Got Diabetes? You Are Not Alone

Does it seem like more and more of your friends and family are being diagnosed with diabetes? Maybe you too have joined the 1.3 million new cases each year that are learning to live with this disease. The growth in diabetes during the past 20 years has gone hand in hand with the growth in our body size. Unfortunately, there is no evidence of a slow down; with over 60% of the population struggling with obesity, it is anticipated that nearly 10% of the U.S. population will have a diagnosis of diabetes in the near future. A big question that we should all be asking, is Why? What has happened in the U.S. during the past 20 years that has caused this rapid and dramatic rise in both obesity and diabetes? Certainly there are numerous diet, exercise and stress changes that are key contributors. The financial and physical costs of diabetes are devastating for individuals, families and our youth in particular. We all need answers and solutions to stop the diabetes epidemic.

While the reasons for the rise in diabetes are complex, the best discussion is around possible solutions. Before reviewing dietary solutions, lets define the disease. Type 2 diabetes (the most common type) is basically an exhausted pancreas that cant make enough insulin; or, cells in the body are resistant to the insulin that is being made. Insulin is important because it helps glucose (blood sugar) get into cells to give them energy. If glucose can’t get into cells, it accumulates in our blood stream causing irreversible damage to blood vessels and nerves. We only need a little bit of glucose in our blood stream. It is the excess glucose that damages blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and heart. These damaged blood vessels are what cause the blindness, kidney failure and heart disease that can be found in persons who have had poorly managed diabetes. It is important to note that diabetes does not cause these complications; it is poorly managed diabetes (high blood glucose) and the other associated medical conditions that are the triggers for complications of diabetes.

Not all, but many of the following medical conditions are common in persons diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: high blood pressure, elevated triglyceriedes, elevated cholesterol, inflamed blood vessels, gout, abdominal obesity (carrying weight around the waist), fatty liver and more. Because persons with type 2 diabetes almost always have several of these other health problems, the treatment and education should address more than just blood glucose!

At the St. Joseph Hospital Nutrition & Diabetes Education Clinic, we work to help our patients do more than just lower blood glucose. We take a whole body approach and work to identify strategies that will help treat the entire body (lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation and blood glucose). After all, it is the entire body that is having a difficult time doing everything it needs to do to run well.Everyone is different, but the following are the key diet strategies that help manage diabetes and the “package” of other health concerns that comes with it:

  • 1. Eat a balanced breakfast, lunch, dinner and 1-2 snacks each day.
  • 2. Keep carbohydrate intake to 30-60 grams per meal (the amount will depend on individual needs).
  • 3. Choose most often, carbohydrates that digest more slowly – these are whole foodsfruits,vegetables and grains that have not been ground into flours (include barley, wheat, berries,wild rice, oats etc.).
  • 4. Eliminate all hydrogenated fats. You can identify hydrogenated fats by looking at the ingredient label on a package.
  • 5. Limit animal fats and highly heated fats (limit frying, grilling & broiling).
  • 6. Include healthy fats every day. These include extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, non-roasted seeds and nuts, nut butters and avocados.
  • 7. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products.
  • 8. Limit all “white foods” – foods made from white flour, white rice and potatoes.
  • 9. Choose a variety of colorful plant foods everyday.
  • Most of this information is not new to anyone…our grandparents told us this! Eating healthy does not have to cost more, or take a lot of preparation. Keep things simple – hearty soups, ready to go veggies and fresh fruits are easy.When eating healthy you will feel less hungry, have fewer food cravings, find weight loss easier and give your body the millions of nutrients it needs to keep itself working well. Bon Appetite!