In Canada, approximately 10% of the population in 2015 had some form of diabetes, and the amount is continuously increasing. However despite this number, diabetes remains largely misunderstood by the general public. With misconceptions such as “diabetes means you can’t eat anything sweet” or “you can never enjoy food and a happy life with diabetes”, it’s important for us to look past these ideas and understand diabetes correctly so we can help either ourselves, friends, or family members who are affected by diabetes to live a happy and healthy lifestyle!
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic (meaning life-long) condition in which the body cannot use glucose (a sugar that comes from food) for energy. As a result, blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels rise higher than normal.
Check out this video for a quick visual on diabetes in the body, as well as some symptoms that can be related to diabetes.
What Happens in the Body?
Blood glucose levels higher than normal associated with diabetes are a result of either not enough insulin being made in the body, or not being able to properly use the insulin that the body makes.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, which is a small gland by the stomach. The role of insulin is to get the sugar out of the blood and into the cells where it can be used for energy.
When you eat carbohydrate foods, your body will turn the food into sugar and it will be carried to the cells though the blood. Blood sugar will rise, and without the insulin to bring the sugar into the cells, the sugar will stay in the blood. As a result, the cells will not have enough sugar for energy, which will cause many health complications if not treated.
Different Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
About 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 usually occurs in children, adolescents, and young adults under the age of 30. Type 1 develops quickly and is an autoimmune condition that results in the pancreas making little or no insulin. Type 1 is treated with insulin injections and meal planning.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common affecting 90% of people with diabetes!
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that affects some women during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can also increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. More to come on Type 2 and gestational diabetes in a later installment of the diabetes series
Pre-diabetes is when the blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Having pre-diabetes puts you at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and its complications. Some risk factors include having high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, being overweight especially with excess fat around the waist, having close family members who have Type 2 diabetes, and being in an at risk population such as those of South Asian and African decent.
A recent study shared that members of the South Asian community, particularity adults of Indian decent, have the highest odds of getting Type 2 diabetes – over two times higher than that of other non-high risk populations! There is an expected increase in the number of South Asians diagnosed with diabetes, and many reasons can play into this including environment, body composition and genetic factors.
My doctor diagnosed me with pre-diabetes, now what?
The good news is that making an effort through lifestyle and diet to manage your blood glucose and risk factors can delay or halt the development of Type 2 diabetes! Increasing your physical activity and exercise, and following a healthy meal plan to manage weight and other issues have been shown to make a big impact on pre-diabetes.
Some Healthy Eating Tips:
1. Prepare more meals at home
Try making most of your meals at home as you will know exactly what is in your food, and you’ll be able to control the ingredients, as you are the one preparing it.
2. Limit processed foods
Limit high fat foods such as fried foods, and high sodium foods. This can be useful in weight management and blood pressure control.
3. Reduce the amount of added sugar you consume
Keep an eye on sugar moderation. Limiting and even avoiding products with added sugars such as juices, pop, and candies that bring very little nutritional value is a good step in the right direction.
4. Focus on fibre
Try recipes high in fibre. Fibre will make you feel full and may actually help lower blood glucose levels and cholesterol. Alongside it, look out for other good nutrients such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Check out this Zucchini Lasagna Boats recipe that is high in fibre and flavour!
5. Moderation is key!
Having pre-diabetes does not mean you have to completely stop eating those sweet desserts that you love. As long as most days you are trying your best to follow a healthy meal plan, there is no need to cut off the foods you love. When you do choose to enjoy a sweet dessert, go for one that you can consume guilt free! Try this Healthy Caramel Chocolate Chip Ice-Cream recipe that contains only three ingredients, which is super easy make, and as a bonus is fibre filled!
Types of Help
Once diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, its important to ensure you are getting the right help that you need. Everyone is different in how they respond to treatment, and diabetes is a condition that must be monitored by health care professional. Be sure to always speak to your doctor and dietitian about ways that you can live a healthy and happy lifestyle with diabetes.
If you are currently living with diabetes, have pre-diabetes, or gestational diabetes and are looking for a dietitian to help you with managing your condition, sign up for a free coaching call here.
Keep a look out for the next installment of this Diabetes Series!
Are you ready to begin your healthy lifestyle journey but don't know where to start? Join me and many other women with The Muslimah’s Meal Plan!