One in ten Americans have diabetes. That’s more than 30 million people, with another 84 million adults at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. You can use this month to raise awareness about diabetes risk factors and encourage people you care about to make healthy changes.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. When left uncontrolled, it can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems.
The good news is that making healthy changes can significantly lower your risk. Focusing on a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting more physically active can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Even small dietary changes can make a significant impact. Once you have the first two tips mastered, gradually incorporate the remaining ones until they become habits.
Five tips for eating healthfully:
1. Center your diet on minimally processed foods. There are lots of exceptionally healthy processed foods, including frozen vegetables, yogurt, and canned beans. When you pick up a package, review the ingredients. If you can find all of them in the store, and the product doesn’t contain an excessive amount of added sugar, then it is likely a healthy option.
2. Consume six or more servings of vegetables daily. When you begin your meal plan with a focus on plants, you are more likely to meet this target. Be sure to make your choices from the full-color spectrum: dark green, bright, and light.
3. Pump up the pulses. Because of their health benefits, beans and legumes deserve recognition as superfoods. They are rich in protein, iron, fiber, potassium, folate, and antioxidants; and they are naturally low in sodium and cholesterol-free.
4. Snack on nuts. A handful of nuts can promote health when they replace other snacks like crackers and chips. Unsalted almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, and pecans are all nutrient powerhouses and provide a dose of fiber, too.
5. Enjoy two generous servings of fruit daily. Though fruits contain natural sugars, they also offer an abundance of plant nutrients that support the health of our bodies and those of the tiny living organisms in our guts. Berries are the superstars of fruit, but so are oranges, bananas, and watermelon—enjoy the fruits of the season.
Managing the disease
For individuals with diabetes, choosing nutritious foods, and watching portion sizes helps to control blood sugar levels. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help people with diabetes learn how to get the nutrients they need. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Internet tool “Find an Expert” is an exceptional resource: www.eatright.org/find-an-expert.
Nancy Teeter, RDN is a SaddleBrooke resident who enjoys sharing her nutrition knowledge with others.