Estimates and projections suggest an epidemic expansion of Diabetes incidence. There are about 347 million people worldwide who have Diabetes. This Non-communicable disease (NCDs) according to the WHO is increasing at alarming levels globally.
Diabetes is predicted to become the 7th leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030.
There is unequivocal evidence that unhealthy food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing is related to obesity. More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
We are no closer to a cure for Diabetes, although this disease is at epidemic levels and millions of dollars are spent in research.
Although there is good evidence that a large proportion of cases of Diabetes and its complications can be prevented by a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco, this evidence is not widely implemented.
People with Diabetes, no matter what type, have too much glucose in the blood, although the causes may differ. Glucose is vital to health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up the muscles and tissues. It’s also the brain’s main source of fuel.
Too much or too little glucose is dangerous. So, in order to keep glucose levels in the blood in a healthy range, the hormone insulin is produced in Beta Cells in the pancreas.
For people with Diabetes, the glucose stays in the blood instead of being turned into energy. This is why blood glucose levels are higher in people with Diabetes. High blood glucose can cause short and long term damage to the body.
When weight is gained hormones produced by the extra body fat start to need more insulin to process blood glucose effectively. Eventually the need for insulin may be so high that the pancreas cannot supply enough of it. The result is Diabetes.
There are different types of Diabetes; all types are complex and serious. The three main types of Diabetes are Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes. Type 2 accounts for around 90% of all Diabetes worldwide.
The combination of massive changes to diet, the quality of the food that lacks essential nutrients due to depleted soils and the food supply, combined with massive changes to physical activity with more sedentary work and less activity, means most populations are seeing more Type 2 Diabetes.
Women with Gestational Diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery. They are also at increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes in the future.
Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.
What Are Common Consequences Of Diabetes?
Over time, Diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, amputation and kidney failure.
So What Can You Do?
Even though there’s no Diabetes cure, Diabetes can be treated and controlled, and some people may go into remission.
For a person with Diabetes, the main focus of treatment is to control the amount of glucose in the body so that blood sugar levels stay as close to normal as possible.
People with Type 1 Diabetes need insulin shots as part of their care plan to control their blood sugar levels. Some people with Type 2 Diabetes can control their blood sugar levels with a healthy diet and exercise.
However, some people with Type 2 Diabetes will need to include Diabetes pills, insulin shots, or both in their Diabetes care plans.
Change is challenging, but being diagnosed with Diabetes that requires a particular change in lifestyle and in dietary habits can be challenging for some individuals. For the change requires an acceptance of the situation firstly.
The purpose of making changes is to add pleasure to your life, so see what changes you can make today that will add long term benefits to your life. This is empowering yourself. There are simple things you can do daily, that make a big difference.
Healthy eating does not mean depriving yourself of the foods you love or staying unrealistically thin, but rather about developing a well-balanced, satisfying relationship with food. Your food choices have the biggest impact when it comes to Diabetes.
But what does eating right for Diabetes mean? You may be surprised to hear that your nutritional needs are virtually the same everyone else: no special foods or complicated diets are necessary.
A Diabetes diet is simply a healthy eating plan that is high in nutrients, low in fat, and moderate in calories. It is a healthy diet for anyone!
The only difference is that a person with Diabetes needs to pay more attention to some of the food choices, most notably the carbohydrates eaten.
A healthy diet along with an appropriate exercise plan is crucial for an enhanced primary health plan in Diabetes management.
Consuming a small serve of low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrate based food at each meal, eating regularly throughout the day (to keep blood glucose levels consistent), focusing on foods low in fats (in particular, saturated fats) to reduce heart disease risk, including fibre-rich foods, and drinking enough water are the main areas to focus on.
Most people with Type 2 Diabetes need to reduce their weight (body fat), hence overall kilojoule balance is also an important factor.
The key to controlling blood sugar with diet is controlling the portions and timing of the meals. Eat a wide variety of delicious foods as a diabetic from each of the food groups.
A diabetic must control the total amount of carbohydrates eaten. Carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugars.
Starches act as one of the primary sources of carbohydrates in the diet. Limit your daily intake to six to 11 servings based on your calorie needs, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders, or NIDDK.
