This week is national diabetes week.
When thinking about the management of diabetes we are referring to the management of glucose, or its common name, sugar. Diabetes in a nutshell is the body’s inability to maintain normal sugar levels due to an insulin dysfunction. Insulin is a hormone made in our pancreas. Depending on the type of diabetes, our bodies either don’t make any or not enough to help maintain normal sugar levels in our body.
Most people need medication or insulin therapy to help lower and maintain their sugar levels.
However, it’s also important to eat well and move to further assist sugar control and reduce the incidence of chronic medication use.
Eating well and moving regularly have a ton of benefits when it comes to sugar control.
Below are a few examples on how:
- Improved insulin sensitivity: Physical activity helps improve the body’s response to insulin, allowing cells to use glucose more effectively. This helps lower blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of insulin resistance, a common problem in type 2 diabetes.
- Carbohydrate management: Carbohydrates have the most significant impact on blood sugar levels. Monitoring and controlling carbohydrate intake is essential for managing diabetes. Focus on consuming complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, which are digested more slowly and have a gentler effect on blood sugar levels compared to refined carbohydrates and sugary foods.
- The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI are digested more slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. Including more low GI foods in your diet, such as whole grains, legumes, non-starchy vegetables, and most fruits, can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Physical activity can lead to a reduction in blood glucose levels. During exercise, muscles use glucose for energy, which helps lower blood sugar levels both during and after exercise. This effect can last for several hours, depending on the intensity and duration of the activity.
- Featuring more fibre, protein and healthy fats in your diet than carbohydrates: Foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can help regulate blood sugar levels. Fiber slows down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar. Additionally, a high-fiber diet can contribute to weight management, improve cholesterol levels, and support overall digestive health. Choose sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats have a positive effect on heart health and can help control blood sugar levels. Protein sources like animal products, dairy, eggs and plant alternatives also help to lower your blood glucose response, as well as make you feel fuller for longer, which helps reduce snacking or overeating at main meal times.
- Weight management: Regular exercise can contribute to weight loss or weight management, which is particularly important for people with type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight helps regulate blood sugar levels and improve overall insulin sensitivity.
- Increased muscle mass: Engaging in strength training exercises helps build muscle mass. Having more muscle mass improves glucose uptake by the muscles, leading to better blood sugar control.
- Enhanced cardiovascular health: Regular exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease, a common complication of diabetes. It helps lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and enhance overall heart function.
- Stress reduction: Exercise is known to reduce stress levels and promote mental well-being. Managing stress is crucial for people with diabetes as stress hormones can raise blood sugar levels. Regular exercise can help alleviate stress and contribute to better diabetes management.
- Regular meal schedule: Consistency in meal timing can help regulate blood sugar levels. Try to eat meals and snacks at consistent times throughout the day to maintain stable blood sugar levels and avoid sharp spikes or drops.
- Limit sugary foods and beverages: Foods and drinks high in added sugars should be limited or avoided, as they can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Go for sugar-free or naturally sweetened alternatives, and be mindful of hidden sugars in processed foods.
When incorporating exercise into your routine, it’s essential to consult with your Exercise Physiologist to determine the appropriate type, intensity, and duration of exercise suitable for your specific condition. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your overall health, diabetes medications, and any other factors that may affect your exercise plan.
It’s also important to work closely with your Accredited Practicing Dietitian, to create a personalized meal plan that aligns with your diabetes management goals, medications, and overall health condition. They can provide you with guidance, support, and education to make informed dietary choices.