Diabetes – What’s changed?

It may sound profound, but there’s never a better time to have diabetes. In times past, doctors handed everyone who visited the office a list of what you could and could not eat. Now there is new evidence that significantly altered the one-size fits-all dietary approach to this condition.

For example, even though it is better to eat sugar in moderation and (not only if you have diabetes), for most people with diabetes it’s no longer forbidden. Some people are advised to cut back on fat and eat more carbohydrates; others will be told just the opposite. It is not unusual for two people with diabetes of the same age, same weight and same overall conditions, to have totally different diets for controlling it.

However, one aspect of diabetes that stays the same is the diet. The diet of what to eat and in some cases, what you don’t is at the heart of any treatment plan. Along with maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise, eating right helps keep blood sugar and fats at steady levels, which is the key to keeping problems under control.

Carbohydrates, which are found in most foods except meat, fish and poultry, are the body’s main source of energy. There are two types. Complex carbohydrates, called starches, include foods like rice, beans, potatoes and pasta. Simple carbohydrates, called sugars, include the natural sugars found in milk, fruits, and vegetables as well as white table sugar and honey.

The body turns both complex and simple carbohydrates into glucose, which is immediately converted into energy or stored until needed. Most people with diabetes should eat a diet that’s higher in carbohydrates, particularly the complex kind, that was formerly believed. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 50 to 60 percent of total calories for most people come from complex carbohydrates.

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