November is National Diabetes Month, dedicated to bringing attention to diabetes. This year’s focus is on taking action to prevent diabetes health problems.
Insulin acts like a key that allows blood sugar to center cells. For many people—especially those who are overweight—the key can’t open the lock. This condition is known as insulin resistance. In response to continued high blood sugar, the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin; however, sometimes, it just can’t create enough, and blood sugar creeps up to “prediabetes” levels. Eventually, the pancreas cells weaken, and the production cannot meet demand. At that point, blood sugar remains consistently high and may be classified as diabetes.
The hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c blood test is a simple test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. It’s one of the most commonly used tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes.
Chronic inflammation (which can damage the body over time without symptoms) is a proven cause of type 2 diabetes. Weight loss, cutting unhealthy carbs and eating more vegetables and fiber are keys to reducing inflammation.
to Get Off the Path
to DiabetesExamine Your Overall Diet. Begin by reducing your intake of ultra-processed foods and animal protein. Then, make your diet plant-forward. Nutrient-rich plants include vegetables, whole fruit, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at each meal because vegetables contain abundant antioxidants that neutralize inflammatory oxygen molecules. The Use Nourish website can help you find a registered dietitian, and you can find a seven-day pre-diabetic meal plan created by Julia Zakrzewski, RD. For more information, visit usenourish.com/blog/prediabetic-meal-plan.
Get off the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster. Eating easy-to-digest carbohydrates (like added sugar, flour, refined grains, and fruit juices) can cause blood sugar to peak quickly and fall rapidly. When this occurs regularly, inflammation increases.
Foods higher in fiber slow carbohydrate absorption. Cooked pulses like lentils and beans have an excellent fiber-to-carb ratio. Choose whole grains such as brown rice or barley over white rice. Seeds are not only rich in fat but an excellent source of fiber as well.
Carbohydrate-rich foods eaten alone can cause blood sugar spikes. Fats and protein slow stomach emptying and lower the glycemic load.
Choose foods that closely resemble what Nature produced. For example, a whole grain cereal like oatmeal is better than reshaped grains like Cheerios.
Keep Your Gut Bacteria Happy. Fiber feeds the gut bacteria, producing fatty acids that help improve glucose levels. Also, in a recent study, people following the notably high-fiber DASH diet who also consumed probiotics (considered “good” bacteria) had a decrease in several measures of blood sugar levels over three months. The five best probiotic foods for most people: plain yogurt, kefir, kimchi, naturally fermented sauerkraut and tempeh.
Watch Out for Nutrient Shortfalls. Magnesium and chromium influence blood sugar. Magnesium can make cells more sensitive to insulin, so, eat magnesium-rich foods (spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, beans, avocado, figs and yogurt) as part of your plant-slanted diet, then talk to your dietitian about whether a supplement may be right for you. Inadequate chromium intake has been linked to the development of glucose intolerance. Obtain more chromium naturally by including apples, basil, broccoli, garlic, grapes, green beans and oranges.
Other Factors that Affect Blood SugarExercise—Many studies have shown that being sedentary is associated with insulin resistance. A 10-minute walk after each meal can have positive effects on blood sugar.
Medication—Although statins can dramatically reduce cholesterol levels, they can also increase blood glucose. If you take statins and are concerned about your risk of developing diabetes, talk to your doctor.
Sleep—Untreated sleep problems can contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. One sleep problem that often goes undiagnosed is sleep apnea—a disorder where the person’s breathing is interrupted at night. People with sleep problems should talk with their healthcare provider.
Unrelenting Stress — Stress triggers the production of life-saving hormones, but when hormone levels are not rebalanced, the body cannot neutralize molecules responsible for creating inflammation.