Diabetes prevention is more important now than ever before. Diabetes is an ugly condition but fortunately, people who have prediabetes can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. This involves changing your diet along with your activity level.
We live in a society where sugar and refined carbs are literally rammed down our throats. A lifetime of sugar consumption can catch up with you and diabetes, just in the United States, affects some 100 million people. The good news is we can now catch this before it gets out of hand as blood sugar levels higher than normal can reveal “prediabetes” and this is a warning sign to make changes. Here’s how diabetes prevention can be made simple with tips on food and lifestyle.
How Diabetes Causes Problems
True diabetes is when the body is dealing with a chronic disease and you cannot produce insulin, or properly use the insulin produced. Insulin is the hormone in your body that controls the amount of sugar that’s in your blood.
When you have diabetes, it leads to higher sugar levels in the blood and this can cause damage to your organs, blood vessels, and nerves. Your body needs this sugar for an energy source and without insulin, it can’t get it.
Insulin is secreted by your pancreas and it helps to keep balance. When your sugar levels get too high, your pancreas releases the insulin, and it takes the sugar to be used as energy or to be stored as fat. That’s what fat is basically, it’s a backup energy source.
After this release, blood sugar levels will go back down. Over time, this chronic high blood sugar can lead to kidney damage, foot problems, lower limb amputation, eye disease, blindness, stroke, anxiety, nerve damage, and can be life-threatening.
Type 1 Diabetes
This is when the immune system attacks and kills the cells in the pancreas that make and release insulin. It’s done mistakingly but almost no insulin is released into the blood. Sugar can now build up easily in the blood.
This type 1 diabetes can develop in childhood or adolescence and makes up around 10 percent of those who have diabetes. Type 1 diabetes needs to be treated with insulin and meal planning becomes very important to control sugar levels.
Type 2 Diabetes
This is the form that has grown out of control. Now the body can’t properly use the insulin it produces and can have trouble producing it as well. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream and the same problems can happen.
This is diabetes that affects over 90% of the people who suffer from it. This used to develop in adulthood and had been called “adult-onset diabetes“. However, with the growth of poor diet habits, especially in younger people, more children are getting it and they had to change the name to type 2 diabetes.
The good news is type 2 diabetes can be manageable and prediabetes can be nipped in the bud.
Here are 6 things to do for diabetes prevention.
This will be one of the biggest things you can do right off the bat. Exercise will help you lose weight, and this will be a huge way to prevent diabetes. Exercise, specifically strength training will increase your insulin sensitivity which is the ability for your body to handle sugar better.
The act of exercise itself will also lower blood sugar and the best thing is to combine aerobic, and resistance training, to get the greatest benefit.
2. Eat More Fiber
Fiber does more than just keep you regular, it’s critical in keeping blood sugar balanced. This will reduce your risk of diabetes and will also help prevent heart disease. A big thing with fiber is it promotes satiety which is being full. You will be less likely to overeat and this will stave off cravings helping to prevent weight gain.
The more weight you gain the closer you can be to diabetes. All that excess body fat is an indicator that a lot of insulin had been released to create, and store, that energy as body fat. The sooner you can lose weight the better it is for diabetes prevention.
3. Eat More Protein & Fat
Protein and fat are much easier on the body than carbohydrates. There will be an insulin release but much more minimal than an excess of carbohydrates. Protein and fat will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and they will also keep your fuller and for longer.
The main things that promote fullness are protein, water, fiber, and healthy fats. The protein and fats will also prevent big drops in blood sugar that cause crashes and then cravings for more quick energy in the form of sugar and refined carbs.
Aim for things like:
- Nuts and seeds
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Olive oil
- Natural peanut and almond butter
- Chicken breast
4. Eat Protein First
If you are having a meal that is higher in carbohydrates or has inferior quality carbs, eat protein first. This will help keep blood sugar levels a little more stable and prevent a more rapid rise if you were to eat simple carbs on an empty stomach.
So if you’re having a meal that has some starchy carbs consume the protein portion first to keep things more balanced.
5. Be Careful of Fruit
This is a tough one because fruit is always a healthy choice. Well, yes, and no. It’s full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc but a lot of modern fruit is high in fructose. Fructose is still sugar (anything that ends in ‘ose‘ is your tip-off that it’s sugar) and if you are diabetic, or pre-diabetic, you still need to be careful.
Our modern fruit has been over-bred to be bigger, sweeter, and juicier and that can cause problems if you want diabetes prevention. Your best bet fruit wise will be berries. They are lower in sugar and high in fiber so insulin spikes will not be as high.
They also have a ton of vitamins and antioxidants in them so go for blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Citrus fruits can be a good choice along with green apples. If you are healthy and active, you’ll be fine with more fruit but if you are looking for diabetes prevention, limit fruit to just a few servings a day.
6. Pick More Complex Carbohydrates
The biggest diet tip I can give for diabetes prevention is to not eat anything white. That means avoid white bread, white sugar, white pasta, and white rice. These items are refined carbohydrates that have been stripped of the fiber that made up the whole grain.
They are digested much faster and can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Instead, aim for the complex carbs which still have a lot of the fiber intact and are slower to digest. Think of things like wild rice, sweet potatoes, and steel-cut oats for your carb choices.
By Jamie L.