Eating healthy is important for everyone, especially for people with diabetes because the type and amounts of food can have a great impact on your blood glucose (sugar). By carefully choosing what and when you eat, you can help maintain healthy blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of long-term complications from diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.
November is American Diabetes Month. In the United States, 7 percent of the population (20.8 million children and adults) have diabetes. Unfortunately, 6.2 million of these people are unaware that they have the disease.
Having diabetes used to mean a lifetime of meals that lacked the most pleasant aspect of taste: sweetness. Today, the rules for avoiding sugar have been relaxed.
A key message for people with diabetes is “Carbs Count.” Foods high in carbs – bread, tortillas, rice, crackers, cereal, fruit, juice, milk, yogurt, potatoes, corn, peas, and sweets – raise your blood glucose levels the most.
For many people, having three or four servings of a carb choice at each meal and one or two servings at snacks is about right. Keep an eye on your total number of servings. For example, if you choose to have dessert, cut back on potatoes.
Round out your meals with a serving of: meat (such as fish or chicken) or meat substitute (such as beans, eggs, cheese, and tofu) about the size of a deck of cards and non-starchy vegetables (such as broccoli or lettuce). If you have three or more servings of non-starchy vegetables, count them as a carbohydrate choice. Three servings are equal to 1 1/2 cups of cooked vegetables, or three cups of raw vegetables.
The key to healthy living is moderation. Air-popped popcorn may be low in fat, but it still has calories. And calories count. Being more active helps lower your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Physical activity uses up extra sugar in your blood and helps your insulin work better.
Every person with diabetes should have a personal meal plan based on your needs and lifestyle. To find a registered dietitian near you call the American Dietetic Association at 1-800-366-1655, look on their Website (www.diabetes.org) for a listing of dietitians in your area, or call the American Association of Diabetes Educators, at 1-800-TEAM-UP4 (1-800-832-6874). The operator will give you the names of several diabetes educators in your zip code.