Taking Care of Your Diabetes

by Nancy Buthman, APRN


As described in the last article, all body cells need a steady supply of glucose. How can you open that cell membrane and allow nutrients to enter the cell and decrease the level of glucose in your blood?

The first answer often is to take medicine or insulin. This is not the whole answer and many times not even part of it.

According to Mayo Clinic’s “Management of Type 2 Diabetes” there are 5 things that you should do to control your diabetes and keep  from having long term consequences such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy and loss of a limb.

  1. Weight loss
  2. Healthy eating
  3. Regular exercise
  4. Blood sugar monitoring
  5. Possibly diabetic medicine or insulin.

What you eat and how active you are will have a huge effect on your blood sugar level and your overall health. Some will be able to manage their diabetes with diet and exercise alone. Others will need medicine or insulin but diet and exercise are still just as important. The medicine you will get from your Doctor. Here are some guidelines for the other four.

Losing weight is very important. Many studies have shown that the loss of between 5 and 10% of your weight has the biggest impact on your blood sugar. Along with your healthy eating plan, consuming smaller portions are a huge part of weight loss. As you get used to smaller portions your appetite will decrease as well.

Physical activity uses glucose and thus lowers your blood sugar. A combination of aerobic (like walking, swimming) and resistance (yoga, stretching. etc.) exercise has the best results. 150 minutes a week is recommended. This is only 2 ½ hours total or 30 minutes 5 days a week and nothing for 2 days. Very workable.

I do not like the term “diet”. It usually denotes you are going on some certain diet, will lose some weight, get bored and go off the diet, and put the weight right back on.

Healthy eating is the cornerstone of diabetic management. You need to develop an eating plan that you can enjoy and stick to. You want to get the most and best nutrition from the calories you consume. Make smart choices from every food group.

You need fat in your diet but saturated fats and trans fats are unhealthy and should be avoided whenever possible. Use mono and polyunsaturated fats such as olive and canola oil, other vegetable oils, avocados, and nuts. The ADA recommends 2 servings of fish each week if you are diabetic to get the heart benefits of Omega 2 fat.

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, you need to choose wisely. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lentils.

Whole grains are made from all 3 parts of the grain so have vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When shopping be sure to look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient mentioned. Good whole grains include popcorn, oat bran, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, whole rye, whole wheat, buckwheat. Beans and legumes are a good balance of complex carbs and protein giving a slow steady source of glucose. The fiber content of these good carbs is not broken down during digestion. It slows  the release of glucose and suppresses any sharp increase in blood sugar after meals.

Say no to white bread, white rice, and white pasta, go easy on potatoes. These foods cause glucose to spike.

Stay away from sugars and processed foods. Avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup.

Fresh or frozen fruits are good. Spread them out throughout the day. Stay away from canned fruit. Some research shows that drinking a lot of fruit juice leads to a higher risk of diabetes.

Fresh and frozen vegetables are always good and are low in calories. If you need snacks, instead of chips have raw, cooked, or roasted vegetables with low fat dressings, hummus, guacamole, or salsa.

Everyone needs protein. This is no different for diabetics. Just practice healthy eating. Emphasize leaner protein choices like fish and poultry.

Drinking water is necessary. Be creative with adding various flavors. Make ice cubes with flavors. Avoid soda and energy drinks. If you want some fruit juice get 100% pure juice with no added sugar and use in moderation.

As you are learning to manage your diabetes “eat to the monitor”. Check your sugar 2 hours after eating something and keep records. Eat foods that don’t spike your sugar. Your best food choices are ones that are good for you.

Make this a style of eating that will control your diabetes, control your weight and that you can enjoy for the rest of your life.