Is There One Basic Correct (modifications are acceptable) Diet For Those Who Have Diabetes ?

By jigsaw Latest Reply 2012-10-27 11:06:48 -0500
Started 2012-10-21 10:47:29 -0500

I don't believe that anyone, including professionals can be 100% correct on this topic. The varied opinions are endless and therefore confusing to many.
After many years of living with diabetes, I have gone through various stages and formed various opinions concerning diet and diabetes in general. I have had the opportunity to discuss diabetes and diet with about a dozen diabetes specialists, ranging from dieticians, nutritionists, primary care physicians, gastroenterologists and endocrinologists. Many of these specialists had different opinions. Some of them seemed to totally contradict one another. There is one belief that many had in common, and that is what I would like to share and discuss with all.

First of all, let's start with what is basically considered a healthy diet in general, even if you don't have diabetes. It is commonly accepted that a good balance of carbs, protiens, and fats are the rule of thumb. The percentage of each falls into numbers roughly like 30% fat, 30% protein and 40% carbs. The percentages of these three can be adjusted according to ones health and condition to some extent. Also the amount of calories that an individual consumes each day is key to maintaining good health. Adjust and veer to far from these guidelines, and you could run into additional health problems in the long run.

So, what changes in diet should we make when we have diabetes ? As diabetes progresses, many will find that our bodies respond differently to the exact same foods or diet as they once did. Blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure are three common culprits as examples. So now, do we eat to the condition, meaning that we alter our ratio of nutrients enough to control the diabetes, or do we take medication to control the diabetes and continue to eat a diet that is considered healthy for the general public as recommended by many dieticians, nutritionists and the RDA. What is the best and main course of action ? Flexibility should be and often is taken into consideration. Of course we can and should modify a healthy diet to some degree when need be. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that you have diabetes. Obviously our bodies will respond differently to a healthy diet, than one who does not have the same condition. SO WHY DO SO MANY PROFESSIONALS RECCOMMEND A SIMILAR DIET consisting of many of the same foods that are recommended for people without diabetes. If healthy people need certain nutrients in quantity and balance, does this mean that those with diabetes don't. Obviously, diabetes makes it difficult if not impossible for the body to absorb, and metabolize certain nutrients. VARIETY with healthy food choices is key to getting proper nutrition. Portion control is also imperative! Too many calories and your in the category like many, OVERWEiGHT. Cutting out to many healthy choices, especially carbs as many do, could be a poor choice with detrimental results in the long run. Carbs are instrumental to a healthy functioning body. If you are on a special diet, such as a low carb diet, you cannot be positive that this is a good choice now, or in the long run. You may be controlling your blood glucose as a result, but what other effects, short term and long term are taking place that you may not be aware of ?

Consider other choices and possibilities.
Make sure you are informed in what makes up a healthy food plan. Speak with an individual that is professionally and specifically trained in nutrition and diet. If you can't do this, then go to your library and do some research! Keep in mind the source of these professionals, and how and why they came to their opinions. Watchout for much of the bogus info that is out there. Much of it is in the form of books that don't hold ground in the long run!
Almost every professional that I have talked with, over the last 18 years are of similar opinions when it comes to diet. THERE IS NO SPECIAL DIET THAT THEY RECOMMEND FOR THOSE WITH DIABETES ! HEALTHY FOODS AND NUTRITITIONAL NEEDS FOR HEALTHY PEOPLE (IN GENERAL) ARE THE SAME FOR THOSE WITH DIABETES ! If you cannot eat a healthy diet and manage your diabetes effectively, than you need meds to accomplish both. Once you cross that boundary of not getting good nutrition through variety of foods, in an attempt to control your diabetes, you are heading for trouble in the long run. I have met quite a few people with diabetes that appear to be doing just that. I used to be one. Only you can decide. Obviously, we are all still learning.

41 replies

awakening2health 2012-10-26 14:17:10 -0500 Report

Nothing is more complex than human nutrition. There are biological, cultural, emotional, aesthetic dimensions. Having said that - I think that a PLANT BASED DIET is the universal truth for healthy diet. This does NOT mean strict veganism or vegetarianism, but it does mean that eating vegetables and frutis are the foundation of health, especially for diabetics.

jigsaw 2012-10-27 11:06:48 -0500 Report

Could very well be ! Including fruits and veges are definitely a healthy choice IMHO ! They are certainly a large percentage of my food plan.

