A diagnosis of borderline diabetes is a wake-up call to change your diet. It may seem overwhelming, but there are some general principles you can keep in mind as you try to make sense of how this will change the way you eat.
Definition of Borderline Diabetes
Borderline diabetes is a somewhat controversial idea, because some doctors don't consider it an accurate description of a real medical condition. Doctors often use this term when diagnosing people who have a fasting blood sugar level of 100 to 125 mg/dL, and a glucose reading of between 140 and 199 mg/dL on the two-hour blood test section of the four-hour glucose tolerance test. The National Cholesterol Education Program's professionals would rather call this condition insulin resistance or impaired glucose tolerance, or would sometimes categorize it as type 2 diabetes, the form that is usually controlled with a diabetic diet alone, not medication. Whatever you call it, the main treatment is a diet tailored to your body's needs.
Glycemic Index or Food Exchange Lists?
Some diabetics use the glycemic index as an indication of which foods to eat. The glycemic index measures the effect each food has on blood sugar and gives it a rating. Foods with a higher rating make blood sugar go up faster and higher than foods with a lower rating. The problem with this index is that foods low on the glycemic index are not necessarily more healthy, especially if they are high in fat. Fat is not measured by the glycemic index. An alternative diabetes diet to this system is using Food Exchange Lists. This system categorizes foods as starches, fruits, meats and fats, and lets you exchange one food in a group for another food in that same group. Some foods will count as being a whole or partial serving for more than one group.
For those with any form of diabetes, the most important food group to pay attention to is carbohydrates, or starches. Simple carbohydrates are foods with a lot of sugar, such as cake, cookies and non-diet soda. Avoid these as much as possible. Complex carbohydrates are breads and grains and are the type of starch you should look for. However, even all complex carbs are not created equal. Pay attention to the number of grams of carbohydrates in each of the foods you eat. Then you have to do some math. One gram of carbs contains four calories. Ideally, the calories you get from carbs should be 50 percent of your total daily calories. Add them up to see how you're doing, and if you need to adjust it, look for high carb food you can eliminate or substitute for something else.
Other Food Groups
Watch your other food groups, too. One gram of fat has nine calories. You want your total fat calories to be less than 30 percent of your calorie total. One gram of protein is four calories, and should be no more than 10 to 20 percent of your daily total of calories. Your doctor or nutritionist can tell you how many total calories you should eat per day, depending on your age, body size, gender and level of activity.
Other General Tips
General healthy eating habits are even more important for diabetics than those of the general population. Doctors recommend that diabetics eat every few hours. Make sure you eat a variety of different foods from different food groups, and spread out the food groups throughout the day. Don't eat all of the protein in the morning and all the carbs at night, for instance. Grain products and foods low in fat, cholesterol and sodium are good choices, because they are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Pay attention to portion size; consider buying a countertop scale to weigh your food, giving you an objective measure of portion size.