The Diet In Diabetes

The Diet In Diabetes

DIET should be the mainstay of all diabetic management!

In order to ensure compliance, the prescribed diet should be individualised. It must be realistic, flexible, and take into consideration the patient's likes and dislikes, to as large an extent as possible, and must suit the patient's life style. It is important that the patient be educated about the basic requirements of the diet and judge compliance at regular intervals.

Fun Eat




AVOID simple carbohydrates like sugar, sweets, jaggery, honey, etc., as they tend to cause a sharp rise in the blood glucose levels.

Total calories allowed to an individual will depend on the present weight and the targeted optimal weight.

Usually, the prescribed diet should contain 30 calories/kg optimal body weight. The total calories prescribed should also take into account the activity levels of the patient, as well as special circumstances like pregnancy and lactation, etc.

Judge Ideal Body Weight

Underweight Normal Weight Over Weight
May have to increase food intake to optimise weight Continue same amount of food intake: May need to increase food intake to make up for calories loast throught avoiding sugar. Gradual decrease in amount of food normally eaten, if excessive, increase activity level.
  • Carbohydrates should constitute around 60-70% of the total calories.
  • The carbohydrates should be in the form of complex polysaccharides (starch) and contain adequate amount of fibers.
  • The widespread misconception that carbohydrates (in any form) should not be eaten by diabetics should be removed. Carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars need restriction.
  • It is important to emphasise that rice, potatoes and fruits are not contraindicated in a diabetic diet.
  • Most traditional Indian diets usually meet with this requirement.
  • There does not seem to be any need for additional fibers supplement in the form of a pharmaceutical prescription.
  • Protein intake should be approx. 0.8 gms/kg ideal body weight; this usually comprises around 12-18% of the calorie intake.
  • The requirements for proteins may be increased in catabolic states, pregnancy, lactation and in some elderly patients.
  • Protein intake may need to be restricted in patients with nephropathy.
  • Fats should be restricted to around 20-25% of the total calories.
  • One should preferably take equal amounts of saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • It is a misconception to feel that polyunsaturated fats are safe and can be taken freely.
  • Many foods contains fats; this "invisible fat" should be taken into account when estimating the total fat intake.
  • It is advisable to restrict the total intake of cooking fats to less than 6% of the total energy intake; in simple terms, food should be cooked in the least amount of oil or ghee; if feasible, food should be preferably be grilled, steamed or broiled, microwaved, rather than fried.
  • The total intake of cholesterol should be restricted to around 300 mg per day.
  • The fat intake may need to be further modified if associated dyslipidemia is present.
  • Recent evidence suggests that attention must be paid to the intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as omega-6 (w6) and omega-3 (w3) fatty acids.
  • These EFAs make to be derived from food and cannot be made in the body.
  • Not only must they be eaten in adequate amounts, but the relative ratio is around 4:1.
  • Indian diets usually contain too much of w6 fatty acids and little, if any, of w3 fatty acids.
  • This is due to the fact that most foods are rich in w6 fatty acids and poor in w3 fatty acids which is mostly found in fish.

  • Indian diets usually give a ratio of around 40:1.
  • The disproportionate ratio is made worse by the use of the so called "safe" cooking oils such as safflower oil and sunflower oil, in which the ratio is around 150:1!
  • If this ratio is to be brought down to near optimal levels, then it would be essential to do a RETHINK about the advised mode of cooking media, and possibly revert to our traditional cooking media, which although they may not contain w3 fatty acids, also are poor in w6 fatty acids.
  • Although these traditional cooking media like mustard oil, coconut oil and ghee may be relatively high in their saturated fat content, their poor content of w6 fatty acids allows a more optimal w6/w3 intake, especially when associated with increased w3 intake in the form of fish or w3 supplements.
  • The saturated fat content of these cooking media are offset by the benefits of the more optimal w6/w3 intake, especially if the total use of the cooking media is minimised.
  • This change over to some of the more traditional cooking media, accompanied by the use of as little as possible of the cooking medium, allows a diet with a ratio of around 8:1 which is close to optimal.

The Omega-6 and Omega-3 content of the commonly used edible oils is given below:

Omega-6 Omega-3 w6/w3
Safflower 73 0.5 146
Sunflower 49 0.3 163
Corn 57 0.8 71
Sesame 40 0.5 80
Palmoiein 9 0.3 30
Groundnut 28 0.8 35
Coconut 1.8
Ghee (Buffalo) 2 0.9 2.2
Ghee (Cow) 1.6 0.5 3.2
Mustard/Rap 13 8.6 1.5

Salt restriction is necessary in patients with associated hypertension, cardiac failure and fluid overload.

These can be eaten by diabetics in moderate amounts. Raw and partially ripe fruits are preferable.

  • If consumed, alcohol should be used in moderation.
  • It should be avoided in all diabetics who are overweight and on hypocaloric diets, on biguanides, or in those who have high triglyceride levels. All other contraindications to alcohol intake also apply to diabetics.
  • In those diabetics, who are allowed alcohol, this should be restricted to less than 5% of the total calories. Generally, this is equivalent to about 45 ml of whisky or related alcoholic drinks.
  • Wine, sherry and beer are best avoided.

Non-Caloric Sweeteners

Saccharian Aspartame
Use by diabetics allowed in Moderation (10-12 tablets per day): Fear that its use may lead to cancer is misplaced, especially if used in moderation: each tablet contains 12mg approx, permissible doses upto 500mg per day in children and upto 1000 mg/day in adults: such high intake not advisable: non caloric: may leave a bitter after taste, avoid in pregnancy. Use bydiabetics allowed in Moderation (10-12 tablets per day): Fear that its use may lead to cancer, mental retardation, meanstrual irregularities, etc., is misplaced if used in such small doses: each tablet contains 18mg of aspartame approx, permissible does upto 50mg/kg/day, such high intake not advisible, technically does have calories, but so sweet that in amounts used, can be considered non-caloric, avoid in pregnancy and in patients with phenylketonuria.
  • An increasing number of dietary supplements specially formulated for diabetes patients are available in the market.
  • These should not be recommended for routine use by diabetics.
  • But such supplements may be of help in many special circumstances.
  • When prescribed, one must be aware of the precise contents, as many food supplements called as diabetic foods are not calory free and mislead patients into thinking that such diabetic foods can be taken in any quantity.