Dietary guidelines for people living with diabetes
(NC)—For the 3 million Canadians who have diabetes, it can be a challenge to eat right and control blood glucose levels. Those who have recently been diagnosed with the disease must also learn new dietary habits and pay much closer attention to factors like alcohol intake, vegetarianism and the food they eat when they are away from home. Here are a few recommendations that may help you in this regard.

When you drink alcoholic beverages, your liver prioritizes the elimination of alcohol from your body over the elimination of glucose. It therefore temporarily traps the glucose and this, in turn, influences your blood glucose levels. The Canadian Diabetes Association 2003 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada therefore recommends that people with diabetes limit their alcohol intake as follows:


• One drink per day or less


• Two drinks per day or less

(A 340–ml serving of beer, a 45–ml serving of spirits and a 150–ml serving of red or white wine all count as one drink.)

Eating away from home

You will undoubtedly be called upon to eat away from home from time to time, whether you are visiting friends or family or have a business function to attend. When this happens, don't hesitate to ask questions about the food being served and bring a copy of your eating plan with you to help you make wise choices. Restaurant fare is often higher in fat and lower in fibre than home–cooked meals. This can have an impact on the speed at which your system processes carbohydrates and, consequently, cause your blood glucose to fluctuate more so than when you eat at home. You should therefore keep a closer eye on your levels and test more often. There are a number of new systems on the market that make testing simpler and faster than ever, such as Roche's Accu–Chek Mobile, which eliminates the need to handle used lancets or test strips and provides readings in less than five seconds. And the portable, discreet and lightweight device is ideal when you're dining out.

Vegetarian diets

More than 1.3 million or 4% of Canadian adults are vegetarians. Is this lifestyle choice off limits to people with diabetes? Not at all! In fact, quite the opposite: the higher fibre intake associated with a vegetarian diet helps improve glucose metabolism, regulate blood glucose peaks after a meal and increase insulin sensitivity. Fibre from legumes, oat bran, barley and certain fruit are believed to slow digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates. A vegetarian diet also contributes to achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.

It is nevertheless recommended that vegetarians who have diabetes consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist to help ensure they protect against any nutritional deficiencies. For vegetarians whose intake tends to be limited to a small variety of foods, supplements may be necessary.

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