Diet and Diabetes: How to Deal with Fiber, Salt and Alcohol

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Diabetes and Fiber

Fibers are very important nutritional factors in the preventive and curative diet for type 2 and gestational diabetes mellitus.
This means that the diabetes diet should be high in fiber, particularly those that modulate intestinal absorption.


What are the fibers used for?

Fibers can be classified in two ways:

  • Insoluble and soluble (it is the traditional system, most used and known).
    • Insoluble fibers: they are all those that do not dissolve in water. They have no major effects on nutritional absorption (in the small intestine).
    • Soluble fibers: these are all those that are diluted once mixed in water; some form a gelatinous compound. The chemical-physical properties of this solution ensure that nutrients are absorbed progressively or to a lesser extent in the small intestine.
  • Viscous and non-viscous: this subdivision, which seems apparently identical to the previous one, is actually more correct. Evaluate the ability to gelatinize rather than solubility, because only those that determine a viscous effect are able to modulate intestinal absorption.

What does fiber have to do with diabetes?

It can be deduced that the most important fibers in the diet for diabetes are those that slow down or decrease intestinal absorption; this determines above all a reduction of the glycemic index and of the total quantity of fats.
Also, as the amount of fiber in a food increases, the percentage amount of carbohydrates decreases.



Dietary glycemic index and load for diabetes

In diabetes (type 2 mellitus) it is essential that the diet has two primary characteristics:

  • Low glycemic load (total amount of carbohydrates in the dish or meal)
  • Low glycemic index - insulin (the rate at which blood sugar and insulin rise).

NB. These two characteristics have a positive effect on blood sugar and, in the presence of hypertriglyceridemia, also on the levels of triglycerides in the blood.


  • If the diabetic subject is also overweight, the diet must be low-calorie
  • If the subject is affected by hypercholesterolemia, the diet must be low in saturated, hydrogenated and trans-conformed fats, and in cholesterol.

Role of fiber on fat

The sequestering effect of fiber on nutrients mainly affects cholesterol and other lipids.
The diabetic subject suffering from hypercholesterolemia and overweight must correct the diet by significantly increasing the quantity of gelling fibers.
The "normolipemic" diabetic, who follows a diet low in cholesterol, rich in essential and monounsaturated fatty acids, does NOT require to emphasize this "malabsorbent" function.

Recommended foods

Sources of carbohydrates and fiber

Foods primary nutritional source of carbohydrates (complex such as starch and simple such as fructose) are naturally "almost all" rich in fiber: starchy seeds (cereals, legumes, pseudo cereals, etc.), tubers (potatoes, American potatoes, cassava, etc. ), derivatives (flour, bread, pasta, etc.), fruits (apples, pears, oranges, peaches, apricots, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, squash, etc.), some roots and bulbs (carrots, onions, etc.) and honey. Secondly "should" come the sweets and processed foods.


Where are the different types of fibers found?

Le insoluble fibers they are mostly contained in the "external coatings" of foods, for example the bran of cereals and the peel of fruit. On the contrary, the soluble ones seem to be mainly contained within the seeds and in the fruit pulp.


NB. Keep in mind that cooking favors the solubility of certain types of fiber; therefore it increases the percentage in the diet; the diabetes diet should not be lacking in cooked vegetables.



In the diabetes diet, the greater the amount of fiber and water, the lower the glycemic load of the food; for example, an orange is better than orange jelly, or 80g of boiled brown rice is better than 80g of crackers.
Moreover, the fibers that gel also decrease the glycemic index and the insulin index, precisely because of their ability to slow down intestinal absorption.
Ultimately, it could be said that the most suitable carbohydrate sources for the diabetes diet are whole, unpeeled, and unprocessed ones.

How Much Fiber to Get in Your Diabetes Diet?

Nutritional recommendations regarding fiber intake are not very precise.
It is advisable to never go below 15-20 grams per day and the optimal intake corresponds to 30-35 g / day, or 20 g per 1000 kcal.
Coverage of fiber requirements can easily be achieved through diet without the use of dietary supplements or foods.



FOOD (100 g) Fiber (g) kcal vit C (mg) vit A  (µg) Thiamine (mg)
traditional bread 3,1 g 275 0 0 0,5
whole grain bread 6,5 g 224 0 0 0,10
red radish 3 g 13 10 Tracks 0,07
apple with peel 2,5 g 38 5 8 0,02

Diabetes and Antioxidants

Are antioxidants important in the diet for diabetes?

The diabetes diet should provide the same intake of vitamins and minerals as that expected for the general population.
On the other hand, the diabetic subject who is decompensated or suffering from certain complications could benefit from a higher intake of nutrients and antioxidant nutritional factors.
It is therefore advisable to ensure the intake of vitamin and polyphenolic antioxidants, simply by consuming at least the right daily portions of vegetables and / or fruit (at least five of 50-250 g).


Antioxidant vitamins in the diet for diabetes

Vitamin antioxidants are: vitamin C (ascorbic acid), carotenoids (provitamins E) and vitamin E (tocopherols, especially alpha tocopherol).

