Diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels become too high. A hormone called insulin, produced by the pancreas, helps transfer glucose from our food to the cells, where it is transformed into energy. Sometimes due to various reasons, our body does not produce enough insulin. As a result, the glucose gets accumulated instead of reaching the cells.
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Diabetes prevention is necessary because if too much glucose accumulates in the blood, it can lead to several health issues. Diabetes can damage our heart, kidneys, and nerves if not controlled on time. If you follow certain healthy choices when diagnosed with prediabetes, you might not progress into diabetes.
How to prevent diabetes?
Although diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed through some lifestyle changes. Diabetes can be of various types, type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. The causes are different, but the outcome is the same: excessive sugar levels in our bloodstream. Therefore, following a diabetes diet is a prerequisite for preventing and controlling diabetes. Here are some tips which we can follow to prevent diabetes:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Diabetes prevention starts with maintaining a healthy weight. Losing even 7% of our excess fat can reduce our chances of developing diabetes. Body weight can be reduced with proper exercise and diet. Talking to a doctor or dietician about setting a weight loss goal can help us lose some extra kilos. More fat around the belly indicates that we are at high risk of developing diabetes in the future.
- Be physically active: Being physically active can help us lose weight, lower our sugar levels, and boost our insulin sensitivity. We can try out aerobic exercise and resistance exercise, strength training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a part of diabetes prevention. We can also try brisk walking or jogging to manage our sugar levels.
- Eat more plant-based foods: Plants contain carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. A diabetes diet plan should include healthy plant foods comprising non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and leafy greens. We can also add fruits, legumes, and whole grains to our diet to lower the risk of spikes in blood sugar. We should avoid sugary foods, pasta, pastries, white bread, fruit juices, and high-sugar corn syrup.
- Quit smoking: Smoking is linked to type 2 diabetes. Therefore, to prevent diabetes, we must quit smoking as soon as possible. Smoking can increase our body’s insulin resistance and also stop insulin secretion. Besides causing diabetes, smoking can lead to other health hazards like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, intestinal cancer, and heart diseases.
- Reduce highly processed foods: Processed food contain unhealthy fats, chemical preservatives, and added sugar. Therefore, food items like chips, sodas, candy bars, and frozen desserts can increase our blood sugar levels. As a means of diabetes prevention, we must lower our intake of processed foods. We should also reduce the consumption of packaged foods like refined grains and vegetable oils to decrease the risk of diabetes.
- Consume healthy fats: Weight loss is significant in preventing diabetes. Therefore, we should limit our intake of high-caloric fatty foods. We should consume unsaturated or good fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats keep our cholesterol levels in check and promote heart health. Nuts and seeds, fatty fish like sardines, tuna, salmon, olive oil, and canola oil are sources of unsaturated fats.
What to include in a diabetes diet?
Nutritious food and physical activity are two things that can keep us healthy if we have diabetes. Following a diabetes diet plan prepared by a nutritionist or dietician can help us reduce our blood sugar levels or prevent diabetes. To follow a diabetes diet, we must balance what we eat and drink and indulge in physical activity.
What we eat, what quantity we eat, and when we eat are very important in keeping our diabetes under control. The best diabetes diet must include food from all groups. The food groups include the following:
- Vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, and broccoli.
- Grains: Whole grains like wheat, oats, quinoa, barley, and cornmeal.
- Fruits: Less sugary fruits such as melon, berries, grapes, bananas, apples, and oranges.
- Dairy: Low-fat or non-fat yoghurt, milk, and cheese.
- Protein: Protein such as lean meat, eggs, fish, nuts, dried beans, and tofu.
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Diabetes is a severe disease that can lead to life-threatening conditions if left undiagnosed. Therefore, diabetes prevention is critical as per the saying, “prevention is better than cure”. We should monitor our blood sugar levels regularly and have a healthy diet if we are diagnosed with prediabetes.
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