Food and diabetes - Rules for a healthy diet - Part two.jpg

Food and diabetes – Rules for a healthy diet – Part two

FOLLOWING ON from the last article (see August 18 edition of The Resident), here we are, once more, talking about healthy eating for diabetics, but also for everybody else as well. No, we are not obsessed, but the fact is, people really should be  eating more healthily. “You are what you eat” is a very well known saying that everyone should keep, not only in mind, but written in big letters on the fridge door as well ….

Animal and vegetable

protein sources

Most people eat an excess of proteins of animal origin. The proteins from vegetable origin should be considered in the total balance of ingested proteins, replacing some of the animal ones. The principle sources are soya, beans, chickpeas, broad beans and lentils. When they make up part of a meal along with meat/fish, the latter should be reduced by up to half the usual portion. Also, omitting the addition of savoury processed meats, such as sausage, avoids the excessive intake of salt and fats in these meals. As well as being rich in proteins, the pulses are also rich in fibre and low in fat. Only soya contains fat, but of good quality (unsaturated) and can also be used as a substitute in some meals that contain meat.

In general, these are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre that are useful in the control of glucose and cholesterol in the blood.

Vegetables, all types

Preferably, use those that are red, yellow or dark green, as these are rich in vitamins and other anti-oxidants. They are also an important source of fibre and minerals.

Vegetables should be eaten raw in salads, boiled to accompany a meal or made into soup, which helps to keep the nutrients in the liquid. Two bowls of soup, made up of various greens, turnip, courgettes, carrots, green beans, onion, garlic and so on, seasoned with a good olive oil are highly recommended in the daily diet.


Contains carbohydrates in varying quantities and is indispensable in the daily diet, due to its richness in fibres, minerals, vitamins (principally vitamin C) and anti-oxidants. Fruits should be eaten preferably raw.

In total, eating two or three medium sized pieces of fruit is sufficient.

Oily dry fruits

Peanuts, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts are rich in unsaturated fats, fibre and other substances, which have protective functions against cardiovascular disease.

The fat quality is good (unsaturated), but the quantity of fat could be excessive and, as such, it is advisable that these foods are taken in moderation, without the addition of salt.


Hydration is basic for survival and water is always the first choice. Water contained in the food we eat is not enough for us to obtain what is necessary, and it is recommended that we drink at least one-and-a-half litres of water per day, or sufficient to maintain urine that is clear and has no odour.

Other drinks

Soft drinks contain little more than water, sugar and some additives for flavour. They are not of any interest in nutrition, as they can provoke a rapid increase in blood sugar, which is not generally advisable, except when, due to the added sugar, soft drinks are used in the treatment of hypoglycaemia (lower than normal blood sugar levels).

As an alternative, there are diet (light) fruit juices, where sugar is substituted for artificial sweeteners (aspartame and/or potassium acesulfame) that do not interfere with the blood glycaemia levels. However, these are not substitutes for fresh fruit or water. Herb teas, such as camomile can be a substitute for water.

What about wine? If there is no medical contraindication and the individual is an adult, those who like to drink should drink preferably red wine during their meal. But only one or two glasses of beer should be drunk a week. It is not advisable to drink any other alcoholic beverage.

No alcoholic drink is permitted for children, teenagers, pregnant or breastfeeding women.


It is recommended that salt should be taken in strict moderation to prevent arterial hypertension, which is considered an important risk factor in some complications of diabetes. As such, a heavy reduction in eating salty foods is recommended (such as cheeses, delicatessen food, processed meats, aperitifs, canned food and fast food). Also, food should not be seasoned with salt, instead, use lemon juice, garlic, coriander, tomato, pepper, onion, bay leaf, saffron, paprika, nutmeg and so on.

Yoghurts and fermented milk

The bacterial activity that exists in these foods also has a beneficial action in the intestines, the largest defence system of our organism, through various mechanisms, of which two of the most important are: improving the bacterial flora in our intestines and stimulating the function of the intestinal wall.

Using fat for preparation

It is recommended that preparation should always be kept simple, varied and with the minimum fat needed. Frequently, foods or nutritionally balanced menus are ruined with the addition of excessive fats. In this context, it is preferable to boil, grill, stew or roast without fatty sauces and to avoid frying.

Reversing a sedentary lifestyle

Some gentle to moderate physical activity (such as walking or gardening) for 20 to 30 minutes a day complements a balanced diet. This contributes enormously to better control of diabetes and the risk factors of cardiovascular disease. It also helps to maintain weight loss.

Tobacco is always an added risk factor in the alteration of structure and function of the organic tissue of the smoker.

Nutrients and calories

As already explained, the quantity of carbohydrates to be ingested per day depends on the total calorific intake required by each individual. There is also age, sex, weight and levels of exercise activity to be considered.

In other words, everyone requires a quantity that is different to the next person.

Immunity stimulating

food sources

The notion that alimentation is the mechanism for any organism to stock up with energy is too restrictive. An organism lives because it has the capacity to work and it uses this capacity to maintain harmony and coherence. The opposite can be said when exterior forces, such as physical trauma, chemical attack, bacteria, parasites and viruses influence this process, or when there are anomalies in the defence system that should neutralise these attacks. Sometimes, an abnormal defence system recognises normal tissue as a foreign body and pathologically reacts against it (auto-immunity).

Alteration in the immune capacity can be divided into types:

• Quantitative, when the immune system is depressed and incapable of defending the organism efficiently from an attack.

• Qualitative, which occurs with pathological autoimmune phenomenon.

An alteration in the immune capacity can occur at any time of life, but is connected, more than anything, to the aging process and associated with other illnesses that include depressed immunity in the clinical picture (stress, diabetes, infectious diseases).

A bad diet, either due to quantity or quality, which can happen in any part of the world, can manifest itself many times through the two types of immunity alterations.

It is fundamental to have a balanced diet to maintain immune capacity. Today, we know that the immune system is very important in combating neoplasm (cancer).

We still do not understand the many nutritional details in play, such as vitamins, principally those that have anti-oxidant properties, others such as B6, B12 and Folic Acid, and minerals such as Selenium and Zinc, which appear to be within the group of nutrients that actively stimulate the immune system. The foods that contain these and other nutrients, indispensable to a healthy life, are among others:

Vegetable products

Portuguese lombarda and galega cabbages, brussel sprouts, turnip, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, carrot, tomato, cucumber, peppers, courgettes, garlic and onions.


Oranges, lemons, tangerines, grapefruit, pineapple, kiwi, tomato, peach, apricots, cherries, raspberries, plums, pear, grapes and also oily fruits like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts.


Oysters, clams, muscles, barnacles, winkles, cuttlefish (with ink if possible), octopus and snails.

Do you still think that it is difficult and boring to eat well? After reading this we sincerely hope not!

Here’s to a healthy diet!

The Diabetes Team at Luzdoc