A Diabetic Diet is Good For Everyone
SouthCrest physician dishes out the facts on dibetes
Most of us know someone who has diabetes – it affects 23.6 million people in the United States alone – or someone who has predetermining factors of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 57 million Americans who currently have “pre-diabetes.” Diabetes can cause serious health complications if not appropriately treated. However, with a controlled diabetic diet and careful management, diabetics can live full, healthy lives!
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, needed to convert sugars, starches and other food into an energy source for daily life.
In order to fully understand diabetes, you must understand the role insulin plays in energy production. After you eat, most of your food is broken down into glucose, a form of sugar in the bloodstream and the main source of fuel for the body. Cells use that glucose for growth and energy; however, insulin must be present for glucose to enter those cells. The pancreas produces the necessary amount of insulin to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. For diabetics, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Therefore the body loses its glucose; it builds up in the blood and flows into the urine, causing it to leave the body.
Although the basic principle of diabetes remains the same for any case, there are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational. Type1 diabetes, previously known as “juvenile diabetes,” occurs when the body produces little or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body produces insulin but cannot use it properly or doesn’t make enough to control blood sugar levels, known as insulin resistance. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and can often signal a higher risk for the mother to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
What causes diabetes?
The cause of diabetes remains somewhat of a mystery, although genetics and environmental factors, such as obesity and lack of exercise, are known risk factors.
The onset of Type 1 diabetes most often occurs before the age of 20. Researchers believe that the catalyst is something in the environment, a toxin or virus, which triggers the immune system to attack the pancreas, enabling it so it cannot produce sufficient insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, comprising 90 to 95 percent of diabetes sufferers. For type 2 diabetes, risk factors include family history, age over 45, race or ethnicity, metabolic syndrome and obesity; over 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetics are overweight.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop more gradually than type 1 diabetes.
Does diet matter?
“Diet plays a leading role in the management of diabetes,” said Dr. Kaveh Kermanshahi. “For both type 1 and type 2 diabetics, carbohydrates, fats and proteins must be carefully monitored. After your diagnosis, your physician will teach you how to maintain a healthy diabetic diet.”
The good news is a healthy diet for diabetics is a healthy diet for everyone else, too. Families can eat the same foods at mealtimes. The main difference is diabetics must carefully monitor carbohydrate intake because carbohydrates have the greatest influence on blood sugar levels.
You can jump start the diet management process by doing the following:
- Eat a wide variety of foods – a “colorful plate.” This will ensure you are getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats and other forms of proteins like nuts.
- Count the calories. Excess calories lead to excess weight, which in type 2 diabetics means less sensitivity to insulin.
- Control the intake of fat, carbohydrates and sugar
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Choose high fiber foods. Whole grains contain important vitamins and minerals. A high fiber diet for diabetics has been shown to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Eat regular meals. Eat at the same time each day and don’t skip meals!
- Exercise regularly, which can be as simple as going for a walk after dinner
“In some cases, diet and exercise alone can’t keep your blood sugar at a normal level,” said Dr. Kermanshahi. “It is important, however, to maintain proper health habits and have regular check-ups with your physician to be sure you are on the right track.”
A board certified family physician, Dr. Kermanshahi’s practice is located on the SouthCrest Hospital campus at 9001 S. 101st East Ave., Suite 370, (392-5640). Dr. Kermanshahi is a board-certified family practice physician. He is in group practice with Signature Family Medicine, a practice affiliated with SouthCrest Medical Group.
For more information regarding SouthCrest Hospital and its full menu of services, please visit southcresthospital.com.