GabbyPA 2012-10-22 13:38:04 -0500 Report

I think you should shout this from the mountain tops. If we all ate healthy, we could avoid a lot of troubles. You truly are what you eat, and with all the modified foods out there, that is more important than ever to understand. Our grandparents really did know what they were talking about.

Finding out what works for us as individuals is vital. Learning that the traditional pyramid of foods is not well balanced is a hard thing to unteach people. But once you do, those fruits and grains take a smaller bit out of the pie, and we are left with the healthy greens and lean meats and good fats. It takes a lot of re-thinking for so many of us.

jigsaw 2012-10-23 06:45:17 -0500 Report

Thanks for emphasizing this critically important info ! It really can't be stressed enough.

veggielover 2012-10-22 17:23:10 -0500 Report

I wish I had eaten healthier when I was young. Diabetes goes way back in my family but no one talked about the risks in those days.

jigsaw 2012-10-23 06:48:22 -0500 Report

The majority of us probably wish we ate better during our younger days ! Eating properly now, can still go a long way with excellent results.

GabbyPA 2012-10-23 18:01:40 -0500 Report

This is very true. One thing I will never say is that "I'm too old for that" to healthy eating.

GabbyPA 2012-10-24 14:48:04 -0500 Report

Yes, I still get the "really?" when I share my age. I know one day it will catch up to me, but I enjoy it for now. LOL

jigsaw 2012-10-22 08:01:37 -0500 Report

Just Joyce, I do agree with what you are emphasizing concerning nutrition.
I think that there is a point that I have failed to make however.
I do not believe that diabetes is an all ruling factor as to what healthy foods we can eat ! Diabetes will punish you if you do not eat healthy foods in balance and portion size. I do believe that the foods that are healthy for those who don't have diabetes, are the same foods that are healthy for those that do. Moderation and portion control are the proof of the pudding.
Example: I eat fruit, vegetables, meat, and poultry. I suspect that you probably eat foods from these food groups also. Keep in mind that I am referring to diabetes in general and not other conditions. Obviously there are exceptions!
This is a major point that I believe, and trying to get accross. The title of my discussion was meant to get attention. I certainly was not trying to imply that there is one diet for all !

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-10-21 17:30:30 -0500 Report

Jigsaw while nutrition is something every human needs, there are also different forms of nutrition concerning food. There are so many different ethnic groups and cultures. Add to that is environment and food availability. It is because of this that there are so many kinds of diets. Not all ethnic and cultural groups eat the same kinds of foods. The diet plan for a person living in a South American or African jungle would be totally different from a person living in a rural area of America or the Swiss Alps. Although the body requires the same nutritional values, the same nutritional foods are not available to all humans.

Doctors recommend nutritional diets based on industry standards. Diets/diet plans, healthy eating is not a one size fits all industry. For instance if I were diabetic or simply had high blood pressure and I lived in a village in the jungle in South America and I emailed different doctors around the world, I would get a diet with almost the same nutritional values but they would be conducive to the country where the doctor is located.

Diabetics can still eat the same foods as anyone else based on how much they eat, the carbs in the food and how it would effect each individual with diabetes. It is not a level playing field. You have to eliminate, fruits, nuts, dairy and wheat because of food intolerance or allergies. Also in this country the food pyramid has changed. The fact is each doctor you see could give you a different diet plan.

Each individual regardless if they are diabetic, have heart disease or any other illness simply cannot eat all of the same foods. Each person cannot eat the same amount of calories or carbs and this is what causes the change in nutrition for people or so I think.

jigsaw 2012-10-21 18:47:33 -0500 Report

Joyce,excellent points and a few note worthy details that you have mentioned. I agree with you concerning nutritional needs being a commonality of most humans. Of course diets will always differ for numerous reasons, some of which you have mentioned interestingly also.
My main point concerns the fact that most of us do have similar nutritional needs that can be met with various diets that are modifications guided by accepted standards for nutrition. Modifications in diet are generally introduced to compensate for various health conditions as an example.
Thanks for adding a good deal of additional details!

