Dietitian – Nutritionist PhD
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic disease that is caused by hereditary and/or acquired inability to produce insulin from the pancreatic beta cells or by the ineffective action of produced insulin.
Normally, when you consume food, it is broken down into smaller units, including glucose, which are transported through the blood. The cells use this glucose and convert it into energy. When the blood sugar levels increase, the pancreas responds by producing a hormone, insulin. Insulin allows the blood sugar to enter the cells. This transfer results in the blood sugar (glucose) levels dropping.
In people with DM, the pancreas does not produce enough or any insulin, or the cells do not adequately respond to the insulin. As a result, there is increased quantity of glucose in the blood (hyperglycaemia).
There are various types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes mellitus, type 2 diabetes mellitus and gestational diabetes mellitus.
Nutrition forms an integral part in controlling the glucose in diabetics, when combined, of course, with the right pharmaceutical treatment and exercise.
According to the latest recommendations, a diabetic can consume a wide range of foods as part of a healthy diet, which should actually be followed by everyone, irrespective of whether they are diabetics or not.
The key recommendations as to the diet that must be followed by people with or without DM are:
- Low-fat dairy products for people over 2 years of age.
- 5 portions of fruit and plenty of vegetables daily.
- Legumes and cereals frequently, specifically wholegrain, which are rich in fibre.
- Olive oil.
- Fish twice a week.
- Red meat once a week.
- Chicken twice a week.
- Restricted simple carbohydrates, such as sugar.
- Proper distribution of nutritional components, i.e. carbohydrates, protein and fat, among the daily meals.
- Combining nutrition with regular and daily exercise.