Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is a growing epidemic in the United States, as is the continuous increase in obesity rates. T2DM is often linked to overweight and obesity. T2DM is a condition in which a person’s body either does not make enough or cannot efficiently use the hormone insulin. Insulin is made and secreted by the pancreas, and insulin is released in reaction to the consumption of food/beverage containing glucose (a type of sugar found in various foods). When there is not enough insulin or the insulin is not used properly by the body, glucose continues to enter the blood stream and can get too high. When this happens, body systems can be negatively effected and other diseases may occur.
Although T2DM cannot be cured, it can easily be controlled through diet, exercise, and in some cases medications (oral and/or insulin). Individuals with T2DM may greatly benefit from a proper diet and exercise in particular, and those taking any diabetic medications may be able to gradually decrease their intake of these medications (under their doctor’s order) if diet and exercise are utilized correctly.
A diet for diabetics consists of something called “carbohydrate counting.” Carbohydrate foods contain glucose, and these foods will increase blood glucose levels when consumed. Carbohydrate-containing foods include: milk/yogurt/ice cream; grains, such as bagels, bread, rice, pasta, cereals, crackers; fruits and fruit juices; and startchy vegetables, including dried beans, peas, corn, and potatoes. Carbohydrates are a necessity for many processes within the body, and they are the brain’s primary and preferred energy source. Therefore, it is important that diabetics (and everyone for that matter) consume carbohydrates. However, diabetics need to consume about the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal and at snacks to prevent blood glucose levels from getting too high or dropping too low, as both can have serious health effects.
The amount of carbohydrate to consume at each meal varies for each individual depending on their height, weight, activity level, and usual blood glucose range. However, a general recommendation for females is about three servings of carbohydrate at each of three meals per day and one serving at snacks between meals. For men, a general recommendation is three to five servings of carbohydrate at each of three meals per day and one to two servings of carbohydrate at snacks between meals. One carbohydrate serving is equivalent to 15 grams of carbohydrate.
Physical activity has so many beneficial effects. It helps to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, which helps to reduce the risk of T2DM and improve symptoms of T2DM. In addition, physical activity improves the body’s ability to utilize and store glucose, which is very important for diabetic individuals.
Individuals with diabetes should work with an RD (registered dietitian) to come up with a diet plan to help control blood sugars/blood glucose. A proper diet along with physical activity can help to regulate blood glucose levels, helping the individual to feel much better and prevent many complications. To learn more about diabetes and a diet plan with correct portion sizes, check out the following link: http://www.learningaboutdiabetes.org.