Nick1962 2012-10-21 16:56:12 -0500 Report

Couldn't agree more. What makes it even more complex is there are other factors besides diabetes. I know I had to drastically cut carbs to get weight in control. We could debate the validity of long term carb cutting, but I think the jury is still out medically. It seems now that I've lost about as much as I'm going to without going on some form of extereme diet or exercise, that I can't either (A) keep up the rest of my life, or (B) make healthy for me as a diabetic or not.
I still follow a low carb diet, but it is not the one all these so called studies seem to be touting as bad or potentially dangerous down the road. I think it's heathy for me (which my doctor/bloodwork confirms), and I do believe that it could be commonly heathy for many.
I think the one basic correct diet would be to start returning to eating within one's metabolic means, diabetic or not. Odds are if we started doing that - looking at what we as individuals need versus consume - I think there'd be far fewer diabetics to content with.

jigsaw 2012-10-21 19:40:01 -0500 Report

Nick, I think I agree with your last paragraph, assuming you meant what I think you did. My question to you is, why would you turn to a low carb diet to lose weight instead of utilizing portion control which is considered medically safe ? A low carb diet, as you have stated yourself, is medically questionable and I quote the "jury is still out". By the way, I followed a low carb diet 18 years ago, for a few years. All my bloodwork was excellent ! My doctor told me back then to keep doing what I was doing. I'm not so sure it was the best choice, but that's a subject that you and I have already discussed.

There are three most common reasons why people are overweight.

1. They consume to many calories for their physical frame
2. Not enough exercise relative to the amount of calories consumed. If you don't
don't burn excess calories, they are generally stored as fat !
3. A health condition such as a thyroid condition.

I realize that these are only a few causes, but they are relatively common. I'm not trying to put you on the spot my friend, since I enjoy your contributions immensely. I also enjoy discussing the things we agree and disagree on, and I find your answers are frequently interesting and well thought out !
Back to my question, I really don't understand why you chose a low carb diet vs portion control along with a healthy balanced diet to lose weight.

Nick1962 2012-10-22 11:22:43 -0500 Report

Portion control and balance are most definitely part of my diet. I’m not sure why you got the impression it wasn’t (maybe because we haven’t discussed it before), but that in fact accounts for much of the carb cutting. It’s not an either/or situation.

You are spot on about why many are overweight, and yes, that was the intent of my last paragraph. We (westerners) eat way, way beyond our means and needs.

I say “the jury is still out” on low carb diets because the studies that have been presented are flawed in my opinion. Each that I’ve read makes the assumption that all of us “low carbers” follow a single model diet (typically the Atkins stage one or similar), that we’re directly replacing the deleted carbs with higher protein and higher fat foods, and are making drastic cuts in carbs. This is simply not the case, which goes directly to the point of your original post, no, all us low carbers are not following one single diet model. There is also the “zero carb fallacy” which assumes that since a label says there are 0 carbs, that means there are none. This simply means the carbs are below the level the FDA requires to be counted. 0.5 carbs are still carbs and you can still easily rack up 20 carbs in a day eating supposed zero carb foods. We’ve also found out that even one fish oil gel capsule can contain up to 15 carbs. If one says they eat less than 50 carbs/day, I suspect that count is what they can readily identify. In actuality, if you add in supplements, partial carbs, even chewing gum and other non-considered sources, that number could easily double. You would really, really have to work at it to get to the low carb levels these studies claim (which I’m not sure you can). If you did, then I would agree that is not healthy, period, no question.

Since I’ve shared my diet with you, I have upped my carb consumption slightly, basically because you were of the opinion I should. I tried it and had no negative effects, but I still have greater restrictions that the average person on the street. I do it because it controls my weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. My conditions shaped my diet. Should I change this because some scientist thinks it might be bad for me in the long run? I would say that the documented diabetes associated complications, and heart health risks associated with my previous diet are more of an issue at my age, than the possible atherosclerosis that has only been shown in mice so far. If I were 20, I might pay more heed, but then again, when I was 20 I didn’t, and here I am. Life, and our decisions on how to live it are a crapshoot, and even the decisions we make today, as educated as we are, may turn out to be wrong in the long run. How many food pyramid changes and differing recommendations have you lived through?

