Tight control of blood sugar levels can delay the onset of diabetic retinopathy. Dietary needs will depend on the type of diabetes that you have:
Type 1 diabetics require insulin, therefore the main aim of a good diet is to balance food intake with insulin.
Type 2 diabetics are able to produce insulin naturally, however weight gain has prevented adequate use of this insulin. The focus for these diabetics is therefore on weight loss.
Diabetic vasculopathy (blood vessel disease) occurs when hyperglycaemia (excessive sugar levels) causes the walls of blood vessels to weaken and leak. Small blood vessels, such as those in the retina, are especially at risk. By carefully controlling your diet, and managing the level of sugar in the bloodstream, the onset of diabetic retinopathy can be significantly delayed.
Every food group is eventually broken down into sugar, however this occurs at different rates depending on the food group. An ideal meal plan for diabetics is to have regular meals, spread evenly throughout the day consisting of servings from each food category. It is best to follow daily portions recommended by the food pyramid. The amount of sugar entering the bloodstream will consequently be controlled as each food group is broken down. This prevents our metabolic system from having to breakdown large intermittent amounts of sugar.
- Try to limit carbohydrates to those high in fibre such as wholegrain cereals and breads, beans, lentils, vegetables and fruits.
- Try to limit the amount of fat, especially saturated fat.
- Try to restrict your intake of sugars and desserts, eating dessert twice a week at most.
- Pay careful attention to the amount you eat, matching this to the amount of energy you burn with physical activity. A dietician will be able to advise you about the best amount for you and help you reach your dietary goals.
- Soluble fibres such as those found in fruits, vegetables, some seeds and some beans help to slow down or reduce the absorption of glucose from the intestines.
- Lower salt content in your diet.
- Minimise alcohol consumption.