The role of diet in managing diabetes
Diabetes is currently one of the most well known and discussed public health problems; however, there is a lot of debate as to its cause, and many sufferers don’t even know they have it. It is estimated that one-quarter of the 24 million diabetes sufferers in the US, for example, are unaware of their health problem.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is when your body cannot break down the sugars in your diet. When you eat, carbohydrates are broken down by your intestines into glucose (sugar), which is then absorbed into the blood stream. When you have a higher blood sugar level, your body is stimulated to produce a hormone called insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and its job is to transport the glucose in your blood to those areas where it is needed most, such as your cells, muscles and brain. When the glucose reaches these areas, it is burned as energy; alternatively, if there is too much sugar there already, insulin will redirect the glucose to fat cells, where it will be stored for burning later.
In the simplest terms, a person who is diabetic is someone whose pancreas does not produce enough insulin to be able to perform these tasks. These can lead to serious health risks, damaging eyes, kidneys, reproductive organs and nerves, and increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
How can diet help?
As you can probably guess, there are some foods that will make a diabetic’s situation worse; for example, foods with high sugar, salt or fat, processed foods and carbohydrates can all tip the balance of glucose and insulin to result in high blood sugar levels.
This means that a healthy diet for a diabetic is pretty much the same as a healthy diet for anyone else. Fresh vegetables are good for diabetics, although excessive fructose – sugars found in fruits and fruit juices – should be avoided. Avoiding processed foods is also important, as these frequently contain sugars, salt and fat.
There are also suggestions that iron is good for diabetes. Iron can be found naturally in red meat and fish, or you can take a daily iron supplement. These are available online, such as blueiron.co.uk.
Exercise to reduce excess body weight is also recommended and this should be maintained along with a healthy diet.