What Is a Diabetic Diet for Type 1 Diabetes?

C. Daw

Among all of the metabolic diseases, diabetes mellitus — or simply diabetes — is the most widespread and probably the most insidious as well. A lot of people have diabetes, not just in the United States, but worldwide. It is estimated that about one of every four Americans has diabetes, whether it is diagnosed or undiagnosed. Additionally, many will soon develop the disease if they do not make diet and lifestyle modifications to improve their health. Implementing a diabetic diet for type 1 diabetes is imperative to maintain a long, active life.

A Type 1 diabetes diet aims to regulate blood glucose levels.
A Type 1 diabetes diet aims to regulate blood glucose levels.

There are two types of diabetes: Types 1 and 2. Type 1 diabetics have the disease from childhood or even at birth. Their pancreas cannot produce normal amounts of insulin, which is necessary for glucose absorption. When there is not enough insulin, glucose from food eaten remains in the bloodstream, instead of being distributed as nourishment to the various cells of the body. Without glucose, cells can become starved and unable to perform their functions, which can lead to weakness, dizziness, headaches and other symptoms. In extreme cases, it can even lead to coma and death. To avoid these, regular injections of insulin and a proper diabetic diet for type 1 is needed.

Even while maintaining a diabetic diet, some patients may still need insulin injections strategically placed around meal times.
Even while maintaining a diabetic diet, some patients may still need insulin injections strategically placed around meal times.

Diet is very important for diabetics, no matter which type of diabetes they have. The diabetic diet for type 1, like that for type 2, has restricted and carefully monitored amounts of carbohydrates. Diabetics tend to have high levels of blood sugar because of their insulin deficiency, and eating more carbohydrates will only aggravate their hyperglycemic state. Carbohydrates in the diabetic diet for type 1 should make up no more than 50% to 60% of their total food intake. Roughly, in one day, type 1 diabetics should consume about 16 calories per pound of their body weight. Thus, for a 100-pound diabetic, the safe intake is around 1,600 calories per day.

The type 1 diabetes diet must be carefully planned around the amount of insulin that is being used.
The type 1 diabetes diet must be carefully planned around the amount of insulin that is being used.

The diabetic diet for type 1 should consist of a variety of foods, but there should be very little, if any, fast food products and fried, fatty or highly processed foods. Organ meats and food with high cholesterol, high saturated fat, and high sugar content should be avoided as well. There should also be sufficient amounts of fruits, vegetables, and protein.

The diabetic diet for type 1 should also be planned in accordance with the timing of their insulin injections. Generally, insulin should be taken about 15 to 30 minutes prior to starting a meal. This will ensure that the food they eat will be properly digested, especially glucose, with the administration of insulin. It is recommended that smaller and more frequent meals or snacks be taken throughout the day, instead of three large ones. This will help ensure that the diabetic’s glucose levels stay more or less even, avoiding spikes and dips that are potentially dangerous.

Type 1 diabetics must test their blood sugar regularly to ensure their diet and insulin are working to keep their levels steady.
Type 1 diabetics must test their blood sugar regularly to ensure their diet and insulin are working to keep their levels steady.

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