  • Vitamin C: typical of sour fruit (such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, cherries, etc.), radicchio, lettuce, cabbage, pepper and chilli pepper, parsley, etc.
  • Vitamin E: typical of the germ of cereals, in oil seeds and avocado, it is equally distributed in fruits and vegetables, even if in small quantities.
  • Provitamins A: most are contained in fruits and vegetables such as carrot, pepper, tomato, melon, apricot, pumpkin etc. Some are of animal origin, such as astaxanthin from algae, krill, crustaceans and salmon.

Other important antioxidant nutritional factors

Phenolic antioxidants in the diet for diabetes

Phenolic antioxidants belong to a wide range of nutritional factors. Some very famous are: resveratrol (from red grapes and wine), quercetin (contained in good quantities in capers, grapes, tea, etc.), various kinds of isoflavones (for example in soy and red clover), tannins of various kinds etc.


Keep in mind that antioxidant vitamins, as well as many other nutritional factors involved in fighting free radicals (eg polyphenols), are degraded with cooking.
This requires at least half of the fruit and vegetables to be consumed raw.

Mineral antioxidants

The only two minerals with antioxidant power are zinc and selenium.
Their importance in the diabetes diet is comparable to that of a common nutritional regimen.

Diabetes and Salt

Does salt affect the health of the diabetic?

Salt can affect the health of the diabetic only in the case of predisposition or presence of sodium-sensitive primary arterial hypertension.
It should be emphasized that the comorbidity between type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertension represents a very high risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

How much salt to consume?

International guidelines advise diabetic patients to stay within the following maximum intake levels:

  • edema.

What are the major sources of sodium?

Sodium essentially comes from cooking salt, used as a seasoning and / or condiment.
Each gram of salt provides about 0,4 g of sodium.
Table salt can be:

  • Added in food processing (preserved products such as cured meats, cheeses, preserves, salted products, etc.).
  • Added in recipes (for example in pasta water, in a sauce or on dishes being cooked)
  • Added in the dish (for example directly on the salad).

The added salt, in recipes or in the dish, is called discretionary salt and plays a decisive role in the total amount of sodium present in the diet.
Packaged food is also one of the main obstacles to reducing sodium in the diet: it is therefore not enough to limit only the direct intake of salt, but also to reduce the consumption of foods that contain it.

How to limit salt

Limiting the intake of salt with food is all in all easy; just take a few simple precautions:

  • Do not salt the dishes
  • Use a little salt during cooking (when preparing the pasta, get used, for example, to add salt when cooking is finished; in this way the amount of salt absorbed by the pasta is considerably reduced)
  • Limit the consumption of salted or processed foods (sausages, cheeses, chips, etc.)
  • Limit the consumption of packaged foods
  • Enhance the flavor of foods with spices, lemon or traditional / balsamic vinegar
  • If fruit is liked, it can be eaten as a substitute for salty snacks as a snack.

Foods to avoid in the diabetic's diet

Salty snacks, sodium-rich waters (although their contribution to daily sodium intake is still low)

Recommended foods, instead of salt, in the diabetic's diet

Spices, low sodium waters (low mineral content).

Diet, Diabetes and Alcohol

Can the diabetes diet contain alcohol?

If diabetes is well controlled, modest amounts of wine or beer are allowed with meals (up to 15-20g of alcohol per day for women and 30-35g for men).
Given the choice, it is better to prefer red wine for its antioxidant content.

Negative effects of alcohol abuse

Among the negative effects of alcohol abuse are:

  • Increased blood triglycerides
  • Predisposition to overweight due to the consistent energy intake (each gram of alcohol brings about 7Kcal)
  • Disinhibition and increased chances of overeating
  • Hypoglycemic effect when taken on an empty stomach (especially dangerous for patients treated with insulin and oral hypoglycemic agents).

Alcoholic beverages to be eliminated in the diabetic's diet

Spirits, liqueur wines, cocktails.

Alcoholic beverages to be taken in moderation in the diabetic's diet

None, but beer and wine can be consumed in moderation, preferably with meals.
Red wine is more advisable for its antioxidant content.

Other Useful Tips

  1. Always consult a qualified physician before starting a new diet or making any changes to the prescribed one
  2. A correct division of foods throughout the day, for example by combining one or two snacks with the three main meals (large breakfast, lunch, dinner), improves diabetes management
  3. For the same reason, binges should be avoided as much as possible, abandoning the old food model (first, second, vegetables, coffee, dessert) in favor of small, balanced and frequent meals.
  4. To favor the reduction or maintenance of body weight, it is important to associate regular physical activity with a balanced diet; discover all the benefits of movement and the precautions to be taken by reading the article: Diabetes and physical activity
  5. Stay well hydrated throughout the day, especially if you have type I diabetes, by drinking at least a couple of liters of water
  6. For the same patients, it is advisable to always carry some food rich in simple sugars (candies, sugar cubes, etc.), to be used only in the event of a sudden drop in blood sugar.

Other articles on 'Diet and Diabetes: Fiber, Salt and Alcohol'

  1. Diet and Diabetes: Fats, Proteins and Cholesterol
  2. causes of diabetes
  3. Causes of Diabetes
  4. Symptoms of Diabetes
  5. Acute complications of diabetes
  6. Long-term complications of diabetes
  7. Diabetes treatment and treatment
  8. Physical activity and diabetes mellitus
  9. hypoglycemia
  10. Hypoglycemic crises
  11. Fruit and Diabetes
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