Eat Right to Fight Diabetes
It’s such an important issue that it’s featured in two awareness initiatives. November is both American Diabetes Month and National Diabetes Awareness Month. With this increased attention on diabetes and prevention, it’s a great time to learn more, assess your risk, and see how the right diet can help you stay healthy.
Understanding the Disease
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 happens when the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Type 1 can develop at any age, and there is no way to prevent it.
- Type 2 happens when the body can make insulin, but doesn’t know how to use it properly. Type 2 diabetes can also develop at any age. However, unlike Type 1, most cases of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented.
The only way to know if you have diabetes is to get your blood sugar tested by your physician. This level should be checked every three years starting at age 45.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, 30 million Americans have diabetes. That’s 1 in every 10 people! In addition, 1 out of every 4 Americans has diabetes but does not know it.
At the same time, 84.1 million people – more than 1 out of 3 Americans – are pre-diabetic. And, 9 out of 10 additional people are unaware that they have this warning sign of diabetes.
Reducing Your Risk
While genes certainly play a role in whether we develop type 2 diabetes, lifestyle choices can decrease the risk substantially. The 2017 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes by the American Diabetes Association state that for individuals who have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, losing excess weight is essential. And, for pre-diabetic individuals, it’s been found that simply eating healthier and being more active can cut the risk of advancing to type 2 diabetes by half.
In line with this, the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which is part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program, guides participants with the understanding that through healthier eating, increased physical activity, and a small amount of weight loss, a person with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by 58%.
Foods That Make a Difference
“When it comes to “healthier eating,” many people are left with questions about what exactly that means. To clear up confusion and help you fight diabetes these tips can help:
- Aim for at least two servings of whole grains per day. Look for healthy options like quinoa, brown rice, and oats. Avoid “refined grains,” which include bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, and tortillas.
- Pursue items that have been known to have a positive effect on reducing diabetes risk: berries, nuts, yogurt, tea, and – yes – coffee!
- Avoid foods that are associated with an increased risk for diabetes: Sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets, and red meat.
- Limit processed meats, such as hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky and canned meat.
- Think plants: Always try to add more fruits, nuts, and leafy green vegetables to every meal.
Finally, as you look for ways to eat healthy, focus on the fun. Try something new like “Meatless Mondays” to help reduce meats and introduce more plant foods into your diet. For inspirational recipes, go here.
Eating right can be your first plan of attack to shed excess weight and reduce your risk of diabetes. Whether it’s American Diabetes Month, National Diabetes Awareness Month, or anytime throughout the year, take steps to eat better and live healthier. For advice on how to get started, learn more about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, or contact a YMCA nutritionist. We are here to help!