When I chose my diet, it wasn’t a targeted low carb diet. I simply needed to remove things from my diet that were keeping me overweight for the reasons you listed above. It just happened to be that much of my weight issues were with carbohydrates. Portion control alone easily cut 50% of my carb intake. The attempt to manage my BG and blood pressure/cholesterol is responsible for another 30% cut in carb intake. I know what you’re saying, 80% is a huge cut. Not really considering I was taking in well over 300 carbs (mostly empty) per day. Well above the daily recommended amount (like many). I was also protein and fiber deficient. Currently, I am nowhere near the level of carb cutting that would lead to ketosis (I’ve been there and know where it is), and I make sure the carbs I do select are nutritionally beneficial (ie: no junk foods, limited breads, pastas, starches, etc.). I’m of the opinion that this is a healthy diet, when combined with the right amount of fiber, protein and minerals, for a diabetic as well as non. This is a healthy, balanced diet for my nutritional needs, at my age, and at my level of activity. I cannot maintain my conditions based on what the ADA and USDA generically put out there as a “one size fits all” diet.

Ms. DAT 2012-10-22 12:40:06 -0500 Report

Hi Nick!
I understand what you mean by portion sizes because I have seen that eating smaller prions of a balanced meal that includes a small amount of carbs helps with weight reduction. I have even shared with diabetic friends who loos their appetite to use a smaller plate of food rather than a large plate of which I learned of a long time ago.

My mother who is well in age constantly complains about eating a lot of food that is on a big plate during a certain time when I prepared her meals I used a smaller plate and she ate all of it which made it a balanced meal for her, then she said, " now this is how I like it" bot of course I am not the one preparing her meals for her everyday and informing others is difficult so I say eat what you can and save the rest for later. Eating a well balanced diet is for all ages ans since I am a diabetic I prepare meals that is well balanced for me and family as well as friends. I have a friend who lost to much weight and it is yet a battle to get her to eat period but I literally suggest something for her to eat that is healthy for her when I get wind of it.

Hi Joyce ! I agree with what you said about having to use the one that will work for you and since i am in the place at times to decide for others I have to know there something about their needs, too I just can't impose the way I eat on others however I do share.

I can truly say that I have made changes in my diet that makes me feel better on a day to day basis!!!

Joyce you are right saying somebody always have something to say and someone is always watching you to see if you are doing as you say to others, haha!!! They watch you put the food on your plate and watch you eat it too and some even make comments about it!!!

Eat Well Today!!!

Nick1962 2012-10-22 16:31:24 -0500 Report

Yeah, Imagine my suprise when I actually looked at the nutritional info on my whole wheat bread and found out a serving was ONE SLICE! That 12" all veggy sub I had for lunch on whole wheat - veggies and whole wheat have to be healthy right - the equivelant of 6 servings of bread!
I don't call my diet a diabetic diet, just more common sense, because both me and the wife can follow it. Like you say, if you can prepare it for friends and family, and still be good for a diabetic, I think that's a winner right there.

Ms. DAT 2012-10-22 18:08:00 -0500 Report

Yes we are WINNERS so why not inspire our family and friends to be eat more sensible as well in their dietary needs. Yes it is helpful to include spouses on your way of eating.

jigsaw 2012-10-22 12:24:00 -0500 Report

Nick, as usual you have answered my question in a detailed and informed manner ! Semantics always come into play, and I like to be sure my interpretations are accurate. I see and understand the logic behind your diet, and quite frankly, it all sounds like you've made some excellent moves.
Great response and answer!

Oh, I personally do not interpret the info put out by the ADA, and the USDA as one size fits all. I see it as a guideline or simply a starting point for many. Simply put, semantics coming into play again.

By the way, the N in your profile pic is looking a bit rusty! Shall I send you some WD 40 ?

Nick1962 2012-10-22 15:17:01 -0500 Report

Well, I know I came off as a bit defensive, but it seems like the low carb diet has been under attack a lot lately.

I'll borrow a line from Tony's dad (at least i think that's where it's from) about raising kids - "by the time I figured out how to raise you, you were already grown". Lifestyles, habits, foods all change in the course of an individual's life. I never dreamed I'd be communicating with you via a tablet computer. If i had that information that I'd be somewhat sedentary in my older years, I probably could have tailored my lifestyle to avoid those complications I'm facing. Heck, we all could have.

