Diabetes and Its Management Diabetes Fact Sheet
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. The pancreas produces the hormone insulin which is responsible for helping glucose enter cells throughout the body. If the pancreas does not produce insulin or if the body does not use insulin as well as it should, glucose is unable to enter cells where it is used as an energy source. Instead, glucose remains in the blood stream and levels can become too high. Diabetes is serious. If it is uncontrolled, it can lead to severe consequences like heart attack and stroke, kidney disease, eye damage and vision loss and nerve damage.
Foods are converted to glucose once they are eaten, digested, and broken down in the GI tract. So, healthy eating and meal planning are central to preventing and managing diabetes. Being physically active and managing stress are important too. An overall healthy lifestyle is key to good diabetes management and prevention.
Many people with diabetes require insulin and/or oral glucose lowering medications to help control blood glucose levels. It is important for anyone with diabetes who takes medications to learn to balance food, physical activity and medications to keep blood glucose levels from going too high or too low.
Diabetes and Healthy Eating
There is a common belief that eating healthy foods or following a meal plan to control diabetes means that you can’t eat foods that you like. This is not true! Unfortunately, there are many such misconceptions about what people with diabetes can or cannot eat. In truth, those with diabetes can eat most of the foods that they have always enjoyed, including occasional sweets! Diabetes meal planning is a matter of learning to fit foods into an overall healthy diet that will help keep blood glucose, blood fat and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body weight in good ranges. A Registered Dietitian is a nutrition professional who can help figure out the best way to eat to keep diabetes under good control yet still enjoy favorite foods. Visit the American Dietetic Association web site to learn more about the role of Registered Dietitians in supporting healthy eating and Medical Nutrition Therapy for individuals with diabetes.
Are you eating healthy? Rate Your Plate to find out!
Healthy eating means eating a wide variety of foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and peas, non-fat dairy foods, and moderate amounts of lean meats, fish and poultry. Choose nutrient-packed foods that are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber but that are lean when it comes to fat and calories.
Healthy eating also means watching portion sizes… even eating too much of healthy foods can lead to weight gain! Portion control is an essential part of every healthy eating plan, but it is especially important for people with diabetes and for those who are trying to lose weight.One fun and easy way to “shape up” your diet is to “Rate Your Plate”. This method can help you choose a variety of foods and control portion your sizes. This is what you do:
- Get a paper plate and draw a line through the middle of the plate. Then draw a line to divide one of the halves of the plate into quarters. Keep this with you as a model when you serve your meal.
- Fill the first half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
- Fill about ¼ of your plate with carbohydrate foods or grains such as brown rice, pasta, starchy vegetables or fruit.
| Nonstarchy Vegetables
|| Starchy Vegetables
| Salad Greens
|| Green peas
|| Green beans
|| Lima beans
|| Beans (except green beans)
- Fill the last ¼ with protein foods like lean meat, fish or poultry or meat alternatives such as tofu.
- Add a glass of non-fat milk or a cup of yogurt, and a small serving of whole grain bread on the side.
You can be quite certain that your portion sizes are right and that your meal is packed with important nutrients when you take these steps and “Rate Your Plate”. Those with diabetes may still need to count their carbohydrates or exchanges, or modify the Rate Your Plate method to be sure that their carbohydrate intake is appropriate for their insulin dose. For many people with diabetes, 3 or 4 servings of carbohydrate foods at each meal is about right, but you should talk with your doctor or dietitian about how many servings of carbohydrates are right for you.
Visit these fun, interactive sites for more information on using “Rate Your Plate” to evaluate your meals and set nutritional goals.
American Diabetes Association
Shape Up America
Team Nutrition Program
We live in an environment that supports physical inactivity. With a click-of-a-button, many tasks that used to require physical work are automatically done for us. As a result, lack of physical activity along with easy access to inexpensive, high calorie foods has contributed to rapid increases in obesity and diabetes in our society. Most people can improve their health and reduce their risk of developing diabetes by increasing their level of daily physical activity in addition to eating more healthfully and losing a few pounds.
The US Surgeon General recommends that all adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. This amount is enough to improve health for people who have diabetes or who are at risk for developing the disease. A landmark study, The Diabetes Prevention Program, showed that individuals who were at risk for type 2 diabetes were able to avoid developing the disease by eating a low fat diet, losing a modest amount of weight and doing 150 minutes of physical activity per week (about 30 minutes 5 days per week ). People who want to lose weight or keep lost pounds off may benefit from doing as much as 60 to 90 minutes of activity per day. This amount of physical activity has been shown to help with reaching weight management goals.
How Physical Activity Lowers Diabetes Risk and Improves Health
- Increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin
- Lowers blood glucose levels
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves blood fat levels – especially lowers triglycerides and increases HDL or “good” cholesterol
- Strengthens the heart muscle
- Helps with weigh loss and maintenance
- Reduces feelings of stress and anxiety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20.8 million Americans have diabetes. The number of people with diabetes has more than doubled in the past 25 years. This large and rapid increase has prompted health researchers to carefully look at our environment and lifestyle, specifically at physical inactivity and poor diet as contributing factors. What we do know is that when it comes to managing and preventing diabetes, the way we eat and the way we move matters.
For more in-depth information about diabetes visit:
The American Diabetes Association
The National Diabetes Education Program
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases