November is American Diabetes Month. The number of people with diabetes has skyrocketed. Chances are you know someone who has diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association:
- Nearly 30 million American children and adults have diabetes
- Another 86 million have prediabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes
- It is estimated that the total national cost for diagnosed diabetes is $245 million
Diabetes is a medical condition in which insulin is no longer produced (Type 1 diabetes) or is produced but cannot be taken in by the cells (Type 2). Both result in elevated blood sugar levels. When carbohydrate-rich foods are eaten, blood sugar rises. In response, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that shuttles sugar into the cell, where it is converted to energy. If insulin cannot be produced or utilized, blood sugar levels stay elevated. Long-term complications of poorly managed diabetes include blindness, kidney damage, nerve damage which can lead to amputations, and damage to the heart.
Fortunately, diabetes can be controlled by a combination of diet and exercise and medication (necessary in Type 1 diabetes). A clean eating plan that focuses on a balance of protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and healthy fats, as well as proper meal timing, can lead to better blood sugar control. Exercise is important as it helps lower blood sugar levels and promotes weight loss.
The recommended meal plan for someone with diabetes isn’t that different than what someone who hasn’t been diagnosed with diabetes should develop. This includes a healthy diet consisting of foods that manage glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol like vegetables, whole grains, fruit, lean meats, fish, and non-fat dairy products.
There are some myths surrounding diabetes. One is that you will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes simply because you are overweight or obese. This is false because other factors like family history, age, and ethnicity can contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Another myth is that sweets and chocolate are off limits if you have diabetes. In fact, one can indulge in sweets if it’s paired with exercise or is part of a healthy meal plan. Moderation is key!