EATING TO MANAGE DIABETES
As a dietitian, my main worry is unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity. We live in a world where the consumption of refined and processed foods is on the increase. A world where in the pursuit of making money, we are caught up in many activities that we even forget to exercise or allocate a portion of our time to exercise. Late night eating, eating large quantities of certain foods loaded with sodium, fats and sugar, skipping meal times has now become the order of the day.
Diabetes is simply a chronic condition where a person has too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. The glucose comes from all foods. This glucose primarily fuels the body or provides energy for the body. After the process of digestion, glucose moves into the bloodstream. In the blood, it cannot be used for energy unless it gets into the cells. An organ in the body called pancreas produces insulin which helps to convey the glucose from the blood to the cells.
In diabetes, it could be that the pancreas is producing little or no insulin or the cells are insensitive to the insulin. Both cases result in constant piling up of glucose in the blood.
There are risk factors that predispose or increase one’s chances of getting diabetes. These include obesity (excess accumulation of body fat), genetics and more importantly unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity.
Do you feel very thirsty and therefore drink a lot of water and other fluids? Do you urinate a lot both day and night? Do you feel hungry and eat a lot, but have lost weight rapidly? When was the last time you checked your blood glucose level? If you answered yes to the questions above, then you are probably showing signs of diabetes.
But there is good news for people living with diabetes and people who want to prevent themselves from getting diabetes. Let us go back to our traditional ways of eating. Let us go back to the days when everything we eat was fresh from the farm and has not gone through any form of processing. Let us go back to the days when there were the natural spices (basil, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander seeds, garlic, etc.) for enhancing flavor and taste in foods instead of the artificial and processed ones we see on our markets today.
Foods high in fiber help to regulate blood glucose levels. Fiber is predominantly found in vegetables (dandelion, tomatoes, onions, cabbages, carrots, lettuce, beet root, garden eggs, etc), fruits (mango, watermelon, pineapple, pawpaw, apple, coconut, etc), whole grains (wheat, brown rice, oats, millet, corn, sorghum) and legumes (beans, peanuts, etc). But of course, you need to see a dietitian to counsel you on an individualized meal plan. Avoid late night eating and remember your meals or foods eaten should be as close to the time it was harvested.
At all cost, try as much as possible to engage in moderate forms of physical activity. It could be incorporated in the daily activities. Exercises like jogging, swimming, brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, skipping can help lower elevated blood glucose levels. Exercise helps make cells sensitive to insulin.
At the offices, let us do well to often use the stairs instead of the elevators. Let us walk to the canteens to get our meals instead of sitting in the offices and ordering for them. At home, let us walk to the television sets to change the channel instead of using the remote control. On the phone, we can walk around to receive our calls instead of sitting at one place.
BY OUR DIETICIAN