Managing Diabetes with Diet and Lifestyle
Diabetes is a chronic disease condition which occurs when your body is unable to produce enough insulin or when our body cannot make good use of the insulin that we produce. Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues such as heart attack, stroke, diabetic foot, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy etc.
The most common types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes: In this case, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed. Up to 10% of people who have diabetes have Type 1. It’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults (but can develop at any age). It was once better known as “juvenile” diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day, hence it is also called insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
Type 2 diabetes: With this type, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or your body’s cells don’t respond normally to the insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes. Up to 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It usually occurs in middle-aged and older people. Other common names for Type 2 include adult-onset diabetes and insulin-resistant diabetes.
Gestational diabetes: This type develops in some women during their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, however, if you have gestational diabetes you’re at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life.
According to NCBI, strict glucose control can delay or prevent the progression of complications associated with diabetes and there is also substantial evidence that leading a healthy lifestyle, including following a healthy diet, achieving modest weight loss, and performing regular physical activity can maintain healthy blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of complications of Type 2 diabetes.
Basically, healthy lifestyle modifications can help us in the management of diabetes better than medications alone.
Managing with diet/ nutrition:
Diet plays a very significant role in managing blood sugar level effectively.
● Choose a variety of healthy low glycemic index foods every day. Additionally learn about low glycemic load foods- foods that are low in carbs. As it’s not necessary that foods that are low in glycemic index are low in total carbs as well. Keep a check on your portion size. Do not overeat.
● Although whole grains can be healthy, they are high in carbs which have the highest impact on your blood sugar level. Therefore go for low glycemic index and low glycemic load foods such as eggs, fish, non-starchy veggies, paneer etc rather than solely relying on the whole grains.
● Make sure that you eat at least 3-4 cups of fresh, seasonal, low glycemic index vegetables every day.
● Do not unnecessarily snack in between, as this can spike your insulin levels. If there is a need to, then opt for foods low in both glycemic index and load.
● During the meal time, make sure that half of your plate is filled with non-starchy veggies/ greens; the quarter of other half to be filled with healthy fat and protein such as eggs, oily fish etc; the other quarter can have a fermented food product such as yogurt and a very small portion of whole grains such as quinoa, millets etc.
● Choose healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish, avocado and walnuts, other nuts and seeds. These foods are low in glycemic index and load and they help in maintaining the blood sugar level effectively and are also considered anti-inflammatory.
● Select proteins such as fish, grass fed lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, lentils and legumes.
● Use different and plenty of herbs and spices in your diet wherever possible. Like ginger, garlic, turmeric, oregano, thyme etc. These might help reduce the inflammation in the body which can be as a result of uncontrolled diabetes or vice-versa.
● Go organic. That means your exposure to herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and synthetic additives is limited.
● Unnecessary snacking in between your meals if it’s not required.
● Avoid sugar, refined or processed foods at all times.
● Anything with food additives like preservatives, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors and colors is a big no.
● Certain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, although low in calories can spike your insulin level. Therefore speak to a registered dietitian before using any kind of artificial sweeteners.
● Keep yourself away from processed meat and aerated beverages.
● Keep away from alcohol and cigarette smoking.
Other important tips:
● Be physically active- Talk to your doctor/ health care professional and discuss an exercise plan specifically suitable for you. In general, most adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a day on most days of the week.
● Maintain a healthy weight.
● You can practice intermittent fasting under the guidance of a professional to manage your blood sugar well.
● Sleep well
● Do not take unnecessary stress.
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