It would be nice if someone, medcal professional or otherwise, could honestly say "do this, this, and this and I personally gaurantee you will live a long and healthy life", but in our western society, something will quickly come along to interfere (like video games) and our lives will change faster than those autorities can revise their recommendations.

draco59 2012-10-21 13:14:38 -0500 Report

There is not one fix all for everyone, we are all different. To find what works best for you is a trial and process. It won’t take a couple of weeks; it might take months depending on the person. But work with your medical providers, talk to them about your concerns. Also document what you do, keep a journal. The most important think is patience…
Just one person’s opinion…
Have a great day

jigsaw 2012-10-21 13:56:26 -0500 Report

I agree with you, and if we keep the focus on nutritional needs, than it becomes easier to find the correct diet ! Whatever diet one ends up with, it's only good if it meets ones nutritional needs!

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-10-21 19:24:58 -0500 Report

Jigsaw to make life easier for me, I simply follow a nutritional plan that works for me. No nutritional plan is right for everyone and no matter what the diet might be, there will more than likely have to be modifications made.

Think of how uncomplicated and boring our lives would be if everything worked the same for everyone. Even if that were to happen, someone somewhere would find something wrong. I think the best thing to do is be the individual you are and even if you find thousands of diet plans, you still would have to use the one that works just for you.

jigsaw 2012-10-22 08:01:11 -0500 Report

Just Joyce, I do agree with what you are emphasizing concerning nutrition.
I think that there is a point that I have failed to make however.
I do not believe that diabetes is an all ruling factor as to what healthy foods we can eat ! Diabetes will punish you if you do not eat healthy foods in balance and portion size. I do believe that the foods that are healthy for those who don't have diabetes, are the same foods that are healthy for those that do. Moderation and portion control are the proof of the pudding.
Example: I eat fruit, vegetables, meat, and poultry. I suspect that you probably do also. Keep in mind that I am referring to diabetes in general and not other conditions.
This is a major point that I believe, and trying to get accross. The title of my discussion was meant to get attention. I certainly was not trying to imply that there is one diet for all !

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-10-22 18:16:16 -0500 Report

Jigsaw, there are people who only have diabetes and no other medical problems, there are also diabetics with heart and kidney problems or other medical conditions. Which is why I looked at the whole picture instead of only part of it.

Moderation and portion control is what everyone including diabetics should be doing. Basically all foods are healthy. The problem is how it is cooked, what is used to cook it, season it and the size of the portion of the food; also added to the equation is how many portions the person eats.

The problem with diets and diet plans is that they simply don't work for everyone. About 15 years ago, I wanted to lose weight and used a diabetic diet and I wasn't diabetic. Had I stuck to it odds are I may not have become diabetic. No matter what either of us say and I agree with your points, it all comes down to moderation and portion control on an individual basis.

jigsaw 2012-10-23 06:53:21 -0500 Report

Yes, moderation and portion control can achieve great strides in managing diabetes and health in general !

draco59 2012-10-21 19:47:46 -0500 Report

you got that right Joyce, boring is no way to live… but if we were all the same, we might need diet, or anything… would there even be diabetes or any other illness ????

MAYS 2012-10-21 10:54:35 -0500 Report

No…Sad but true, diets are as individualized as diabetes is among diabetics, what may work well for one, may not work well for another!

jigsaw 2012-10-21 11:51:22 -0500 Report

MAYS, diet is what makes it so confusing. My point is, that as human beings, we all have similar nutritional needs ! Regardless of whatever diet gets our nutritional goals met, as humans, we have similar nutritional needs. Makes no difference if you have diabetes or not. On the other hand, if I find myself barking one day, I'll probably try Kibble and Bits ! (-;

MAYS 2012-10-21 12:17:07 -0500 Report

Jigsaw, i agree with you 100%!

I wish that there was one, or two diets that would suffice but everytime you turn around thare is another "diabetes diet" that makes claims to be the perfect one for diabetics, yet there are those diabetics who say that "their" diet is the one, forsake all of the others.

It's just crazy, but what can we do?
Find something that works for us as individuals and stick with it, if i find that the " Kibble and Bits" work for me, i'll make sure that i give you your props, me and the pooch will have to share them because my personal needs will come first…diabetes really sucks doesn't it?

jigsaw 2012-10-21 13:47:40 -0500 Report

It seems that more and more people are becoming informed about their diabetes as the years roll by ! As of lately, I have definitely been conversing with many informed people with diabetes. Sometimes I amaze myself when I converse with myself also !(-;

MAYS 2012-10-21 13:53:16 -0500 Report

Why not become inforned?
After all we do have to live with it, don't we?
Great discussion!