In working together the Food for Life Program initiated by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), The Food Evolution is starting a series of classes to support and educate those with health challenges.
The first in this series will focus on the growing problem of Diabetes. An increasing percentage of our population (now 11%) has active, Type 2 diabetes, and statistics show that nearly one third of all persons 65 and older have developed the disease. This health crisis is now on the front burner of every avenue of healthcare. Nowhere is this problem taken more seriously than in the nutritional arena.
Type-2 diabetes is a problem that is largely created by unhealthy dietary and lifestyle habits. A whopping 79 million people in the US are in a pre-diabetic condition, and are largely asymptomatic. Studies have shown that, even with only borderline diabetes, people can already be experiencing long-term damage to the organs, nerves, heart and circulatory system.
Diabetes causes a host of serious health complications, including kidney failure, circulatory problems, stroke, blindness, heart disease and others. Proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle greatly reduce these threats.
Obesity and Diabetes
Diabetes is primarily a disease of over-nutrition and inactivity…put more simply: eating too much of the wrong kind of food coupled with lack of exercise. One third of children are at risk for developing Type-2 diabetes at some time in their lives. Dietary changes and a program of regular exercise can significantly alter the progression of the disease.
Often, when someone discovers that they have diabetes or are at risk, they don’t know where to begin to start the healing process. Learning about the kinds of foods that support health and reduce the symptoms of diabetes is the first step. Next comes training in how to prepare meals that foster wellness and can begin reversing the effects of diabetes.
Processed grains (white rice, white bread) and refined sugar (candy soda, and/or a combo of process grains and refined sugar as in: cookies, cakes, donuts, etc.) are the bane of the diabetic’s diet. Excess glucose in the bloodstream is the culprit.
The Plant-Based Diet
Replacing unbeneficial foods with fresh vegetables and limited quantities of high-fiber fruits is a great place to start. Crowding out empty-calorie foods with vegetables, fruits and whole grains, can help with diabetic and pre-diabetic conditions by lowering blood sugar and changing the way body chemistry works to reduce the effects of excess glucose.
Eating whole grains and vegetables makes sense for a healthy, anti-diabetes diet for many reasons. Whole grains are high in fiber, higher in nutrients and higher in protein than their refined counterparts. Fiber slows down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream–whereas refined grains, flours, etc. are converted into glucose almost immediately, causing a spike in blood sugar.
Eating a plant-based diet filled with nutrient-rich vegetables is perfect for the diabetic inasmuch as vegetables do not contain any refined sugar, are alkalinizing to the blood and counteract the effects of too much sugar. Plant-based, nutrient-dense foods can be prepared with finesse and made into satisfying dishes that are so tasty that they can completely take away the craving for fatty, sugary and empty calorie foods. Replacing unbeneficial foods need not be painful or sacrificial—if you have the know-how!
The Importance of Physical Activity
Exercise helps to reverse diabetes by doing a number of important things. Exercise lowers blood sugar by boosting levels of Glut4, a transporter-protein in the muscles and fat cells that regulates insulin. And physical activity catalyzes muscles into a state of glucose deprivation, which causes them to draw glucose from the bloodstream, thus reducing any excess.
Studies have shown that even a minimal 10 percent increase in muscle mass causes a significant drop in a pre-diabetic condition. This means that mild weight lifting or similar strength training a few times a week will go a long way to helping with this health issue.
Yoga is a great preventative and curative practice for diabetics. Performing yoga postures helps glucose move out of the blood and reduces stress hormone levels…decreasing belly fat that can interfere with the secretion of insulin.
Sleep and Relaxation
Research shows that those with high stress levels are twice as likely to develop diabetes. So find ways to relax: meditate, play music, take a hot bath—whatever relaxes you.
Lack of sleep causes imbalances in insulin because insulin is linked to melatonin (sleep hormone). Sleep deprivation also leads to craving sugary, high-calorie foods. So getting adequate sleep can help to protect you from diabetes.
When we become educated about the things that contribute to diabetes, and when we learn about the things we can do to improve our health and reverse this condition, we are arming ourselves with the skills and tools to combat the illness head-on. Choosing the right kinds of foods and learning how to prepare them are key in addressing the problems arising out of glucose intolerance.