Diabetes Prevention Strategies

Many of us tend to generalize when it comes to talking about diabetes. Truth is, there’s a difference. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects the pancreas, preventing it from producing insulin, a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to be converted into energy. The causes of Type 1 diabetes are believed to be genetic and/or environmental, and unlike type 2 diabetes, T1D has nothing to do with diet and lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) has everything to do with diet and lifestyle. 

There are several factors that can affect blood sugar: food (carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fat), physical activity levels, obesity, alcohol, stress, daily routine, medications, illness, and menstruation, and menopause. How we approach each of these areas will have either a positive or not so positive impact on how we feel and how well we maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Stable blood sugar levels help us live long, healthy lives.

Carbohydrates, especially simple starchy carbohydrates and fruit, raise blood sugar faster, and have the greatest effect on blood glucose compared to foods that contain proteins or fats. Fiber, protein, and fat can blunt the rise in blood sugar after a meal. 

Aiming for a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in your meals can help you manage your blood sugars. But it's important to choose quality carbohydrates and smart fats, like: Vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruit, fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, olives, and extra virgin olive oil.

If you are wondering why any of this information is even important or what the big deal is with T2D, here are some things you need to know.  Adults with T2D die of heart disease twice to four times as often than adults without diabetes. Adults with diabetes have twice to four times the risk of having a stroke and nearly 70% of adults over age 20 with T2D have high blood pressure and need to take medication to manage it.  Having diabetes increases your risk for early blindness, kidney disease and failure, and damage to your nervous system. Management of T2D places a tremendous burden on our healthcare system and yet it is a disease of poor choices. 

Here are some proactive measures you can take to help prevent T2D. 

1) Start moving. Two recent randomized clinical trials concluded that around 150 minutes (that’s just 30 minutes five times a week) of physical activity and diet-induced weight loss of 5–7% decreased the risk of progression of T2d by over 50%. Vigorous physical activity helps improve mood and has a positive lowering effect on blood fat (cholesterol) and blood pressure. Regular exercise can decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke and improve quality of life.

2) Consider adding whey protein or plant-based protein to your daily diet. Protein powder mixes easily into your morning oatmeal, yogurt, and even your creamy soups...added to orange juice it helps to bring balance and mixed with milk can help to bring a protein hit when poured over your favorite cereal. Whey protein helps to improve insulin sensitivity and balance blood sugar.

3) Eat a "rainbow" of life-giving and health affirming antioxidants from a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. These superfoods can help you to thrive and fight accelerated aging!

5) Take a TV time out or take a weekly media fast. Your body, mind, and spirit will thrive without TV, the news, or other energy and time stealers. Use that time to exercise, cook healthy foods for friends, or do something that stretches your comfort zone, and grow! Turn off the TV and turn on your creativity! 

6) Looking for a nutty way to healthfully manage your blood pressure? Enjoy nuts daily-they are a healthy source of heart-healthy fats, blood sugar balancing fiber and those who snack regularly on nuts tend to be more successful with weight loss and weight management-go nuts!

7) If you are time-crunched for exercise, give intervals a try. To get more metabolism out of each breath simply change speeds. Interval walking, running, swimming, etc., is simply changing speeds while you move. Changing speeds will increase your metabolism, endurance in less time.

8) Diabetics tend to have lower levels of the very important and powerful antioxidant glutathione. A healthy level of glutathione is associated with greater overall vitality, health, and longevity. You can build glutathione by enjoying avocados, grapefruit, spinach, and other dark green leafies.

9) Join the optimists club today! Optimists have lower inflammation, healthier hearts, and tend to live longer. Look at the bright side and thrive!

10) If you exercise in the morning you will sleep better at night. Morning movers tend towards deeper sleep. Deep sleep is the stage where we truly repair, rejuvenate and recover-you will also help yourself with healthier weight management, better coping with stress, and higher self-esteem and confidence.

11) Minimize the consumption of starches and sugar. Processed foods, white flour and most flour-based products, cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, etc – these all turn to sugar rapidly in the body and are best kept to a minimum.

12) Consider supplements:

- Resveratrol, an antioxidant (anti-inflammatory) compound found in red grapes, is shown to improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. In supplement form, studies have shown dose ranges between 50 milligrams (mg) – 400 mg day.

- Magnesium – helps promote healthy insulin production. Found in spinach, tofu, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, halibut, sesame seeds, black beans, Swiss chard, broccoli, and lentils. In supplement form, consider up to 400 mg/day. In a study performed at Harvard University, 85,060 women and 42,872 men who had no history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer were studied. Their magnesium intake was evaluated using a validated food frequency questionnaire every 2 to 4 years. Their findings propose "a significant inverse association between magnesium intake and diabetes risk." Diabetes Care 2004;27(1):134-140. A similar study found a protective role with a higher intake of magnesium in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially in overweight women Diabetes Care  2004;27(1):59-65. 

Several more studies support the preventive role of magnesium with regards to diabetes prevention. In a large population-based study in Taiwan, magnesium was actually added to the drinking water and a significant protective effect was seen with magnesium being linked to a lower risk of dying from diabetes mellitus. Magnes Res 1999;12(2):131-137.   

Magnesium is just one of those minerals that is essential for optimal health.  One of the best ways to obtain magnesium is through the diet.  The best sources of magnesium are: amaranth, sunflower seeds, quinoa, spinach, wild rice, tofu, almonds, halibut, brown rice, white beans, and avocado.  If these foods are not regularly a part of your diet then you may want to consider supplementing magnesium.

- Chromium (GTF) – 1000 micrograms (mcg) daily – helps regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.

13) Eat fish a few times a week – the omega-3 fatty acids found in deep sea cold water fish may benefit heart health and blood sugar levels.

14) Eat small, frequent healthy meals throughout the day rather than skipping meals and eating one large meal at night. Frequent healthy snacking will help keep blood sugar levels stable and energy levels high. Nuts, seeds, cottage cheese, protein smoothies, Greek yogurt, soup, veggies, hummus – all great snack ideas.

15) Yoga/meditation – find ways to help distress. We love yoga and meditation because it helps bring focus back to the breath and deep belly breathing. Find at least five minutes a day to give yourself a time out and just slow down the breathing, close your eyes or get yourself to the nearest yoga class. If you relish doing yoga in the privacy of your own home, check out the many options available online.

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