Diabetes 101
Diabetes 101

Diabetes remains a major health concern in the U.S. Currently, nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes. The majority of these cases are type 2, and roughly 8.1% of those 30 million are undiagnosed.

If you have diabetes, there are a number of measures that you can take to control your blood glucose and maintain your health. These steps include medical care, exercise and, of course, eating well!

Medical care includes regular visits to your doctor who will manage your lab work and medications, as well as perform overall health checks including foot and vision exams. With your doctor’s approval, you should increase physical activity – including aerobic and strength training exercise – to help keep your body strong and healthy. Finally, nutrition plays a huge role in diabetes self-care. Diabetes increases the risk for developing a number of health conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease and infection.

Eating well can help control glucose, assist with weight management, and reduce the risk of other chronic health conditions. Fortunately, meal planning for diabetes is not difficult or overly restrictive. This is heart-healthy nutrition that is built around common foods and focuses on vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Fish, nuts, lean meats and poultry are also included, as are lower fat dairy products. With the vast array of selections available in today’s grocery stores, it is easy to find these foods in abundance. Here are some tips:

Creating well-balanced and tasty meals becomes a lot easier when your kitchen is stocked with nutrient-packed, diabetic-friendly items. So shop, cook and enjoy your good health!

Start in the produce aisle! Colorful plant foods are fat-free, high in fiber, and naturally low in sodium. Choose as many colors as possible: dark leafy greens, orange squash and carrots, yellow zucchini, and green veggies such as cucumbers and peppers. Add more color with melon, citrus and berries. Produce is available year-round and adds variety, flavor, and unique plant-based nutrients.

What about those carbohydrates? A common misconception is that starches and carbohydrates must be strictly limited for people with diabetes; the reality is that complex carbs are healthy, high in fiber, and important to include in moderation. Great choices include oatmeal, brown rice, barley and quinoa. Complex carbs are also found in whole grain breads and whole grain pastas. Look for minimal processing and rich colors.

Protein is a mainstay in healthy eating, and comes from both animal and plant foods. Some of the best choices include beans and legumes such as kidney, pinto and black beans. Soybeans are particularly rich in protein, while garbanzo beans and lentils can be used in many tasty recipes such as soups, stews and dips. Nuts and seeds are very nourishing, and also add heart-smart fats. Traditional sources of protein, such as fish, poultry and beef remain popular. Focus on lean cuts, and prepare with minimal added fat. Dairy products are also rich in protein, as well as important vitamins and minerals. Again, the lower fat varieties are the preferred choice.