WORLD DIABETES DAY! How to keep glucose working for you, not against you…
The 14th November of every year is World Diabetes Day. There is a lot of talk about diabetes in the media, and this is of no surprise if we stop to look at some figures showing the prevalence and rapid growth of this disease across the country.
In 2013, there were 3.2 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK alone, as reported by Diabetes UK. It is estimated that by 2025, this number will rise to 5 million. This is significant, both in terms of the extent to which it will impact the lives of people affected and their relatives, and in terms of the weight it will place on our precious health system.
For the purpose of today’s blog, I would like to concentrate on type 2 diabetes, the one traditionally called “late onset” but more recently increasingly referred to simply as “type 2” in light of the rising number of younger people, such as children and adolescents, being affected by it. This type of diabetes constitutes the larger majority of cases that make up the above statistics. The really great news is… it is largely preventable!!
So let’s focus on the positives and talk about what we can do to increase our chances of improving and maintaining our bodies’ ability to metabolise sugar. It is important to understand that type 2 diabetes does not happen overnight! Rather, it is the result of unhealthy eating patterns involving excess sugars, inflammatory foods/lifestyle factors and the wrong types of fat, over a number of years. This can lead to glucose no longer being allowed into the cells where it can be utilised as fuel, but rather being locked out of the cell and left in circulation, causing all sorts of trouble around the body and leaving us tired and fatigued.
So what are some of the healthful choices we can make to drastically reduce the risk of insulin resistance leading to diabetes?
Avoid excess high glycemic load foods
These are foods that cause our blood sugar to spike quickly and then crash. Examples would be refined white carbs (e.g. white bread/rice/pasta), potatoes, sugary foods, fruit juices, and alcohol. The idea is to opt for foods that naturally release glucose over a longer period of time, thus maintaining a more level balance of sugar in the blood during and between meals.
Eliminate artificial sweeteners!
Do not be fooled! Just because aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin are not technically sugars, it doesn’t mean they do not have an effect on your sugar metabolism. In fact, there is increasing evidence to suggest that consumption of these over time can lead to disturbed metabolic processes which could increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Furthermore, as artificial sweeteners are actually much sweeter than sugar, it will cause you to have an even sweeter tooth, and make cutting down on sugar much harder overall. Who needs that extra challenge?? Not me thanks!
Eat fibre and protein
The fibre in foods has multiple beneficial roles, one of which is to slow down the release of glucose of a particular food. That is why, for example, I would never recommend drinking fruit juice, but rather eat the entire fruit, because its fibre content will drastically reduce the fruit’s glycemic load. Protein will have a similar positive influence. The other benefit of fibre is that by supporting healthy bowel function and elimination, it will promote clearance of cholesterol. So start munching on those wholegrains, yummy colourful veggies, nuts and seeds, and the occasional piece of fruit. Nom nom!
Keep your stress levels in check
Although it may seem unrelated, stress has a close link with insulin resistance and therefore diabetes risk. There is an interaction between the stress-related hormone cortisol and levels of sugar in the blood. When blood sugar levels are too low (such as the crash after a high glycemic load food), more cortisol is released, and cortisol in turn increases blood sugar levels through a couple of different mechanisms. Therefore, reducing stress, or finding ways to manage stress efficiently, will help maintain greater balance in blood sugar. Equally, controlling blood sugar through healthful choices will prevent unnecessary stress responses from the body. It’s a win-win situation!
Pump up some muscle!
Exercise is one of the most efficient ways to improve the body’s ability to transport sugar into the cells to be used as energy. Specifically, increasing muscle mass through some strength training will be beneficial to this end, as muscle cells have the highest potential for glucose intake. There is, of course, no need to become a body builder!! Just tone up what you’ve got, enough to reduce the amount of fat cells, and increase the amount of muscle cells.
Choose nutrient-rich foods
Another reason to eat plenty of veggies (as if you needed one!). Lots of different coloured ones at that, from dark green and leafy, to bright yellow, orange and purple! These have high levels of all the nutrients you need to help increase glucose uptake by the cells and help keep inflammation at bay, such as magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, chromium and many antioxidants.
Does this sound achievable to you? If you are not convinced, these are some of the benefits you can look forward to when choosing to embrace a blood sugar balancing lifestyle:
- Greater stability in your mood
- Fewer peaks and troughs in energy levels throughout the day
- Increased overall energy
- Weight loss/maintenance (according to your need)
- Reduced risk of other inflammatory and hormonal imbalances
If that all sounds appealing to you, check in on my Twitter and Facebook for blood sugar balancing tips over the next few days, in honour of World Diabetes Day!
In health and harmony,