Nutrition is an essential aspect of diabetes management. Poor diet puts diabetic seniors at risk for developing many health conditions. Proper nutrition management lowers the risk of health conditions and makes blood sugar levels much easier to control. A good diet can also help seniors control weight, which can improve overall health and wellness. In order to manage diet for best health, seniors or assisting caregivers must take certain factors into consideration when meal planning.
Fiber is considered a carbohydrate, but does not raise blood glucose levels because it is not digestible by the body. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps to cleanse and move foods through the digestive tract. Soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Fiber and Diabetes
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that diabetic patients that ate 50 grams of fiber per day, which is nearly twice the daily recommendation than for non-diabetic patients, blood glucose levels were significantly easier to control. However, most foods containing fiber also contain sugars and other types of carbohydrates that will raise blood glucose levels. To easily raise fiber levels without adding excessive sugar, peels can be left on fruits and vegetables and legumes can be added to many meals.
A food’s glycemic index measures how that food raises blood glucose levels. This is important for diabetic meal planning, as foods that cause blood sugars to spike quickly can have dangerous side effects for diabetics. Foods are ranked as high, medium, or low GI. Only carbohydrate-containing foods have a GI ranking. Food such as meats and fats do not have a GI ranking.
Foods with a GI ranking lower than 55, considered low GI foods, include:
Foods with a medium GI, between 56 and 69, include:
Whole wheat bread
Foods with a GI that is higher than 70, considered high GI, include:
Macaroni and cheese
Certain sweeteners should be avoided as they can cause dangerous blood glucose spikes when consumed by diabetics. While other sweeteners may not cause glucose spikes, there is the potential for other harmful side effects such as increased cancer risks. Added sugars of any kind should be limited when planning meals for diabetic seniors. Natural sugars, such as that which is present in many fruits, do not pose the same health risks and should be used as a substitute when possible.