The level of sugar in your bloodstream is called your blood glucose level. What you eat can affect the level positively or negatively.
When you have diabetes, it's important to understand how the foods you eat can affect your blood glucose1:
- Starchy carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread or pasta, are broken down into sugars and absorbed slowly, helping to keep your blood sugar level smooth throughout the day.
- Sugary foods, such as cakes and sweets, are absorbed quickly. This causes your blood glucose to rise more rapidly.
- Eat fruit and vegetables throughout the day to moderate your blood glucose level.
- Eat a variety of meats, fish and protein alternatives such as tofu. Choose low-fat options wherever possible.
- Drink low fat milk and eat dairy foods such as yogurt, which contain calcium for healthy bones and teeth.
- Limit your intake of fats, sugars and salt. Don't cut out fats completely but do keep them to a minimum. Use herbs instead of salt for flavor and cut down on sugar wherever you can.
- Cut down on excessive salt as it can cause your blood pressure to rise.
- Eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat. These have been linked to increased cholesterol levels, which can magnify your risk for heart disease and cause weight gain.
Please consult your health care professional before making any changes to your diet.
The more weight you carry, the more insulin you may need. In addition to eating right, staying fit through regular exercise is a great way to manage diabetes2,3.
Exercise has the following benefits for people with diabetes. With regular exercise, you can:
- Tone your muscles to make them more sensitive to insulin.
- Use up energy and lower blood sugar levels.
- Maintain or achieve a healthy weight.
- Relieve stress.
- Increase your lung capacity and the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream.
- Help reduce your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which in turn lowers your risk for heart disease.
- Improve blood circulation around your body, reducing the risk of arterial disease, which can cause angina, heart attacks and strokes.
As someone with diabetes, you do need to keep a few things in mind when exercising:
- If your blood glucose level is too high and you don’t have enough insulin available, don’t exercise, as this will make it go even higher.
- It’s also not advisable to exercise when you’re ill, as your blood glucose will rise to fight off infections.
- Always use a reliable meter to test your level. If it’s greater than 240, or if you have ketones, stop exercising immediately.
To prevent blood glucose levels from falling too low, try these options:
- Before exercising test to make sure your blood glucose level is not too low.
- Have glucose tablets, a sugary drink or snack on hand while you exercise.
- Test yourself again after your workout and decide if you need a snack.
- If you have participated in vigorous activities, watch your level over the next 36 hours.
1 Joslin's Diabetes Mellitus, 14th Edition 2005, New York Ovid Technologies.
2 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Mol. NIDOK.
3 Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology 11th Edition 2008.