The Sugar Problem- American Diabetes Month
How likely are you to develop diabetes? Do you like refined carbs and sugary drinks? Are you Asian, Hispanic, Black or Native American? Then you have a much higher chance of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Most Americans have a family or loved one that is affected by diabetes. Diabetes is a disorder that can affect nearly every part of your body. It’s a metabolic disorder that starts at the cellular level where our cells are not getting the energy they need to perform their daily function. When a disorder affects us at the cellular level, there is significant potential for many more complications to arise in our health.
November is American Diabetes Awareness Month, and it’s time to revisit how diabetes can affect every one of us. The standard American diet is unfortunately full of refined sugars and carbohydrates that can affect us over time. When you eat a diet that is high in sugar and refined carbs, your pancreas must work overtime to produce a corresponding high amount of insulin to help process the the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat into the fuel that your cells need for energy. Over time, your body may not produce enough insulin to meet the high onslaught of sugar, so glucose can’t get into your cells. The leftover glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing high blood glucose levels.
In other cases, people might produce an overload of insulin to deal with the constant inflow of sugar, and their cells can become resistant to the effects of insulin. Think of it like an overactive door-to-door salesman. Over time, you simply stop answering the door if they keep knocking at all hours of the night. You just ignore it, even if they might have something important to say. Our bodies can react the same way to too much glucose in your bloodstream.
So what are some ways you can manage your diet and lifestyle to prevent or manage diabetes? We are going to look at the top three lifestyle tips for diabetes. However before we start, we advise that you stop smoking, stop drinking and stop general unhealthy lifestyle practices. Cut that out now. All unhealthy lifestyle practices affect our bodies on the cellular level, which affects the ability for our bodies to heal and perform properly. The best way to get back on track is to remove the key macro-offenders and to start on these three things.
1. Get Moving
Your body’s movement utilizes glucose as fuel, so it is important to burn up as much of it as we can. Fewer than 39% of Americans with diabetes get any kind of regular exercise or training. Basic movement can help lower blood sugar and control body weight. It can start with something as simple as going for a 15 minute walk after each meal. There are additional exercises such as resistance training and balance training that help your muscles burn up that excess glucose. Try to incorporate a combination of each type of exercise into your daily life to keep your blood sugar levels at bay.
2. Eating Right for Diabetes
It’s no secret that eating a whole foods diet is the foundation to a healthy lifestyle. If you have a diabetes diagnosis, we suggest you work closely with a nutritionist that specializes in blood sugar management. The basic concept is to stick to low-glycemic, protein and fiber-rich foods that nourish you and keep your blood sugar levels stable. The fiber concept is so important we will devote an additional blog to discussing the importance of fiber to stabilize blood sugar levels. The foods should be focused on quality lean proteins and leafy green vegetables at every meal. Even fruits should be taken sparingly, limited mostly to berries and citrus fruits. Most importantly is to space your meals close enough that your blood sugar levels neither spike nor drop too much. We recommend a balanced meal or snack every 3 - 4 hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
3. Key Nutrients for Blood Sugar Management
The great news is, phytonutrients that are good for blood sugar control abound in the right foods. Make sure that you are consuming adequate healthy fats in your diet from delicious foods such as flax and chia seeds, fish, avocados and olive oil. Leafy greens are also high in alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, vitamin A and plant fibers to help lower blood sugar. In fact, greens are so powerful that there are multiple large studies that show a reduced risk of developing diabetes in as little as 1.35 servings a day. This is why greens and healthy proteins that also contribute healthy fats are the foundation of our SMART Pressed clean meal plan. In addition to these two pillars, additional nutrients to consider for blood sugar support come in foods such as cinnamon, garlic, fenugreek, turmeric and apple cider vinegar.
Even though the prospect or diagnosis of diabetes can sound daunting, there are simple lifestyle interventions that we can make to help manage or prevent its further progression. The main concept is to balance your lifestyle with adequate daily movement to utilize excess glucose in your system and to eat the right nutrients to keep your blood sugar levels stable all day.
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