November 14th is World Diabetes Day, led by the International Diabetes Federation. The purpose is to raise awareness of the disease, what you can do to avoid it and for those living with diabetes, ensuring they have the knowledge and help to best manage it and reduce complications.
The first thing to recognise is that diabetes is a serious disease. There is a misconception among some that you have severe or mild diabetes – you can’t. If you have diabetes take it seriously and it is vitally important that you do so.
In those with diabetes, they either don’t produce enough of the hormone insulin, or the insulin they produce is defective. Insulin’s role is to get glucose out of the bloodstream and up into cells all around the body. Without correctly functioning insulin, blood glucose levels rise above normal. Over time this damages blood vessels, and causes all sorts of health problems including heart disease, strokes, blindness and amputations (as circulation to the extremeties is affected). However with good diabetes management, these serious complications can usually be avoided.
Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the challenge to turn the tide around is enormous. It’s a global problem and here in Australia it is our fastest growing chronic disease. Almost 1.1 million Australians currently have diagnosed diabetes and 87% of them have type 2 diabetes – the type associated strongly with diet and lifestyle. It’s pretty shocking to consider that 280 Australians develop diabetes every day! Yet this is a disease that we can prevent in an estimated 58% of cases. Of further concern are the millions of Australians only steps away from the disease, yet they don’t know it.
So how do you know if you are at risk? The International Diabetes Institute (Baker IDI) have developed an online tool for you to quickly and easily determine your risk. Head to http://www.ausdrisk.com.au/ If you score 12 or more you are at high risk and should see your doctor for further tests.
So let’s focus on the positive news. If you are at high risk you can do something about it. While we don’t understand what causes type 2 diabetes, we do know what increases and decreases your risk. With the right diet and lifestyle you stand a good chance of reversing the path you are on.
From a dietary perspective don’t believe the simplistic message that it is all about sugar. If only that were true, treatment would be so easy. But it’s not. We need to look far more holistically at our diet and the foods we choose to eat regularly. We can make it simple though – a healthy diet of wholesome, natural, minimally processed foods and enough variety to deliver good nutrient intakes, needs to be your foundation. Having an occasional slice of cake is not the issue, truly savour and enjoy it if you do, rather what you eat regularly from day to day is what counts.
Here are my 5 top tips to both prevent and manage diabetes:
1) Follow a low GI eating plan. That means avoiding processed refined grain-based foods that raise blood glucose levels rapidly and require a great deal of insulin to be dealt with by the body. These include foods where white flour (from wheat, rice, corn or any other source) is a main ingredient. High GI diets that include these foods at their core are associated with a higher risk of diabetes. In contrast, products such as the Goodness Superfoods cereal range are ideal – the key difference is that they are made from the intact supergrain BARLEYmax™ and not flour that is then processed to create the cereal. You can see the rolled intact grain in the end product and this means your body has to do the breaking down of the plant cell walls, releasing the sugars more slowly and delivering the range of nutrients found in the wholegrain. The Wholegrain Barley wraps and the FibreBoost bars are also low GI and are excellent choices to help control your blood sugar levels, whether you have diabetes or not.
2) Pay attention to the fats in your diet. If you have diabetes you are at increased risk of heart disease. Rather than getting confused by recent media reports on this, just consider that no established healthy diet around the world including the Mediterranean, Japanese, Eskimo, Nordic or diets based on the past such as Paleo, have a high saturated fat content. None. Wild healthy animals exercising and eating their native diets tend to be lean and have more omega-3 and/or monounsaturated fats. So think about your fat coming from oily fish, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, whole nuts and seeds, and some quality grass-fed meat and dairy. Cut back on the processed fats found in commercial pastry, doughnuts, fast food and so on.
3) Don’t eat too much. We are surrounded by food and it’s really hard not to overdo it when food is delicious! Practice mindful eating – eat 3 meals a day eating at the table, consciously enjoy the meal, eat slowly and stop when you are 80% full (what the Japanese call hara hachi bu).
4) Limit sitting time. The more time we spend sitting the higher our risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes. Being too sedentary makes it very difficult for our bodies to work properly – start moving and blood is being pumped more effectively around the body, delivering nutrients to cells and cells in turn use more glucose and fat. Try to build regular bursts of activity and movement into your day.
5) Pack more vegies into your meals. These have stacks of nutrients for very few kilojoules, so you can eat a big plate of food to satisfy your appetite without it ending up on your waistline.
For more information head to http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/