This is my dad. He just turned 71 and last month he was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. He's not alone. 29 million Americans have diabetes, and an estimated 73 million have pre-diabetes. Very scary numbers.
For those who know my father, it won't come as a surprise that he's not the least bit concerned. Somehow, he's lived his entire life one step ahead of disaster. No matter what he does, he always manages to land on his feet. He's not going to change a darn thing, and whatever happens, happens. Sigh.
I, on the other hand, am very concerned - not just for him, but for myself as well. When I was pregnant with my younger son, I was just on the cusp of having gestational diabetes. Changes to my diet kept me from full blown GD, but my doctor informed me that I have a greater chance of getting diabetes later in life. With my dad's diagnosis I now add a genetic component.
So I've been doing what I always do when I'm worried about something - lots and lots of research. I want to share what I've discovered because the information is massive and overwhelming. If you or someone you know is concerned about diabetes, I hope you'll find this helpful. The greatest news is that prevention is proven and possible - if you keep your weight down, exercise, don't smoke, and limit alcohol intake. For me, that's done, done, done and done - and fairly obvious.
The most interesting information I've learned has been about the food that goes into our mouths. When I think of diabetes, the words that come to mind are "no sugar". But there's so much more to it than that. The key for diabetics and those who want to prevent the disease is to eat high fiber, slow release carbs that digest slowly. This keeps the body from producing too much insulin, and allows any sugars to be absorbed more slowly into the blood stream.
Which honestly reads like a lot of what? to me. I know that I need to limit my intake of white rice, soda, sweets, fats, red meat, and processed snacks. But what exactly should I eat if I want to slow or prevent a future with diabetes? It boils down to this:
Five small meals throughout the day rather than three big ones, and they should include the following:
- Lean protein like chicken, fish, beans and lentils, and greek yogurt.
- Grains in the least processed state possible. Think whole grains, barley, steel cut oats.
- Greens like asparagus, broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts, kale and collard greens.
What about snacks?
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
- Whole fresh fruit. Apples, peaches and cantaloupe are fine. Juice is not, since squeezing the fruit releases more sugars.
- Peanut butter (it's very high in fiber) with whole wheat crackers or low fat cheese.
- Hummus with veggies.
And perhaps most importantly, especially to me - can I have dessert?
- It's best to eat sweets with a meal, rather than by themselves.
- Berries are considered nature's candy, and they're good for you too - blueberries, blackberries, raspberries.
- A little bit of dark chocolate (yes!!!).
- Frozen bananas blended in a food processor are a great alternative to ice cream.
I brought all of this info to my dad, and he answered as I expected: "I'll get back to you on that".
I plan to keep working on him, and in the meantime, incorporate more of these foods into my diet. I really don't want to join those 100 million Americans.