Even though, pregnancy brings immense amount of joy and happiness for expecting parents, it can certainly be a distressing phase for women. Besides the minor effects of pregnancy like morning sickness, nausea, mood swings and anxiety, many women develop diabetes during pregnancy, which is often termed as gestational diabetes. It excludes women who have had diabetes before pregnancy and is a term used to refer to women who have developed diabetes as a result of pregnancy. Even though, blood sugar levels go down to normal after pregnancy, the onset of gestational diabetes places women at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
While the cause of gestational diabetes has been attributed to the impairment in the functionality of insulin by the action of hormones present in the placenta, dietary changes have helped many women in maintaining blood glucose levels within the desired range. Expecting women are advised to eat every 2.5-3 hours in a day. It is best to consume three small, regular meals and 2-3 servings of snacks daily to ensure that they get adequate amounts of nutrients for nourishing the growing fetus. Nevertheless, over eating can rapidly increase blood sugar levels and overburden the pancreas for producing insulin. Hence, it is crucially important to strike a balance in terms of the correct quantity and the kind of foods that are consumed during pregnancy.
Foods to Control Gestational Diabetes
Including a variety of foods in your diet and consuming them in moderate proportions can help you and your baby obtain adequate amounts of nutrients and minerals. Read on to find out the foods that can help you manage the symptoms of gestational diabetes.
Consumption of Low Glycemic Index (GI) Foods
Glycemic index is an indicator of the rate at which a food rich in carbohydrates, increases blood sugar levels. High glycemic index foods raise blood sugar levels at a very rapid rate, thus enhancing insulin resistance and leading to the accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream.
On the other hand, low glycemic index foods do not spike blood sugar levels, since they break down slowly and release glucose at a slow and steady rate into the blood. These include foods like whole grain bread, vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, green peas, lentils and kidney beans; fruits like apples, oranges, strawberries, cherries, banana and peers, all-bran cereals, wheat cereals, etc.
Consumption of Foods Containing Complex Carbohydrates
Considering the impact of high levels of carbohydrates on the action of insulin and the onset of gestational diabetes, pregnant women are often advised to cut back on the intake of simple carbohydrates found in foods like white rice, processed fruit juices, soft drinks, white flour and sugary foods like candies, cookies, pastries, etc.
However, carbohydrates are required as a source of energy for the mother, which in turn, aids in the growth and development of the baby. Hence, one should consume foods rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates found in whole foods like brown rice, wholegrain cereals, oat meals, brown bread, low-fat containing dairy products and organic fruits and vegetables that will keep blood sugar levels under control.
Consumption of Non-Starchy Vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables contains very less carbohydrates, most of which is in the form of fiber. These include artichoke, asparagus, baby corn, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cauliflower, coleslaw, cabbage, okra, onions, radishes, zucchini, turnips and eggplant. Besides being rich in essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, non-starchy vegetables are very low in calories and hence can be consumed in large quantities.
One of the best ways of consuming vegetables is to consume a platter containing a colorful variety of vegetables like carrots, cucumber, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, celery and beetroot. It not only helps you maintain low blood sugar levels, but also satiates your stomach due to its high fiber content and reduces your craving for sugar laden foods. You can consume a vegetable platter for lunch or make a vegetable salad by mixing vegetables with a low calorie dressing and have it as an evening snack. One can also add grilled slices of turkey or chicken as salad toppers to increase your intake of protein.
onsumption of Lean Meat
Lean meat like chicken or turkey and sea food like salmon, herring, tuna, sardines, crabs, oysters, lobsters, roasted slices of trimmed beef and lamb are enriched with proteins and mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Moreover, lean meats are low in carbohydrates and hence do not raise blood glucose levels rapidly. In order to reduce the intake of calories and saturated fat from meat, one can opt for meat substitutes like soybean based foods that contains all the nine amino acids required by the body to synthesize proteins and contains no starch or carbohydrates.
As per the studies conducted by the National Soybean Research Laboratory, soybeans are rich in soluble fiber, isoflavones and resveratrol, which act in concert to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. It also improves insulin resistance by increasing satiety or the feeling of stomach fullness, thus decreasing your hunger and your intake of carbohydrates.
Consumption of Foods Rich in Protein
One should combine the intake of carbohydrates with proteins in order to maintain optimum levels of glucose in the blood. Foods like beans, legumes, dried peas, lentils, kidney beans, butter beans serve as good sources of both protein and carbohydrates. In addition, they are low glycemic index foods, which slowly release glucose in the blood and are rich sources of fiber that aids in digestion.
Besides consuming the aforementioned foods, pregnant women should avoid packed and processed foods that are not only deprived of many essential nutrients and vitamins, but are also high in calories and carbohydrate content. While excess of carbohydrates can worsen the symptoms of gestational diabetes, one should not completely replace the daily intake of carbohydrateswith proteins and fiber, since the body of the expecting mother and the growing fetus requires carbohydrates in adequate quantities.
Frequent bouts of nausea, headaches, fatigue and hunger indicates that you are totally depriving the body of carbohydrates and hence constantly monitoring your blood sugar levels, before and after meals can help you consume the aforementioned foods in the right amounts to keep the symptoms of gestational diabetes at bay. Furthermore, you should always inform your gynecologists about any new changes you make in your diet, to avoid over dosage of anti-diabetic medications and insulin injections and their associated side effects.