Updated 13 February 2017

'Diabetics have to follow a special diet'

There is no such a thing as a 'special diet for diabetics'.


Many people believe that diabetics have to give up on great, tasty foods and follow a bland, boring meal plan. There is, however, no such thing as a “special diet for diabetics” as they generally have to follow the same basic guidelines of a healthy diet as non-diabetics.

These include:

  • eating a balanced diet;
  • achieving and maintaining your ideal body weight;
  • eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day;
  • avoiding large quantities of sugar and refined carbs;
  • eating plenty of dietary fibre;
  • cutting down on fat-intake;
  • eating less salt;
  • drinking enough water; and
  • limiting your alcohol-intake

These are the ingredients of a healthy meal plan that everyone should follow for good long-term health. Unfortunately, most of us have adopted the unhealthy habits of a typical westernised diet (think sugar-, salt- and fat-overload) and very few of us will be able to tick all of the boxes above.

Following a healthy diet is especially important for diabetics as unhealthy eating habits have such a dramatic impact on blood sugar levels. It’s therefore highly recommended that you see a dietician who can work out a meal plan fit for your specific needs and activity levels. Non-diabetics, however, should also follow a healthy diet plan to avoid diabetes and other lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cholesterol and heart disease. If you have been stuck in an unhealthy diet for too long, go see a dietician to help you make the right choices.

It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the Glycaemic Index (GI), an important tool that can be used by anyone trying to control their blood sugar levels – it’s handy not only for diabetics, but also for slimmers, people with hypoglycaemia and sportsmen- and women. Eating foods with a low-GI, for example, will release glucose slowly and steadily into the blood helping you to feel full for longer and preventing fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

What about those special diabetic foods on the shelves? They generally offer no special effect and can still raise blood sugar levels, especially with diabetics who tend to see “diabetic foods” as free foods and subsequently overindulge. Diabetic foods also tend to be more expensive and can have a laxative effect if they contain artificial sweeteners.



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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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