An estimated 37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes, which is over 10% of the population. With rates of diabetes increasing, we need to be aware of the abundance of misinformation about this disease. Misinformation on treatment and lifestyle/diet recommendations not only prevents people from getting the treatment they need but also can increase their risk for complications. Most forms of diabetes are manageable with proper medical care and maintainable lifestyle changes, so knowing the facts and who to turn to for trustful advice is extremely important.
What is Diabetes?
There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is often preventable and occurs when the body still makes insulin, but the body can’t use it properly which leads to high blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes (90-95% of all diabetes cases) and mainly affects adults.
Certain things can increase your risk for diabetes such as having a family history, your race or ethnicity, your body size, and lifestyle factors. For example, having a more sedentary lifestyle or eating an unhealthy diet.
Foods we eat get broken down to glucose which is then transferred into our cells by insulin to provide energy for our body. Glucose is the brain’s main source of fuel, but also an important fuel for all our cells including our muscles and other tissues.
Even when we avoid food sources that break down into glucose, our body will find ways to get the glucose that it needs to survive, such as breaking down body tissues or converting other energy sources into glucose. The goal isn’t to cut out all sources of carbohydrates in the diet but to control the amount that is eaten and choose healthier sources of carbohydrates.
First Signs of Diabetes
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Frequently using the bathroom
- Increased thirst and dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Blurry vision
- Recurrent skin and or vaginal yeast infections
- Tingling or numbness in feet or hands
- Unintentional weight loss
- Sores that are not healing well
Living With Diabetes
Finding out that you have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes can be overwhelming. You may not know where to start, have trouble understanding the recommendations, not have the skills or resources for preparing your meals, and have other life stressors that make it hard to focus on what you need to do. Finding a trustworthy healthcare team and people who can support you are essential in helping you to understand the changes that can work for your unique needs and situation as well as determining what you need so you aren’t left finding your way on your own (or on the internet!).
Taking time to get educated and set goals is an important step to help you take control and learn steps that will help you control your risks and health for the rest of your life. It’s important to envision how you will maintain these changes over the long term. If unhealthy habits return due to making unsustainable changes these risks will come back. It’s best to focus on changes that you feel confident you can manage long-term.
Goals should also focus on a plan for your overall health. A diagnosis of diabetes increases the risk for other health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, nerve damage, and more. Focusing on just blood sugars without considering these other risks needs to be avoided. The following four areas should be part of the discussion in addressing the big picture and controlling diabetes and its risk factors.
According to studies, losing 7-10% of your current weight if you are overweight can cut your chances of diabetes in half. If you have diabetes, losing weight can help blood sugars reach normal levels and decrease your need for medications. This goal should be focused on safe, balanced approaches that avoid steps that are too drastic or don’t fit your lifestyle.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential to controlling blood sugar levels. Diet is one of the most modifiable risk factors for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Healthy eating is beneficial in reducing complications associated with type 2 diabetes.
What To Eat
Calorie- and Portion-Control
Eating too many calories or larger portions may make it harder to maintain or reach a healthy weight. Beyond that, larger portions may increase your blood sugar as your body has a harder time producing enough insulin to keep your blood sugar within normal levels. Studies show that calorie control is the most important step to take to healthily lose excess pounds and maintain that loss over time.
Choose Whole Foods
Focus on more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, and nuts and seeds. Even though some of these foods contain carbohydrates they also provide the body with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, plant protein, and fiber which all have an impact on blood sugars, body weight, and reducing the risk of other diseases that can be associated with diabetes. Choosing more whole foods also increases your intake of fiber and reduces your total added sugars which both help with controlling blood sugar spikes and controlling appetite.
Since diabetes increases the risk of heart disease by almost double, when choosing what foods to regularly include, it’s important to not only focus on how a food impacts blood sugar but also if it is heart healthy.
- Less Saturated Fat: Eating large amounts of saturated fats is known to increase cholesterol and diabetes is associated with the hardening of the arteries. It’s best to replace unhealthy fats with more heart-healthy fats. Stick to lean proteins (less red meat and processed meats), low-fat or fat-free dairy, and replace animal and tropical oils with olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil. Other healthy fats include fish, nuts, and seeds.
- Decrease Salt: High blood pressure has been linked to complications from diabetes and causes damage to the cardiovascular system. Eating a well-balanced diet that is low in sodium is an important step to take to control these risks. Generally, it is recommended to have less than 2,300 mg per day. Increasing your intake of potassium-rich foods can also help with improving blood pressure, so focus on lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.
REGULAR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Adopting a pattern of daily activity helps to lower insulin resistance, meaning your body is using insulin more efficiently. This naturally will help to lower your blood sugar but also strengthen your cardiovascular health. Taking a half-hour walk after dinner at least 5 days a week can significantly lower your chances of diabetes, heart disease, and support a healthy weight.
HEALTH & WELL-BEING
Keep an accurate log of your blood sugar including what you ate, any physical activity, and any other changes (like new medications, stress, etc.), and share this information with your healthcare team. This will help determine patterns that are or are not effective, monitor the impact of medications or lifestyle changes, and more. Focusing on reducing stress and improving sleep are also keys to better diabetes management.
How We Can Help
A healthy diet, regular physical activity, and maintaining a normal body weight are the main ways to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and taking medication as prescribed helps to avoid or delay the consequences of the disease. It’s important to remember that if you are at risk for diabetes, making lasting lifestyle changes is the best way to reduce your risk or prevent developing diabetes.
Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating has helped many customers with diabetes and those at risk for developing diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose by following a healthy meal plan and losing excess weight. Our meal plans are always calorie and portion-controlled to assist in healthy and effective weight loss/maintenance. We do not exclude any large food groups and teach you how you can include your favorite foods while reaching your goals.
Being founded by a Registered Nurse and now being owned by a Registered Dietitian and a Diabetes Expert, Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating is trustworthy and led by experienced experts in diabetes care and nutrition. Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating does not believe in fad diets, gimmicks, quick fixes, or deprivation and knows that this type of mentality sets most people up for failure in the long run.
With our meal plans, you are always receiving nutritionally balanced meals within the guidelines of the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We do all the counting, portioning, planning, and prepping for you to help you reach your goals and improve your health safely. Have any questions? Reach out to our Registered Dietitians and Diabetes Care Team today.