What, when and how much you eat affects your blood sugar. However, a diabetes diet looks no different than a nutritious diet. You should eat a variety of wholesome foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean sources of protein and low-fat and nonfat dairy products. In general, no foods are off limits. But, you should curb your intake of foods high in saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium (salt).
Some people with diabetes should count the number of carbohydrates they consume. Carbohydrates turn into glucose in the body, affecting blood sugar levels more than any other food. The number of carbohydrates you need depends on several factors, including how active you are and if you take medications. Work with your health care provider to learn about your carbohydrate needs. A registered dietitian can teach you how to count carbohydrates and create a nutrition plan for you. It’s better to choose healthy sources of carbohydrates, including whole grains, beans, fruit and starchy vegetables like potatoes, over unhealthier options, such as white pasta, chips, baked goods and sweetened beverages.
Some people with diabetes, especially those who use long-acting insulin and oral medications that lower blood sugar levels, need to eat at the same time each day or adjust their medications based on their meals. Skipping a meal could lead to dangerously low blood sugar. Other people with diabetes can eat on a more flexible schedule. Discuss meal timing with your health care provider.
The number of calories you take in affects your weight, and being overweight ups your chance for diabetes-related health issues. Losing even a few pounds can help reduce health risks and control your blood sugar better. To reach and maintain a healthy weight, you’ll likely have to decrease the number of calories you consume by making nutritious food choices and cutting portion sizes. Getting regular exercise can also aid in weight loss. Losing weight takes patience and can be frustrating, but know that small changes add up. Replacing soft drinks with water and swapping pastries for oatmeal, for instance, can result in pounds lost.
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