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Guide to healthy living with diabetes

Post by on Monday, November 15, 2021

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The month of November is National Diabetes Mellitus Awareness Month, a time when communities across the world team up to bring attention to diabetes. This year’s focus is on prevention of pre-diabetes through modifications in diet and lifestyle.

Pre-diabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes mellitus. This serious health condition puts you at a direct increased risk of developing diabetes complications, heart and kidney diseases.

Nutrition and physical activity are important parts of a Healthy lifestyle and living when you have been diagnosed as a pre-diabetic. Following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you keep your blood glucose level also called as blood sugar level in a healthy normal range. To manage your blood sugar levels, you need to balance what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medications as prescribed by your doctor. What you choose to eat, how much you choose to eat and when you choose to eat are all important in keeping your blood glucose level in a normal range.

 

Tips for Healthy Eating with Pre- Diabetes:

·        Consume more of complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are much better than simple carbohydrates. As simpler forms of carbohydrate like sugar, honey, jaggery, sweets, chocolates, fruit juices, soda and carbonated beverages, plain rice, bread, maida, tapioca etc. does not contain any fiber so the absorption is fast leading to spike in blood sugar level. Foods like wheat, fruits and vegetables, multi- grains like ragi, bajra, oats, jowar and nuts and seeds are complex carbohydrates that are rich in fiber content (that is: their digestion and absorption period are longer than usual).

·        Eat good quantity and quality of protein

It is advisable to have a sizable portion of 1st class of protein such as lean meat, eggs, chicken, fish, plant protein sources like soyabean, dals, beans, lentils, legumes, mushrooms, paneer, milk and dairy products.

·        Healthier fat in diet eases your blood flow

Fat generates energy in our bodies. Vitamins and minerals are absorbed in our body with the help of fat molecules to provide us with energy and immunity strength. There are different types of fats which positively and negatively impact our health.

Daily cooking oil (e.g., rice bran oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, canola oil, soya oil, olive oil), unsalted nuts and seeds, avocados are sources of healthy fats providing for good cholesterol. In contrast, saturated fats and trans-fat increase the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood thereby causing heart ailment – these are usually found in confectionary and bakery products which are sweet and have an indirect link of causing pre-diabetes.

·        Fiber is important and helps to keep sugar levels in range

Fiber has a key role to play in diabetic management to suppress blood sugar levels. When it comes to a diabetic person, his or her average daily dietary requirement is 25-35gm from normal food consumed (excluding any fiber supplements). The best sources of dietary fiber are raw and cooked vegetables, whole fruits, grains, legumes, oats and fennel seeds. Thus 3 major meals should comprise a good amount of dietary fiber.

·        Use sugar substitutes responsibly

We all love sugar in our foods, and it is a very difficult step to resist and cut down on sugar. But it is bad to have a complete dependency on sugar substitutes. High consumption of low-calorie artificial sweeteners for alteration in our blood glucose level may do more harm than good. Instead, a healthy sugar substitution can be done like coconut water, plain milk, buttermilk, different types of tea and coffee without any refined/natural sugars to control blood sugar levels effectively.

·        Fulfill your dairy consumption

Dairy products like curd, cheese, milk, buttermilk or paneer and tofu are important for the dietary calcium intake for diabetics.

·        Go for light and healthy snacks

Go for snacks that not only are tasty but also healthy. And yes, they do exist. Discuss about your meal options with a qualified dietician. Some food choices are: makhana (fox-tail nuts), sprouts salad, roasted chana, fruits with yogurt, seeds and nuts

·        Frequent meals throughout the day are important for pre-diabetics

Your everyday food consumption should be distributed in three major meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 2-3 minor meals in the form of (evening snacks, midmorning, bedtime). Bedtime meal is important to overcome mid-night or early morning low blood sugar levels.

·        Keep yourself hydrated at all times

Drinking water can be practiced throughout the day, there should be a time interval after every meal for consumption of water. It is pertinent to rehydrate ourselves by drinking enough water – in forms of coconut water, electrolyte drinks, freshly squeezed homemade juices to keep our body temperature in check and bodily functions working well.

Tips for incorporating physical activity with pre-diabetes

Physical activity is an important part of managing blood glucose level and staying healthy. Here, are some tips to incorporate for safe physical activity when you have diabetes:

Plan Ahead

Talk with your healthcare team (doctor and dietitian) before you start a new physical activity, especially if you have co-existing health problems. Your health care team will target and decide the type and duration of physical activity and make sure how you can be actively safe.

Add extra activity to your daily routine

If you have been inactive for quite some time, start slowly with 5-15 mins of any form of activity per day. Then slowly gradually add little more each week. Try these simple ways to add physical activity each day:

1.     Walking briskly or hiking.

2.     Climbing stairs.

3.     Swimming or water-aerobic exercise.

4.     Dancing or Zumba.

5.     Riding a bicycle or a stationary bicycle.

6.     Taking an exercise class – strength resistance training.

7.     Playing basketball, tennis or any other sport.

Prevent episodes of low blood glucose

Because physical activity lowers your blood glucose level, you should protect yourself against low blood glucose levels, also termed as hypoglycemia. Planning is key to preventing low blood sugar levels when exercising. For instance, if you take insulin, your health care provider might alter insulin doses or advise you to eat small snacks pre and post physical activity. You may also need to check your blood glucose level, before, during and right after you are physically active.

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