Your pharmacist is correct – protein is important in the diet – whether it comes from animal sources or vegetarian sources. Protein, fat and fiber help slow down absorption of carbohydrates (which turn into glucose in your body) so you don’t get spikes in your blood “sugar” (a.k.a glucose) levels. Whether or not you follow a vegetarian diet, the most important things to keep in mind are:
-Spreading your carbohydrate intake (grains, fruits, and vegetables) throughout the day, so your blood sugar levels stay balanced and within a normal range For example: eat two servings of carbohydrates at breakfast, again at lunch and at dinner. Eat one serving of carbohydrates at morning snack and afternoon snack*. This ensures the carbohydrates are being spread out through the day and that you are not eating them all at once, which could cause a spike in your blood sugar levels.
-Chose high fiber carbohydrates and combine with protein and/or heart healthy fats. This helps slow down the absorption of the carbohydrates, which also helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable. An example of a breakfast combining these foods is: whole wheat toast (carbohydrate), topped with two tablespoons of avocado (heart-healthy fat) and a slice of low-fat Swiss cheese (protein). Click here for more information about how carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels.
-Get your heart pumping. Exercise helps your body use insulin better and increases circulation, which can decrease with diabetes. You also reap the benefits of lower stress levels, better sleep, increased heart muscle strength and improved mood! Even a moderate twenty to thirty minute walk a day will help. (Before beginning a new exercise routine, please consult your doctor first.)
*Everybody is different, the amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat that you need to be healthy will be different than other individuals who have diabetes. Work with your health care provider to determine the amount of carbohydrate that works best for you.