Diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus is a disease that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar (glucose).

  • Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) occurs when the pancreas can no longer make insulin, or the hormone that regulates blood sugar.
  • Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, or the body has trouble responding to insulin properly (insulin resistance)
  • Unmanaged diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

What should my blood sugar levels look like?

Lab Target Range for Diabetics
Fasting plasma glucose Normal: 70 – 99 mg/dL

Target: 70 – 130 mg/dL before meal, <180 mg/dL after meal (diabetes)

Hemoglobin (Hb) A1C Normal: 4 – 6%

Target: < 7% (diabetes)

*Hemoglobin (Hb) A1C is a blood test that measures blood sugar control over the preceding 8-12 weeks.

Dietary Patterns for Diabetics:

  • Drink water! Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and those with artificial sweeteners.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, after-dinner snack).
  • 1 carbohydrate equivalent is equal to about 15 grams of carbohydrates
    • Consume equal amounts of carbohydrates during the same times each day
    • Example: 3-4 equivalents for lunch and dinner, 1-2 equivalents for breakfast and snacks.
  • View the “Plate Method” for meal planning at
  • Keep a carbohydrate/protein snack on hand in case your blood sugar levels drop (milk, bag of nuts, etc.)
  • Aim for a good before-bedtime snack to avoid blood sugar drops while sleeping (apple with peanut butter.)
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels and medications around meal times, or other times as directed by your doctor.

Foods and Food Groups for Diabetics:

Aim for a diet of 45-65% carbohydrates, 10 (or 20)-35% protein, and 20-35% fat.

  • Carbohydrates: Whole grains, fruits, vegetables
  • Protein: Chicken, lean beef, low-fat milk, fish, low-fat yogurt, cheeses
  • Fat: Avocados, eggs, hummus, fish, nuts, seeds

Some carbohydrates have higher glycemic indexes than others, meaning they raise blood sugar levels at faster rates. Please check this website for further information: Harvard Health.

Fad or Fiction? Cutting carbohydrates will help control my diabetes!

Fiction- No one should cut carbohydrates out of their diet completely. Diabetics should monitor their carbohydrate intake, and keep it consistent at each meal. Our brain uses the sugars from carbohydrates as fuel for the body. Cutting out carbohydrates could make us sluggish and unfocused!

References:

  1. Ellis, Amy (2014). “NHM 365 Module 9: Diabetes Part 1.” The University of Alabama. [Powerpoint].
  2. Mahan K.L., Escott-Stump S., Raymond J.L., Krause MV. Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed. St. Louis, MO. Elsevier/Saunders. 2012. Print.
  3. Daly A., Evert A., Franz M., Geil P., Holzmeister L.A., Kulkarni K., Loghmani E., Ross T., Wheeler M. Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes. Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association, 2008. Print.
  4. Pronsky, Z. M., & Crowe, J. P. (2012). Food medication interactions. 17th ed. Birchrunville, Penn.

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