Meal Planning with Prediabetes

A precursor to Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes means that a person has blood sugar levels that are already high, but not within the diabetes range yet. If left unchecked, with sustained high sugar levels in the blood, production of insulin (the hormone that regulates sugar in your body) burns out, leading to Type 2 diabetes. According to research, about 70% of patients with prediabetes go on to develop Type 2 diabetes.

However, taking preventive action, such as dietary change, can reduce this risk by 40%-75%. As per the same research, with adequate changes in diet, 5%-10% of prediabetes patients go back to leading normal lives. A diet to prevent the development of diabetes is focussed on reducing body weight (1kg of weight loss per year equates to a 16% reduction in diabetic risk) and sugar intake in food.

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, the following diet modifications are going to help you manage your condition and bring it under control:

1. Stop drinking sugary drinks and cocktails: In the short-term, the consumption of sugary beverages, which includes certain cocktails, creates a spike in blood sugar levels in the body. These drinks can overwhelm the body with glucose and fructose. The real risk, however, lies in the long-term intake of these high-sugar drinks. With time, your body develops insulin resistance, and the way your pancreas releases insulin can be affected permanently, leading to Type 2 diabetes.

A 2016 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that people who drink carbonated soft drinks more than three times a week were 46% more likely to develop prediabetes than those who did not. Even more, 34% of people who continued to drink sugary drinks like soda, energy drinks, and juices for a year after being diagnosed with prediabetes developed Type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, only 8% of prediabetic patients who gave up sugary beverages for the year developed diabetes.

To improve or reverse prediabetes, it is important to stop the consumption of sugary carbonated drinks, juices, energy drinks, and cocktails.

2. Re-evaluate your carbohydrate intake: Processed and refined carbohydrates can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Being aware and mindful of the kind of carbohydrates you are consuming in your diet will help minimise that impact. Limit your consumption of carbohydrates that have been stripped of fiber and nutrients. Instead, include more complex carbohydrates in your diet.

Glycemic index or GI is a useful tool that ranks food according to the rate at which they affect blood sugar levels. Food that ranks high on the GI digests in your stomach quickly and raises your blood sugar levels faster. Refined carbohydrates rank high on the glycemic index and should be avoided by people with prediabetes. Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains digest slower and rank low on the GI as well.

Substituting the following refined carbohydrates with healthier options will help minimise blood sugar spikes:

  • Whole grain bread instead of white bread
  • Sweet potatoes and cauliflower instead of white potatoes
  • Air-popped popcorn instead of potato chips
  • Brown rice, parboiled rice, and red rice instead of white rice
  • Steel-cut or whole oats instead of instant oatmeal
  • Whole wheat pasta instead of pasta made from all-purpose flour

3. Eat more fiber-rich food: Foods with high fiber content not only are low on the glycemic index but keep you fuller and make you less prone to overeating. A high-fiber diet plan is highly beneficial for prediabetic people and has long-term benefits in reducing blood sugar levels.

A 2009 study found that eating non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, and plant-based oils in meals could minimise blood-sugar spikes post-meal, compared to eating meals with a high proportion of meat and other high GI foods.

Examples of high-fiber foods include:

  • Green and non-starchy vegetables
  • Beans, lentils, split peas, and other legumes instead of meat
  • Whole grains, such as wheat, barley, and quinoa
  • Whole fruits instead of fruit juices and fruit-based desserts such as fruit roll-ups

4. Look for added sugar: Added sugar has rightly been described as the worst ingredient in the modern diet; it has no nutritional value, causes weight gain, and can lead to insulin resistance. It is difficult to root out added sugar from our diet because it is present in much of what we eat: baked goods, breakfast cereals, juices, ketchup, flavoured coffees and milk, and other processed foods. Even more, it is present in “low-fat” and “diet” foods such as low-fat yogurts, diet soft drinks, and cereal bars. When you read nutritional labels, look for added sugar in the form of fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, molasses, maltose, and dextrose. Their presence in the ingredient list is usually a marker of added sugar.

The right diet and judicious meal planning play a major role in controlling and reversing prediabetes. However, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for prediabetes. Anyone who is diagnosed with prediabetes should ask their doctor for advice. For more information book an appointment with our medical experts at the Department of Diabetology and Endocrinology at Sagar Hospitals.

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