For diabetics, a diabetes diet should be the focus of your meal planning. If your doctor placed you on a diabetes diet, you are likely nervous, scared and confused. While researching for this page, I was shocked at the complexity of this disease that affects over 20 million Americans. Even more shocking is that one third of its victims don’t even know they have it. This is part of the reason why it kills over 200,000 people a year in our country.
If you’ve not been diagnosed with it, and you have tingling or numbness in your fingers and toes, or occasional bouts of dizziness, see your doctor. The good news is that if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, and have been placed on a diabetes diet, you’re ahead of the game.
With some simple changes in eating habits, and moderate exercise, you can beat this disease!
Before we launch into a discussion of diabetes, let’s clarify the illness just a little so we know what we’re talking about. Before we do that, let me state for the record that I’m not a doctor, and am not construing myself to be able to give medical advice. Always see your doctor before implementing any changes in your health regimen.
The simple definition of diabetes is the relationship within the body between insulin, which helps the body process food, and glucose, or blood sugar, which becomes energy. Not enough insulin means too much glucose, which causes disease and can cause death.
The most common type of diabetes is type 2, or adult onset, which is the one carried by over 90% of all patients diagnosed. This is best managed by carefully monitoring your diabetes diet, exercising regularly, consuming more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and regular doctor visits for screening.
Type 1 diabetes is more rare, and more severe, demanding more frequent glucose monitoring, and insulin supplementation. This is treated in much the same way as type 2, but requires daily blood monitoring, and more careful diet control to alleviate and prevent hypoglycemia and insulin shock. If you have this type of diabetes, your doctor should give you very strict instructions regarding diet, exercise, sugar intake and carbohydrate counts.
First, it’s not your fault! So many people who have this condition lead normal lives. There is evidence that our busy lifestyle and hurried dining habits play a role, but all that matters now is how you react going forward. We’re going to spend some time discussing diet and eating habits that can help transform your health, but first, let’s attack the difficult yet simple act of increasing your physical activity.
For people with diabetes, any improvement in your physical activity is going to make a huge difference. Let’s start with simple things like walking around the block, walking to the store, or even the neighbor’s house. Get involved with something you enjoy, like bowling, softball, swimming at your local community center, and so on.
The idea is for us to become more active, with a partner, if possible. Studies and our own experience show that working out with a friend increases frequency and results. Be sure and start out slowly, working your way up to a 30 to 45 minute-a-day routine, at least 5 days a week.
When you’ve reached that goal, begin to increase the intensity until you are seeing results and feeling the difference. It will amaze you how great you feel as this process progresses. Studies have shown that mental attitudes improve with exercise and physical improvement.
Also, be sure and stretch before and after exercise. This helps prevent muscle damage, and helps remove fat and toxins from the body by easing their exit through expanded blood vessels. Of course, drink water before, during, and after your workout for the same reasons. You’re on your way to learning to live with diabetes and your diabetes diet!
If you’re on a diabetes diet, the advantages of water consumption are even more dramatic. If you’re a soda drinker, (yes, even if it’s diet soda!), it is absolutely essential to your diabetic diet that you cut back and replace it with water. Consuming water while you’re exercising increases the benefits of your workout. Water helps push even more fat out of your system, clearing up arteries and providing all sorts of other healthy benefits. The most obvious benefit, of course, is that it hydrates your body, fueling your energy needs, and replacing the water you are hopefully sweating away!
Let’s talk about how to eat on a diabetes diet. Probably the thing that most folks don’t understand about being diabetic is that their bodies have different demands regarding food. Mostly, they have an imbalance of insulin, which requires more diligence in watching how your body reacts to different types of foods and food groups. Carbohydrates are the most important to diabetics, as all carbs are broken down into glucose within a couple of hours of eating. While necessary for energy, your diet will certainly require you to eat less carbs by eating smaller portions!
Next in volume and importance are proteins, of which about half turn into glucose in your bloodstream. Proteins usually take around 4 hours to break down. You need protein in your diet, in the form of eggs, red meat, fish, and beans. The best way to reduce these in your diabetic diet is to again cut the portion size. You can also vary the type, as in beans one day, eggs the next, etc. Also, buy the leanest meat you can, and try substituting ground turkey and other fowl for red meat.
Finally, there is fat. A necessary evil, it is the thing that makes the food we love taste so good. It breaks down much like protein, and is available in many foods, particularly dairy and dessert items. The key here is to switch to low fat varieties. Skim milk, or better yet, rice or soy milk. Instead of regular ice cream, try frozen yogurt or fat free ice cream. Try them before you write them off, as you may be surprised at how delicious and enjoyable they can be!
Another thing that works for many people with diabetes is to eat smaller meals throughout the day, as this helps even out the insulin/glucose interaction, keeping the blood sugar stable. Probably the most important thing you can do to make your diabetes diet most effective is to pay attention to what you eat and how and when it affects you.
Obviously, the more natural, healthy, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and no-sugar-added fruit juices you eat and drink, the healthier your body is going to look and feel. Try to eat as much home-made food as you can. When you must eat prepared food, notice the labels and look for artificial ingredients, excess salt and sucrose or corn syrup, and avoid those products. When eating out at restaurants, stay away from fast food places, or at least order their low fat salads. Get as much fiber as you can, as this is beneficial to your health and usually makes you feel more satisfied. Mostly, just be aware of how you’re eating.
This is your life! Diabetes can cause blindness, loss of limbs, and death, but it doesn’t have to. Stay on your diabetes diet, exercise regularly, drink more water and less soda, and visit your doctor regularly. You can control this disease, instead of letting it control you. Stay healthy, and hopefully this article was helpful about your diabetes diet.