For people with diabetes, carbohydrates play a key role. For this reason, choosing the right carbohydrate and specialized products is one of the best strategies to manage the disease.
One of the main keys to success for people with diabetes is learning to choose the quality and quantity of carbohydrates to be consumed to support the control of blood glucose in conjunction with a diet and exercise plan. The scientific evidence supports that the inadequate intake of carbohydrates can negatively affect the main organs and tissues of the body (whether it increases blood glucose, lowers or is very variable). Conversely, when foods or products that have the right quality and quantity are consumed, it can help to reduce glycemic variability and control blood glucose levels.
To better understand the type of products recommended for the patient with diabetes, it is important to understand a little about the classification of carbohydrates. According to their size (chemical structure), HCOs can be classified as:
• Starches (also known as complex carbohydrates or polysaccharides). These are found naturally in cereals such as corn, rice, potatoes, oats.
• Fiber – (carbohydrates of complex or intermediate chains such as pectins, modified maltodextrins or oligosaccharides). They are found naturally in vegetables, fruits and cereals and/or as prebiotics in food. In a recommended diet it is suggested to consume 25 to 30 grams daily and is usually classified according to their solubility, fermentation, and degree of digestion.
• Sugars (also known as simple carbohydrates). Of which 2 types are known:
– Those that are naturally found in foods such as fruits and milk
– The “added sugars” that are added to food as part of their process. Axis: the fruit in syrup to which sucrose or the muscovado sugar has been added in a cookie or bread product.
For practical purposes, when it comes to diabetes, the following points should be considered:
For a patient with Diabetes it is important to prefer foods that have a low or medium Glycemic Index; and if you eat foods with a high GI it is recommended to combine them with low GI foods to balance the food. Examples of food with a high glycemic index are bread products such as waffles, hot cakes or sweets such as jam and honey. Examples of foods with low glycemic index are vegetables such as nopales and carrots; fruits like kiwi or strawberries and oilseeds like nuts.
There is a growing field of research that revolves around the most recommendable type of carbohydrates to consume in order to support the control of postprandial glucose levels, postprandial blood insulin, glycemic variability and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) as an integral part of diet and exercise. For these purposes, the European Nutrition Society (ESPEN 2017 and 2018) suggests that patients with diabetes use specific specialized feeding formulas and that they have the following characteristics:
- They contain slow-digesting carbohydrates and fiber
- They contain healthy fats such as monounsaturated
- Are low glycemic index
- Are rich in vitamins and minerals
- Provide protein
As with any other feeding decision, the individual characteristics of the patient or subject will determine the quantity and use of these specific formulas. The reported evidence supports its short and long-term benefits to support glycemic control and blood lipids of people with diabetes when it is part of a diet and exercise plan.
EYE WITH PRODUCTS WITH “LESS SUGAR”
This legend is only an indication that the product in question has “less sugar content” compared to its original version. It is not necessarily allusive to the desirable characteristics that were previously mentioned. For people with diabetes, the key to success when it comes to choosing carbohydrates is not precisely about “having less” content but having “better”.
• Carbohydrates are crucial for the diet, but inadequate intake can cause hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia and glycemic fluctuations that are harmful to health.
• The carbohydrates that are recommended to restrict are those called as added sugars or simple sugars. Some examples are corn glucose syrup, sugar cane or sucrose, honey, high fructose syrup, and dextrose.
In today’s hectic world, trying to eat healthily can be extremely difficult, but choosing bad foods and skipping meals can undermine efforts to control diabetes and weight. Meal substitutes can be a useful option as part of a diabetes management plan because they are practical, easy to carry and provide complete nutrition.
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