The average North American consumes about 2-3 pounds of sugar every week! Not surprising considering highly refined sugars in the form of sucrose (table sugar) and dextrose (corn sugar) are being added to so many foods. Sugar goes by 50 different names, and can be found in everything from a doughnut, to ketchup, and even table salt. “Diabetes is a chronic disorder of carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, characterized by elevation of the blood sugar level after fasting.” The body strives to maintain a blood sugar level within a very narrow range through the efforts of several glands and their hormones. How does this work? When we consume sugar in any form, our blood sugar levels (glucose) raise very rapidly, because the sugar gets absorbed and digests very quickly. The pancreas then secretes Insulin to go help. It removes the sugar molecule from the blood stream and moves them into the cells, where they are used for energy purposes. This works, thanks to the receptors for insulin, located on the surface of the body cells. If the receptors are sensitive, the intake of glucose by the cells proceeds as normal.
Ideally, this process runs smoothly, however, when we continually overload our system with too much sugar, your pancreas has to work overtime. When your pancreas becomes tired from excessive stimulation, insulin may become delayed in their release, leading to a decreased sensitivity of the insulin receptor. Untimely, the sugar will pool out of the blood stream, not being able to be utilized by the cells, and you will become tired, as the base for energy production is missing from the cells. So what do we do? Repeat the process over again! This is the premises for creating blood sugar irregularities and the base for hypoglycemia and diabetes.
Different types of Diabetes
Type 1: IDDM (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus) – this is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin and which requires daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose regulation. It is most commonly diagnosed before the age of 30.
Type 2: NIDDM (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus) – the most common type of diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body does not properly use the insulin it makes. Most often diagnosed in adulthood, type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed in increasing numbers in children.
Gestational diabetes as with other forms of diabetes, this condition is defined as glucose intolerance, but with its first onset during pregnancy. Blood glucose levels usually return to normal following delivery.
Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not at a level found with type 2 diabetes. This may affect up to 6 million Canadians.
Nutrition is supportive in type 1 diabetes and is very helpful in type 2 diabetes. Careful monitoring of blood sugar is a MUST.
How to manage a Diabetic-friendly diet
Apart from the obvious sugars found in junk food, when it comes to watching our sugar intake, we also have to be aware of natural sugars like lactase (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar), as well as refined grains, and starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes. All sugars are carbohydrates which are converted by the body into glucose then used for fuel, however, some are obviously better for us than others.
To better regulate blood sugar levels, one must incorporate a diet that stabilizes blood sugar fluctuations.
Consume a diet high in fibre, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Particularly important is water-soluble fibre, which slows the absorption of glucose from meals into the bloodstream. Examples include seeds, beans, flax, most vegetables, and apple skins.
A daily total of 40 mg of fibre daily is a great goal, with a daily total of seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
High-quality protein with meals is also important for maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. Many people with diabetes benefit greatly by increasing the relative amount of protein in their diet.
Vegetable proteins from sources such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and peas are good choices, as are lean animal proteins such as organic turkey, skinless chicken, and fish. Also suitable are protein drinks that have low sugar levels, such as rice, hemp, whey, or yellow pea protein.
To prevent damage to the nervous and cardiovascular systems we require quality fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Daily consumption of oils high in omega-3 fats, including olive, flax, and hempseed oils, on salads or in shakes, is encouraged, as well as wild pacific salmon and other quality fish oils.
Avoid simple sugars such as candy, cookies, sodas, and other sweets, as well as white breads, pastas, and crackers. Whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas are better choices. Brown rice, barley, oats, spelt, and kamut are complex carbohydrates that are also good choices.
The glucose molecules contained in the complex carbohydrates structure are enclosed within cells and are associated with fiber. Thus their digestion will take longer and their absorption will be gradual, allowing for much steadier levels of glucose in the blood, and much better blood sugar control.
Natural sweeteners commonly available in health food stores such as stevia and xylitol are excellent substitutes for sugar in baking or as beverage sweeteners and do not adversely affect blood glucose levels.
Other Good Foods
Additional foods that have been shown to reduce glucose levels include apple cider vinegar, lemons, onions, garlic, and cinnamon.
One more thing..
Regular activity reduces insulin and glucose levels and shrinks fat cells, creating more effective glucose control. It also protects against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, conditions to which people with diabetes are more susceptible. Talk with your physician about an exercise plan that lasts 30 minutes or more daily. There are also several supplements that can help manage diabetes.
Talk with an RHN to discuss further options to help control your blood sugar levels.