Diabetes is now the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia, but a healthy diet can help.
Every five minutes in Australia, one person is diagnosed with diabetes. That’s 280 people every day. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease that can’t be prevented. But you can more than halve your risk of developing type 2 diabetes —which makes up 85 per cent of all cases — through physical activity and healthy eating. Read on:
1. Diabetes is a progressive disease
It’s a condition that develops slowly. By the time someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, their body has already lost more than half its cells that produce the hormone insulin (which helps to convert carbs into energy), resulting in raised blood glucose levels that lead to diabetes. Initially, it can often be managed with regular activity and eating well but, over time, most people will need medication, and eventually insulin injections, to control their blood glucose levels.
2. Be a healthier weight
With type 2, carrying excess weight makes it difficult for the body’s cells to use the circulating insulin. Regular physical activity can help overcome this, by using insulin more efficiently and bringing blood glucose levels into a healthy range. Aim for at least 20–30 minutes of activity on most days. Or, if time is an issue, break it up into two sessions of 10–15 minutes each. You will still reap the benefits. Walking, cycling or strenuous gardening are good. Consult your doctor before you start a new exercise program. A healthy eating plan will also help. Try cutting back on saturated fat (think muffins, biscuits and butter) and eat more fresh vegies, fruit, and legumes (see our story Full of beans ADD LINK /articles/2016/june/full-of-beans for more).
3. Sugar doesn’t cause diabetes
Being overweight and inactive are the high risk factors. But sugar often contributes to excess kilojoules. You should limit your intake of over-refined sweet foods like cakes, pastries and biscuits which are also high in fat, making them very high in kilojoules, thus encouraging weight gain.
4. Watch what you drink
Drinks can contribute lots of unwanted kilojoules. Steer clear of juice and sugary fizzy drinks. Choose water, mineral water and sugar-free soft drinks instead. Alcohol is also high in kilojoules, so limit yourself to two standard drinks a day.
5. Choose ‘smart carbs’
Seek out wholegrain, low-GI and high-fibre foods. These carbs will give you long-lasting energy, keeping you feeling full for longer. So toss chickpeas through your salads, swap couscous for quinoa or pearl barley, and look for breads with visible whole grains. Add vegetables to your meals wherever you can to boost nutrients and satiety without overdoing the kilojoules.