Around 4% of the Australian population are diagnosed with Diabetes, of these 3 out of 5 people have other cardiovascular concerns and half of these people are overweight or obese. There are many people at risk of developing Diabetes or may have Diabetes and be unaware of it.
These statistics may seem scary, but the prevalence of Diabetes is on the rise and most of the time good eating and exercise can help reduce the risk factors and keep your blood sugar levels under control.
When diagnosed with Diabetes, people tend to think that it is going to be the end of the world; that they have to avoid sugars entirely, cut out carbohydrates, or eat special diabetic food. This is not the case, you can eat the same foods as everyone else in your family, and the only recommendation is to monitor your carbohydrate intake, as these foods are what increase your blood sugar levels. Most research will suggest consuming low GI foods. The reason behind this is that they are digested by your body slowly and therefore elevate your blood sugar levels slowly, which is better than consuming foods which sharply increase your blood sugar levels. The other benefits of low GI foods are that they keep you feeling fuller for longer, and may help you to manage or lose weight.
It is also important for diabetics to eat regular meals and not skip any meals (especially breakfast). Your body easily regulates your blood sugar levels when you are consuming your meals at regular times throughout the day and that they are of the same caloric value. It is very important to not skip any meals, as this also doesn’t assist your body to maintain its blood sugar levels, or eating bigger meals some days and less on other days (try to consume the same calories on a daily basis).
Keeping a food diary in the beginning can help people understand what they are eating where to make changes and how to swap certain foods for more healthier/appropriate choices. Research has suggested that for those people who keep a food diary they are more likely to lose weight and maintain this weight loss. The main foods that you need to be aware of due to their effect on your blood sugar levels are those highly refined carbohydrates. Listed below are a few examples; swap white rice for brown rice, white potatoes for sweet potatoes, pasta for wholemeal pasta, white bread for wholegrain/wholemeal breads, sugary breakfast cereals for high fibre cereals and croissants and pastries for bran muffins. All of the foods listed as an alternative are high in fibre, low GI and won’t rapidly spike your blood sugar levels. Artificial sweeteners can be added to your diet in place of sugars, without adding excess calories, however be aware of the recent research around on the detriments these products can cause.
Another important thing to remember, is it’s not just the food you put into your body that can elevate your blood sugar levels, it’s also the beverages, more importantly, alcohol. People will tend to forget but wine and beer contain carbohydrates (sugars) and also some cocktails (with fruit juices). All of these need to be consumed in moderation and being a diabetic you will need to closely monitor your blood sugar levels when drinking alcohol.
Exercise should not be overlooking when devising an action plan to manage your diabetes in as natural a way as possible. For those diabetics/pre-diabetics exercise is important in weight loss and maintaining weight loss and is also thought to help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity. Slow exercise may be all that you need in the beginning, to get moving again and help you feeling good.
For diabetics in our society today, it is not that hard to make a few changes to the way you eat to help you live comfortably with the condition. There are many great websites out there that offer advice http://www.ndss.com.au/ or http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/ and are a constant source of information and support. Also Australian chef Michael Moore has some great insights into the topic and has some great cookbooks and recipe ideas for people living with diabetes.