The Cleveland Clinic

Diabetes: Eating Right

Maintaining a healthy diet is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with diabetes . Following the right meal plan can make all the difference to a person struggling to keep their blood sugar under control. But, what is the right meal plan? How much of which food group should you eat?

Along with a visit to a dietician, this guide should help answer questions you may have.

Understanding Carbohydrates and Fiber

Carbohydrates are one of the major food categories (the others include proteins and fats). They provide fuel for the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is a sugar that is the primary means of energy for all of the body's cells.

There are two ways to classify carbohydrates -- simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars -- like glucose, sucrose, lactose and fructose. They are found in refined sugar and in fruits. Complex carbohydrates are the starches, which are the simple sugars bonded together chemically -- they are found in beans, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. Complex carbohydrates are considered healthier mostly because they are digested by the body slowly, providing a steady source of energy. They also contain valuable amounts of fiber.

Carbohydrates, rather than fats or proteins, have the most immediate effect on your blood glucose since carbohydrates are broken down directly into sugar early during digestion. It is important to eat the suggested amount of carbohydrate at each meal, along with some protein and fat.