Healthy Diet Can Help Ward Off Type 2 Diabetes
A recent news report announced that the number of Americans with diabetes could triple by the year 2050. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 U.S. adults have the disease now, but this figure could grow to 1 in 3 in the next 40 years.
Diabetes is currently the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for about $170 billion in health care costs. By 2050, the cost of treating patients with diabetes could rise to nearly $500 billion a year.
How can we prevent this dramatic increase from occurring? In some cases, we can't. Diabetes Type 1, a condition usually diagnosed in children and adults, is when the body does not produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar and starches into glucose, the basic fuel for the cells of the body. About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. With the help of insulin therapy, people with Type 1 Diabetes can manage their condition and lead long, healthy lives.
The other 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2, a preventable form that's caused when the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin. This causes glucose to build up in the blood instead of going into the cells. This can lead to health complications such as glaucoma, hypertension, heart disease, hearing loss, kidney disease and stroke.
Before people develop Type 2 diabetes, they almost always develop "prediabetes," a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Maintaining a balanced blood sugar level, therefore, is key to preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes. This can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle, including a natural whole foods diet.
Here are some recommendations on how to maintain a healthy blood sugar balance:
1. Eat Low GI Foods
The Glycemic Index (GI) is used to measure the effect a food has on one's blood sugar level. The index ranks carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100; foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed and will result in a marked fluctuation in blood sugar levels. Low GI foods, conversely, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels. Processed foods, such as candies, cakes, doughnuts and chocolate, rank high on the index scale, whereas most fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins will rank on the lower end.
2. Eat Regularly
Going for long periods of time between meals can cause low blood sugar levels. The danger comes when you allow yourself to get to the point where you feel tired, shaky and hungry. This makes you susceptible to overeating or choosing foods that will give you a quick energy boost, like sugar or caffeine. This will cause an immediate sugar "high," which will inevitably be followed with a sugar "low." It's best to eat small meals every four to five hours to maintain blood sugar levels.
A combination meal of a lean protein and a high fiber carbohydrate will allow glucose to enter the cells at a slower rate and help keep you feeling full between meals. Healthy choices include: quinoa and chickpeas, green salad with lean turkey breast, vegetable and bean soup, millet with fresh berries, wild salmon with steamed vegetables.
3. Maintain a Regular Exercise Program
Exercise, in particular cardiovascular exercise, revs up the body's metabolism and helps balance blood sugar by allowing your body to use up all the excess glucose that's floating around in your bloodstream. Increasing muscle mass through strength training also uses up more blood sugar than fat. The rewards of a regular exercise program are numerous, from maintaining a healthy weight to decreasing the risk of many diseases. A combination cardio and strength training program three to four times a week would be sufficient for adults.
4. Avoid Stress
It would be difficult to find someone who doesn't feel some degree of stress. Too much stress, however, can lead to health problems, including imbalanced blood sugar levels. When the body feels physical or emotional stress, it naturally releases two hormones called cortisol and epinephrine to give us the energy we need to get through the situation. These hormones raise our blood sugar level because we can't rise to the challenge if our blood sugar is low. A prolonged period of stress will inevitably keep our blood sugar level in an imbalanced state, possibly leading to a prediabetic condition.
Joanne Capano is Naturally Savvy's Nutrition and Family Expert. She is a Registerd Holistic Nutritionist.
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