Your doctor has just informed you that you have diabetes. You’re probably feeling frightened, apprehensive and worried about your future. Although diabetes can be a lifelong illness, there are steps you can take to prevent symptoms and problems. With proper care and management, diabetes should not reduce your quality of life.
To take control of your diabetes, you must first understand it. The foods we eat contain a sugar called glucose. One of our organs, the pancreas, is responsible for producing insulin. Insulin transfers the glucose from our bloodstream to muscle, fat and liver cells, where it can be used for energy. Type 2 diabetes, which is frequently diagnosed later in life, occurs because your cells are not properly responding to the insulin, so the sugar (glucose) stays in your bloodstream. This is why people with diabetes have high blood sugar.
Fortunately, small changes in your diet can make a big difference. Don’t worry. You don’t need to give up your favorite foods. Instead, it’s critical to strike a balance. One important factor to consider when planning meals is the glycemic index. This is a measure of how long it takes your body takes to break down food. Michael Moore, an Australian chef, has come up with an easy way to classify these foods.
Fire foods are low in fiber and protein, and have a high glycemic index. Your body will burn through this energy quickly, hence the name “fire food.” Things such as white rice, candy, potato chips and other processed foods fall into this category. You should limit these in your diet.
Water foods are freebies. You can eat as much of these as you like. Water foods keep you hydrated and can fill you up. Vegetables and most fruits are water foods.
Coal foods have a lower glycemic index, so your blood sugar won’t rapidly spike. These are the foods that burn slowly and for a long period of time. Foods that are high in protein and fiber fall into this category. Nuts and legumes, lean meat, seafood and whole grain products are all coal foods.
Knowing which type of food you’re eating will allow you to maintain a better handle on your diet. If you’re eating mostly fire foods, it’s no wonder your energy is burning out quickly and your blood sugar levels are spiking. Planning ahead and eating frequent, small meals will prevent you from becoming so hungry that you reach for the cookie jar just to get something in your system. Try keeping a food diary for a few weeks. You may be surprised at what you learn.
There are some easy substitutions you can make so you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself or drastically changing your lifestyle. When grocery-shopping, buy whole wheat bread rather than white. Ditch the butter and cook your meals in olive oil, or if that seems too extreme, go for half and half and increase the ratio of olive oil to butter. If you love to bake, applesauce makes a surprisingly tasty substitute for shortening or butter.
Learning you have a chronic disease is scary, but you don’t have to become a new person overnight. There are plenty of cookbooks out there with delicious recipes that cater to people with diabetes. In the end, you are responsible for how much your diagnosis affects your life. Keep in mind that a little change is better than no change, and every bit counts. Put some of these ideas into action, and you will start feeling better mentally and physically.