The Prediabetic Diet Guide
 
Girl eating lollipops

The Prediabetic Diet Guide

By Dr Trushna Bhatt

It's understandable to panic when the doctor mentions the "D" word, but prediabetes and diabetes are, in fact, very manageable health issues that let you live your usual life with a few adjustments. So if you — like many people around the world — have been diagnosed with prediabetes (an indication that your blood sugar levels are a little awry), don't beat yourself up! This is nothing to be devastated about. With proper attention, you can still move your blood sugar levels back in a healthy direction.

What Prediabetes Means

As most of us know, diabetes is a condition where your body doesn't properly process the sugar and carbs that you eat, and you end up with more than the healthy amount of glucose (or sugar) in the blood. So, what is prediabetes and what does a prediabetic diet include?

Well, prediabetes means exactly what it sounds like: Your blood sugar levels are high, but not enough to diagnose diabetes. So, you may get diabetes in the future, although you don't have it right now. Doctors study your blood reports before declaring either diabetes or prediabetes based on where your fasting blood sugar count falls:

  • Normal: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Prediabetic: 100–125 mg/dL
  • Diabetic: Greater than 125 mg/dL

The good news is, while your body's blood sugar control is a little out of whack, there's a good chance you can turn it around, or at least avoid tipping over to the diabetic side. There's potential to return to the healthy zone. At the prediabetes stage, your body is hinting that your blood sugar regulation mechanism is slipping and you may tip over and become diabetic if you don't make healthier choices. Since this is a pre-diabetic state, it means your body is still capable of regaining control of blood sugar levels, provided you give it a fair chance. So, how exactly would you go about it? Get smarter and make healthy lifestyle changes.

Cut the Fat Out

Your body's blood sugar control is directly affected by those extra kilograms you've piled on. So, make sure that you are the right weight. For someone who's body mass index (BMI) is normal, make sure it stays that way. For those in the overweight and obese categories, get moving and eat right to reach your ideal weight and pronto! This goes a long way in ensuring that your body's ability to control sugar is in top shape.

Monitor Food's Glycemic Index

The goals of a prediabetic diet are to eat natural and minimally processed foods that give you all the essential nutrients, enough calories and loads of fibre to help you reach (or stay at) your ideal body weight. The most important detail, however, is the glycemic index (or GI) of these foods.

The glycemic index of food is a number that indicates the degree to which that food will increase your blood sugar level. So, understandably, your goal is to eat more of those foods that have a low GI, and eat small portions of the high-GI foods on a regular basis. Whole foods, unprocessed grains and unrefined flours are the best examples of low GI foods. The traditional Indian diets that have a healthy mix of whole wheat roti, sautéed vegetables, rice, daal/kadhi, and salad are a good template. Eating home-cooked foods ensures that you eat a balanced meal with an ideal balance of high and low GI foods, with the meal as a whole totalling to a good GI number.

Be Too Sweet for Sweets

It goes without saying that all sugary, high-sugar foods should be eaten rarely and in a limited quantity. But, just because you're allowed your favourite gulab jamuns only once a month doesn't mean you binge. Moderation is key to maintaining a healthy weight and blood sugar level, both essential for your overall health, in general, and blood sugar, in particular.

Don't Believe Blanket Statements

While it's important to eat fewer high-sugar foods, such as sweet fruits (mangoes, bananas, chikoo) and starchy, high GI foods such as potatoes and rice, you don't have to cut them out of your diet entirely. It's instead important to work with your doctor to find a diet of healthful foods that works for you and to practice portion control. When you look at your diet habits, do you really see yourself munching on a potato or eating mouthfuls of white rice (without a daal or vegetable curry [that have much lower GI values] accompanying it)? Nope.

Including these foods in your diet is essential and healthy, provided you balance it out with a generous helping of high fibre salads, daals and vegetable curries. Eat your favourite mangos, but downsize the portion to half a fruit and have it with other high-fibre foods like apple to tone down its GI. What you should be avoiding are fried/baked potato chips, and all refined, simple carbohydrates most of which are generally packaged, processed and preserved. Just steer clear of these, and you will remain on track! Yep, it's that simple.

Think Before You Drink

While you can and should enjoy the occasional glass of your favourite beverage, make sure you avoid too many fruity, sugary and fizzy drinks because most of them have shockingly high amounts of sugar. Include more healthy and colourful fruit juices (preferring beneficial high-fibre fruits like apple and strawberries) and make sure you retain the pulp to get the maximum advantage. This will also fill your tummy while giving you loads of mineral and vitamins!

Get Moving

Getting your daily dose of cardio and/or strength training is super important, more so, if you are prediabetic. Regular exercise goes a long way in regulating your body, and ensuring that your blood sugar (and other) parameters become/stay normal. Pick an activity that you enjoy, be it cycling in the park or in around the neighbourhood, swimming, playing a game of badminton, putting in hours at your gym, or simply stepping out for a brisk walk/jog/run, and see the positive changes in your waistline, sugar levels, and mood!

Monitor Yourself Regularly

Ask your doctor about your test schedule and get your blood sugar tested regularly to make sure your parameters are in check. This will also help you know how effective your lifestyle is in normalising your blood sugar and help your doctor decide the best treatment course for you.

Prediabetes is a warning that your body is struggling to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. With a little help from you, it will right itself and enable you to lead a healthy, happy and active life.

Disclaimer: This publication / article / editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/ healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.