If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be feeling scared, angry, or confused. These are very normal emotions to have, and you are not alone!
More than 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes, and while the diagnosis can be overwhelming, there are many ways to manage this condition and stay healthy.
First, let’s quickly review what exactly diabetes means.
When you eat, your body turns some of the food into glucose, a sugar that moves to your cells through your blood to give you energy. This process only works with the help of a hormone called insulin.
When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make insulin at all (type 1 diabetes) or doesn’t use insulin correctly (type 2 diabetes).
Without insulin to move the sugar from your bloodstream to your cells, your blood sugar levels can get too high. Long-term complications of this uncontrolled blood sugar include heart disease, damage to your nerves, kidneys, and eyes, and other impairments.
Now, for the good news – whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you can still enjoy a long and happy life.
Living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and plenty of exercise goes a long way in controlling your blood sugar to avoid the complications listed above. Mary’s Center Nutrition Services Coordinator Carolina Sierra, MS, CNS, offers the following tips to keep your diabetes under control:
1. Incorporate all food groups for a balanced diet.
Add at least one item from each of these categories to your meals:
- Whole grains (e.g., whole wheat products, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc.) and legumes
- Fruits, especially those with lower glycemic index (e.g., berries or citrus fruits)
- Non-starchy vegetables, which are lower in sugar (e.g., leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, radishes)
- Lean or plant-based protein (e.g., lean meats, beans, eggs, nuts)
- Unsaturated fats, especially those rich in omega 3 (e.g., salmon, tuna, chia, hemp and flaxseeds, edamame, walnuts)
2. Increase your fiber intake.
Eating a variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits daily will ensure an adequate amount of fiber in your diet. Follow the recommended intake according to your age:
- 9 to 18 years old: 25-30 grams per day
- 19 to 50 years old: 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men
- Over 50 years old: 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men
3. Limit your intake of foods high in fat and sugar.
You can find nutritious and delicious alternatives to your favorites:
- Instead of processed snacks that are high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, choose nutrient-dense options such as vegetable sticks with guacamole dip or 1 serving of seeds with a half potion of fruit.
- Instead of sugary beverages like sodas, store-bought juices, sports drinks, and energy drinks, choose homemade infused water and herbal teas.
- Instead of saturated fats (e.g., butter, bacon, mayonnaise), fried foods, and store-bought salad dressings, choose unsaturated fats like nuts and seeds, salmon, olive oil, and avocado.
4. Engage in physical activity.
Think of the physical activities you enjoy most and try to incorporate more of them into your daily routine. Some examples are walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or dancing. Children and adolescents should aim to do at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week.
5. Follow your medical provider’s recommendations.
Depending on what type of diabetes you have, you may need to check your blood glucose levels regularly and/or take medications. Be sure to follow all instructions from your medical provider, and do not hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification.
Mary’s Center is always here to help you navigate your diabetes diagnosis or any other conditions, with our clinicians, nutritionists, pharmacists, and other experts all under one roof. Call us at 844-796-2797 or click here to make an appointment.