain potatoes.

· Consommé

· Aspic moulds or moulds coated with mayonnaise collee.

· Omelettes.

· Casseroles as long as they do not contain potato and are not thickened with flour.


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