Over 230 million people are afflicted with Type 2 Diabetes, nearly 20 million being in the US. And another 45 million Americans have pre-diabetes. This disease, once known as “Adult Onset Diabetes” is no longer partial to adults, but we can see it developing in children as young as 10 years old now! Our world is in the midst of a diabetes epidemic.The World Diabetes Foundation says that this pandemic has evolved in association with rapid cultural and dietary changes [as people adapt a more sedentary lifestyle and abandon their traditional dietary patterns], aging populations, increasing urbanization, decreased physical activity and other unhealthy lifestyles and behavioral patterns and that “without effective prevention and control programs, the incidence of diabetes is likely to continue rising globally.”
How did we get here?
A recent study attributed the significant rise of diabetes cases to the growing consumption of refined carbohydrates. The Standard American Diet (SAD), led by fast-food chains and “more bang for the buck” portion sizes thrives on cheap refined carbohydrates and sugars, minimal vegetables (except catsup and potatoes) and a lot of meat. Americans are addicted to starch and sugar, found in high quantities in packaged and “easy to make” food products. With globalization, these dietary habits are spreading all over the world. Combine poor diet with a more sedentary lifestyle and you have a recipe for diabetes and obesity.
Today, on World Diabetes Day, stand up against this disease and make a change in your life. Developing awareness and making a few minor adjustments early on can save you in the long run. Here are some simple things you can do to fight or prevent diabetes:
1. Avoid simple carbohydrates, and processed foods and eat more whole grains. Our modern diet does not support our bodies, but rather makes them work overtime. Most things that are boxed, packaged or covered in plastic are high in sugar, refined flours and the dreadful trans fat. If you cannot avoid them, then try to find healthier versions of your favorite treats like cookies and crackers made with whole or sprouted grains. Also, making simple substitutions like brown rice instead of white, or incorporating whole grains like quinoa, millet or kasha into your diet will help stabilize your blood sugar.
2. Cut back on sugar or cut it out! According to Connie Bennett, author of Sugar Shock!, sugar and high fructose corn-syrup contribute to obesity, heart disease and a myriad of other health ailments. Ingesting a lot of sugar makes your pancreas work overtime. It simply cannot keep up with such high demand – and eventually diabetes and other blood sugar disorders develop. Find out more information about sugar here.
3. Eat more vegetables and fruits. Aim to eat a rainbow of veggies and fruits each day (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue/Purple). Sticking to the rainbow ensures a healthy variety.
4 Eat Lean and Less. Avoid fatty meats and oversized portions. You don’t have to eat meat everyday and you should not exceed 4 oz of any meat at any given time (that is about the size of your palm). Cut you’re your meat intake to a few times a week – the rest of the week, eat vegetarian meals. You will do your body and the planet a great service.
5. Get moving. Exercise is key to preventing diabetes, but you don’t have to sweat it out at a gym every day. Walking helps shed the weight and keeps you in shape. Try taking a morning walk every day – start small with 10 minutes a day and work your way up to 30 minutes, five times a week. Spending some time with nature before the world wakes up will do you good mentally, emotionally and physically.
6. Sleep! Establishing a normal sleep schedule will help to balance your blood sugar and control cravings. It will also give you enough energy to get through the day without needing caffeine or sugar.
7. Portion control. If you lack the willpower to stop eating when you are full, portion things out. Brian Wansinck, author of Mindless Eating, says that people tend to use external cues to determine whether they want more to eat, such as an empty bag. If you think more is available, you typically think you are still hungry. Cutting out our favorite foods is not always possible, but cutting down on how much of them we eat is mindlessly do-able. Divide things up into baggies to help control yourself.
7. Acknowledge your emotions. Keeping a healthy and positive outlook on life and in your relationships can help keep your body in balance.
8. Know your genetics. If you have a family history of diabetes, start taking precautions earlier in life to help ward off this disease.