Diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in managing diabetes and reducing the risk of complications.
Diabetes is increasingly becoming a major long-term health problem across the globe. Most notably, the diagnosis and incidence have increased dramatically in the last few decades. According to Diabetes UK, diabetes diagnoses have more than doubled in 20 years. The UK Government in its 2016 press release reports that 3.8 million people in England aged over 16 had diabetes in 2015, which is around 9% of the adult population.
Diabetes – Signs and Symptoms, Types, Causes & Complications
People with diabetes have abnormally high blood glucose levels. As a result, they have a wide range of signs and symptoms. These include:
- Excessive tiredness or weakness
- Increased thirst
- Increased frequency of urination
- Rapid weight loss
- Vision problems like blurry vision
- Presence of sugar in the urine
- Delayed wound healing
- The types of diabetes are: Type 1 diabetes: In this type, the immune cells damage the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Note that insulin is necessary for transporting glucose molecules from the bloodstream to the cells.
- Type 2 diabetes: In this type, the pancreas fails to produce sufficient insulin or the cells use the available insulin less efficiently. Among a number of risk factors for this type, obesity and sedentary lifestyle play the most influential roles. Experts believe that up to 60 percent of the cases of type 2 diabetes is preventable.
The NHS reports that Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In fact, around 90% of all UK adults with diabetes have type 2.
Certain women during pregnancy tend to have elevated blood glucose levels, which is called gestational diabetes.
Uncontrolled diabetes for prolonged periods can cause several complications that range from eye problems to kidney issues. The complications of diabetes include:
- Foot complications: Foot ulcers called the diabetic foot. Sometimes, a diabetic foot may need to be amputated.
- Eye complications: Diabetes can cause the pressure inside the eye to increase and lead to glaucoma. In other cases, it can damage blood vessels in the eyes, which is called diabetic retinopathy while some diabetics may have clouding of the eye lens (Cataract). Keep in mind that any of these eye problems can potentially result in loss of vision.
- Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD): A condition where blood supply to the muscles in the heart is significantly reduced.
- Diabetic neuropathy: It causes numbness, altered sensation of pain and touch, and weakened muscular strength. This results due to damages to the nerves.
- Infections: Uncontrolled blood sugar can make you prone to catching a number of infections.
- Diabetic nephropathy: Damages to the kidneys
- Diabetes-induced coma: This is an emergency condition that results due to abnormally high or low blood glucose levels.
Using Diet to Control Diabetes: What You Should Know
The diet is key to your health whether you have diabetes or any other long-term health condition. In essence, eating right is crucial to your health. Some foods can increase the risk of diabetes while some foods can actually work to reduce the risk.
4 Foods that Greatly Increase the Diabetes Ris
- Refined Carbs
Highly processed carbs found in white flour, white sugar, and white rice are the major culprits when it comes to type 2 diabetes risk, experts agree.
These sugars do not contain the essential nutrients like fiber and vitamins. Therefore, they are often called empty calories. Because the refined carbs are easy to digest, they are absorbed more quickly from the digestive tract and cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels. To transport excess glucose molecules to the cells, the pancreas pumps insulin into the bloodstream.
In the long run, such spikes in both glucose and insulin levels can lead to type 2 diabetes. A 2007 study found that high consumption of refined carbs such as those from white rice significantly increased the risk of type 2 diabetes in healthy Chinese women.
If you have a habit of quenching your thirst by drinking soda or any other sugar-sweetened beverage, it’s high time you switched to other healthy options like plain water or fresh fruit juice.
A 2010 study found that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages frequently increased the risk of diabetes by almost a quarter. In the study, participants who drank one to two sugary drinks per day had 26 percent greater risk of developing diabetes compared to those who had less than one serving a month.
Nutrition experts suggest that simple sugars found in beverages such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea, and energy and vitamin water drinks aid diabetes risk in two ways. First, they cause weight gain, not to forget that obesity has a well-established link with diabetes. Second, they cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels, which over time can lead to problems with insulin utilization (insulin resistance).
- Unhealthy Fats
A typical Western diet is loaded with unhealthy fats like saturated fatty acids and Trans fatty acids.
Both these fats are known to promote insulin resistance, which is a precursor of type 2 diabetes. Independent of their action on blood glucose levels, these fats can also cause elevated blood cholesterol level, which is another well-known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Some common sources of Trans fats are doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies, and cakes. Moreover, restaurant foods also contain generous amounts of unhealthy fats.
