Written by: Danielle Maina

In honor of National Diabetes Month, I wanted to write a post focusing on the disease because it can be very complex to comprehend. I know all to well how complicated and emotionally taxing this disease is because just a year ago I almost lost my father to complications from his type 2 diabetes. I would be hard-pressed to think that everyone who reads this cannot think of one or more people they know with diabetes (either type 1 or 2). As a result, it is in our collective interest educate ourselves on how to avoid key risk factors for the disease, focusing mainly on our diet and exercise routines.

            Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses glucose from food. People with this disease have high levels of blood glucose which can be caused in one of two ways: your body not accepting or using insulin (a hormone in the cells that need to be stored or use as energy from food; the hormone that allows glucose into the cells) that is being produced (or by insulin injections) or too little insulin being produced by the pancreas.

            Diabetes comes in different forms and can affect those of all ages. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas manufactures a small amount of insulin or simply none at all. More often than not, this type presents itself in childhood and those with type 1 take daily injections or use an insulin pump that is attached to the body. Type 2 diabetes is where the pancreas makes insulin, but it either makes too little or the body makes insulin and simply doesn’t use it. This type of diabetes often affects those who are overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle. Lastly there is gestational diabetes, which happens in some women after their pregnancy due to hormones blocking the action of insulin.

            Nutrition plays a significant role in managing diabetes and in reducing the risk of getting the disease. Focusing on portion control, stabilizing blood glucose levels and choosing the right foods is ideal when managing such a complex disease. For those with diabetes, here are a few rules to follow to make sure your blood sugar maintains stable:

  • Eat meals and snacks regularly at a timely manner. You want to eat every 2-3 hours (smaller meals) to regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Eat the same amount of food at each meal/snack.
  • Choose whole, nutritious foods (avoid processed food, especially those with added sugar).
  • Keep a food diary and use carbohydrate counting to monitor the amount of carbohydrates being consumed at each meal.
  • Consume a well-balanced diet filled with vegetables, fruits, lean protein (fish, poultry, meat), healthy fats (nuts, olive oil/coconut oil, avocados) and low-fat dairy (milk, cheeses, yogurt), and complex carbohydrates (whole grain rice/pasta, fiber-rich cereals, rice, and starchy vegetables (beans, peas). Complex carbohydrates still must be monitored to avoid too much or too little glucose in the blood.

If you know diabetes runs in your family, and want to avoid developing the risk of such a terrible disease, make sure to become knowledgeable of the disease, eat a healthy, well-balanced, nutritious diet and make exercise one of your priorities. The actions of your lifestyle affect your health tremendously and your health is the greatest gift given to you on this earth. Choose your actions wisely.