Eating more high-fiber starches can help you maintain better control over your blood sugar. Fiber in food slows digestion and the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Delicious diabetic starch choices include whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, bulgur wheat, millet, barley, rye, whole-grain cereal, corn, potatoes, winter squash, and popcorn. Legumes: Beans (black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, white, etc.), lentils, and peas.
Fruits also provide carbohydrates. Limit intake to two to four servings a day, according to NIDDK. Fruits like oranges, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, berries, melons and sweet limes have properties like insulin, which help to control blood sugar levels naturally.
Include apples, oranges, pineapple, mango, bananas, plums, peaches, nectarines, berries, melons, unsweetened canned fruit, unsweetened dried fruit and fruit juice.
Eating more whole fruit instead of juice will help better manage blood sugar because of the fiber content.
Milk & Yogurt
In addition being sources of protein and calcium, milk and yogurt also contain carbohydrates, limit intake to two servings a day. Low-fat and nonfat milk and yogurt items make healthier choices.
Too much saturated fat in the diet increases blood cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. Milk and yogurt choices include skim milk, 1 percent milk and nonfat, sugar-free Greek yogurt.
Include a handful of nuts to the diet and control blood glucose levels. Although high in calories, nuts like almonds, peanuts and walnuts are good sources of fiber, vitamin E and magnesium, which regulate blood sugar levels efficiently.
Nuts also contain healthy fats that are good for heart health in diabetics.
Sweets & Desserts
Stevia a naturally sweet plant is shown to be an excellent substitute of sugar in diabetics. It stabilizes blood sugar levels by increasing insulin resistance, inhibiting absorption of glucose and promoting health of the pancreas.
When adding a sweet or dessert to the diet, it should replace another carbohydrate-containing food. Eat the sweet with a meal to prevent surges in blood sugar.
Non-starchy delicious vegetables are low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods include leafy greens, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, eggplant, onions, peppers, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and green beans.
Meat & Meat Substitutes
Meat and meat substitutes do not contain carbohydrates, but provide protein, zinc and iron. Limit intake to 110 g to 200 g a day, according to NIDDK. Meats can also be a source of saturated fat, and lean meats make healthier choices.
Delicious lean meat choices include skinless poultry, fish, shellfish, ham, pork chops, top sirloin and lean ground meat. Delicious low-fat meat substitutes include egg whites, egg substitutes, tofu, low-fat cheese and nonfat and low-fat cottage cheese.
Limit saturated fat is found in animal foods like fatty meat, milk, butter and cheese. Vegetable fats that are saturated include palm oil (found in solid cooking fats, snack foods or convenience foods) and coconut products such as copha, coconut milk or cream.
Avoid processed, fried and battered foods. Avoid the use of processed deli meats and sausages.
Herbs & Spices
Add herbs and spices for flavour, variety and health benefits to meals. Allicin in garlic and onions has an anti-diabetic effect.
Adding about half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day can result in significant improvement in blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels as cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity.
Holy basil in people with Type 2 Diabetes showed a positive effect on fasting blood sugar and on blood sugar following a meal. Gingers gingerols, can increase uptake of glucose into muscle cells without using insulin, and may therefore assist in the management of high blood sugar levels.
Trigonelline in fenugreek seeds is known to reduce blood sugar level. Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been shown to boost blood sugar control. Both Asian and American ginseng may help lower blood sugar in people with Diabetes.
There is good news you can make a big difference with healthy lifestyle changes. The most important thing you can do for your health is to lose weight, this is easier if exercise is undertaken. For good health, about 30 minutes of exercise every day.
If this is not possible, then this time can be divided in 3 x 10 minutes sessions. Aim for moderate intensity. This means you should still be able to talk as you exercise without becoming breathless. You can break up exercise throughout the day.
Here are some suggestions: Walking, Water Aerobics, Swimming, Dancing, Gardening, Golfing, Weight Training, and Tai Chi. Reduce sedentary behaviours by being active in as many ways as possible throughout the day.
Small Changes Equal Big Results
It’s not too late to make a positive change. Eating right and physical activity is vital to control Diabetes. The bottom line is that you have more control over your health than you think.
You can find much more information on living a holistic lifestyle in these free magazines and on our YouTube channel.
Irene Vervliet – Naturopathic Doctor
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