- Red and Processed Meats
An increased consumption of processed red meats like bacon and hot dogs is closely linked to higher type 2 diabetes risk. Even worse, these meats are a major source of sodium and nitrites. High sodium intake is bad for your health while nitrites can turn into nitrosamines during cooking. Nitrosamines are known to increase the risk of cancer.
According to a 2011 study, red meat consumption, particularly processed red meat, is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
What Foods Can Help Fix Diabetes
Before we explore more, let’s first learn if diabetes is reversible.
Is Diabetes Preventable and Reversible?
Undoubtedly, you can prevent diabetes by making healthy food choices, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight.
The big question now is “can you reverse it?” Luckily, yes, in some cases.
Mayo Clinic suggests that some forms of diabetes may be reversible. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests prediabetes, which can potentially lead to type II diabetes, is reversible and manageable. Interestingly, a 2012 study concludes that you may be able to reverse type II diabetes by limiting energy intake.
Which Foods to Consider If You Have Diabetes
Making right food choices can work wonders for diabetics. Continue reading to learn which foods can help.
● Add spice to your life
Common spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and garlic are a great natural source of numerous healthy compounds that can help control blood glucose, promote heart health and prevent progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.
Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant and contains numerous healthy compounds such as cinnamaldehyde, A-type procyanidin, and B-type procyanidin. Taking cinnamon daily stimulates insulin secretion, blocks the activity of the enzyme that cleaves complex carbs, and promotes glucose transfer from the bloodstream to the cells.
Turmeric, the yellow spice, is a rich source of curcumin, which is shown to keep prediabetics from developing type 2 diabetes.
Garlic contains a powerful antidiabetic ingredient called Allicin. Studies have shown that Allicin not only lowers the blood glucose levels but also clears unhealthy fats from the bloodstream.
According to a 2017 study published in Food and Nutrition Research, taking a garlic supplement significantly reduces the levels of HbA1c, which is a key biomarker of diabetes.
● Take more fibre
Taking recommended amounts of dietary fibers from fruits and vegetables is a great way to promote digestive health, boost gut bacteria and reduce the risk of diabetes.
According to a 2016 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, long-term consumption of the recommended amount of dietary fiber could reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance (a type of diabetes) and atherosclerosis.
● Take enough vitamin D
The sunshine vitamin does more to your health than just making the bones strong.
A 2017 study that analyzed the data of 28,258 patients from different sources found that:
- Older adults who had higher levels of 25 hydroxyvitamin D were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes in the future.
- On the contrary, lower levels of Vitamin D in serum could potentially be a risk factor.
● Enjoy a glass of wine
Moderate wine consumption, 3 to 4 times a week, could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, finds a large Danish study.
Red wine contains a compound called “Resveratrol”. Numerous studies, both in the past and recent times, have noted that the red wine compound promotes transportation of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells.
For this reason, it makes a perfect sense to take a glass of wine to stave off diabetes as well as promote heart health.
Can the DASH Diet Help Diabetics
The DASH Diet, which primarily works to improve heart health, has also shown promising health benefits for diabetics.
The DASH Eating Plan recommends:
- Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
Total Daily Calorie Intake: 2,000.
In a 2009 study, researchers concluded that taking the DASH Diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy products, may have the potential to prevent type 2 diabetes. The study was published in the journal Diabetes Care.
Likewise, a more recent study found that participants who followed the DASH Diet and weight management intervention had lower fasting glucose and insulin levels. In addition, the participants also had greater insulin sensitivity.
The findings of a 2017 study corroborated with the earlier findings and showed that:
- The DASH Diet was more beneficial in lowering blood glucose levels than usual diabetes care.
- The DASH Diet group had fewer incidence of hyperglycemia.
- Modifying a traditional DASH diet by incorporating heart-healthy fats could be an effective dietary intervention for improving long-term cardiovascular health in youth with type 1 diabetes.
The DASH Diet has demonstrated positive health benefits in patients with heart disease. Because the diet focuses on taking healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans, and limiting the intake of saturated fats and sugars, it can also help people with diabetes. Most notably, both type 1 and type 2 diabetics seem to be able to reap the benefits.
Moreover, heart disease and diabetes often co-occur in a significant number of people. Thus, the DASH Diet can offer an effective dietary intervention for this group of the population as well.