Rethinking food following a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis


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Getting a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes — especially when you’re in your 30s and have had more than enough time to settle into certain dietary habits — can mean a huge lifestyle change for some.

As if having to prick your finger twice a day, if not more, to monitor your blood sugar levels — not to mention remembering to take your medication or insulin shot or both every day — weren’t enough to deal with, people with Type 2 diabetes have to completely rethink the way in which they see food, particularly if they already were not the most disciplined eaters.

Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, is the most common type. It’s a chronic disease wherein the body does not produce enough insulin or ignores it. Insulin is the vehicle which transports the sugar that accumulates in your blood to your cells so your body can have the fuel it needs to get around and do stuff. If you don’t make enough of it, or your body decides to be a jerk and ignore it, then that sugar makes itself comfortable in your blood and leads to what the ADA refers to as “diabetes complications.”


Keeping blood sugar levels rock steady

Eats_WalkingThe idea, then, is to work with your doctor to determine the amount of medication you need to control your blood sugar levels and keep them from spiking — and dropping below a certain amount. But once you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, taking your pills or your insulin shot is not where your job ends. Diet and exercise are essential to helping your medication do its job, and the better you eat to help regulate your sugar levels, the better your odds of eventually even reducing your medication.

Brisk walking for 15 to 20 minutes may not sound like the world’s most grueling workout routine, but it will go a long way to helping you feel energized. If you find that your blood sugar levels are still on the high side, despite getting regular exercise and taking your medication as directed, the reason may be sitting in your pantry or refrigerator.


Sweet on carbs

When you got your Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, you bade farewell to chocolate, candy, regular soda, snack cakes and even fruit juice! So why is your blood sugar still high? Because sweets are not the only food groups loaded with the stuff that got you in this mess in the first place.

Eats_BreadCautionIt’s very easy to conveniently forget that the plate of pasta you’ve just wolfed down is loaded with carbohydrates that your body is about to break down. And because your pasta is made with white flour — that is, it’s a refined starch — it acts a lot like sugar when you digest it. Sure, you didn’t sit there pouring sugar packets into your mouth, but you may as well have (don’t…).

This doesn’t mean that diabetics can’t have pasta ever, of course. It just means that when you’re grocery shopping, you have to look for whole-wheat pasta and learn to scrutinize nutrition labels carefully. Ingredients are listed by weight so whole-wheat flour should be the first one.

While we’re on the subject of refined flour, let’s talk about white bread. The grocery store has an assortment of bread that includes seemingly healthy options. Multi-grain this and cracked bran that. Well, beware. Read those nutrition labels and make sure the bread was actually made with whole grains. (Learn more about how to decode those ingredient labels here.) Diabetics should steer clear of anything made with white flour, so along with that pasta goes white bread and white rice.

Bet your blood sugar levels are starting to chill out now …

So you got some sugar-free maple syrup to drizzle on a plate of pancakes. If you see your blood sugar spike, don’t blame the syrup, and take a long, hard look at your pancakes. They’re evil, though delicious, carbohydrates, so even if you had passed on the maple syrup entirely, your blood sugar level was going to be affected. Oh, and take a pass on those french fries.


Consider the source

Last, beware of articles that either mean well or are trying to sell you something making claims that you can reverse (read: cure) your diabetes or that a few studies showed that moderate consumption of alcohol (read: wine) can prevent diabetes, particularly if the article appears in a wine magazine.

Eats_GlassOfRedWineBy all means, do your own research — forewarned is forearmed and all that — but stick to sites like the ADA and the Mayo Clinic. Talk to your doctor — and get a second opinion from another doctor, not from your barkeep — about any information you find before deciding that you’re going to drink your way to a cure.

Studies were conducted that showed that wine consumption may help regulate blood sugar levels, which is not exactly the same thing as saying, “Drink up and you’ll never get diabetes” or “Drink up and you’ll reverse it.” Also, note the “moderate” — the ADA, for example, recommends no more than one glass per day for women and no more than two per day for men. Glass. Not bottle, eh?