One of the world's most deadly epidemics has already hit...
It claims hundreds of thousands of American lives each year... and causes millions of deaths in China, India, and other emerging economies.
All told, 30 million Americans are currently at risk. And another 86 million Americans are on their way to getting this disease. Together, that's about one-third of the U.S. population.
This epidemic isn't from a mosquito. It's not some form of animal flu...
It's much more common, and much worse.
Diabetes mellitus – a disease that disrupts your body's ability to properly handle carbohydrates – kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. It can lead to blindness, kidney failure, debilitating nerve pain, and heart disease.
But there are a few simple ways to take control of this deadly disease...
If you exercise daily and start following these three dietary tips, you'll be much better prepared to help get your blood sugar under control.
Diet Tip No. 1: White sugar isn't your only enemy.
Many people who receive a diabetes diagnosis start cutting white sugar out of their diets, thinking that's the main culprit. But in reality, many carbohydrates are equally dangerous...
Carbs break down into various sugars depending on the original, natural form. Foods containing carbohydrates include grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
To get a better idea of which carbs to eat and which to avoid, look at two things...
The glycemic index is a scale of 1 to 100 that measures how much the carbs in a certain food increase your blood sugar. Foods high on the index spike your blood sugar. And repeated spikes will kill you.
A good rule to remember is that the more processed a food is, the worse it is for you. For example, cooked white rice ranks at 89 on the index, whereas brown rice ranks at 50.
But even more important is something called glycemic load. This takes into account how much your blood sugar rises based on serving size.
Glycemic index is measured by using an amount of food containing 50 grams of carbohydrates. That amount is given to patients and then the change in their blood sugar is measured. The problem is, in order for 50 grams of carbs to be in the sample, sometimes you have to eat a lot more than a usual serving.
That's why glycemic load takes that number and scales it to the appropriate serving size, as some foods will have more or fewer than 50 carbs per serving.
For example, one cup of prunes is the usual serving size. However, that one cup has 111 grams of carbs (according to the USDA). So less than half a serving was used to calculate the glycemic index. However, its glycemic load number, 10, takes into account a full serving. Foods with more carbs per serving will have a higher glycemic load, making it a more accurate representation.
Understanding the glycemic load for your portions gives you a better understanding of how a certain meal will affect your blood sugar. (You can compare both the index and the load of foods right here.)
Diet Tip No. 2: Fiber helps your body stay healthy and regular.
There are two forms of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Your body can't break down insoluble fiber, but it helps food and waste move through your digestive system. Soluble fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar, meaning your blood sugar won't spike as much.
One study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that people on a high-fiber diet (50 grams of fiber per day – the equivalent of 11 apples) had a 10% lower level of sugar in their blood compared with those on a moderate-fiber diet (24 grams a day – the equivalent of about five-and-a half apples).
The researchers carefully chose foods for each meal that provided three times more soluble fiber for the high-fiber diet. Researchers wanted to measure how much an increase from the current recommended levels of fiber would benefit blood sugar.
The researchers in that study also pointed out that they used unfortified, truly natural-state foods. That means none of those "fiber added" products or supplements.
The best way to add fiber to your diet is to start including natural sources in your meals. But remember, there are good and bad sources of fiber. Good sources include split peas, black beans, green peas, and raspberries. Bad sources include any processed foods and baked goods that also contain loads of starches and sugars.
Diet Tip No. 3: Add a dash of flavor.
Some spices help lower your blood-sugar levels...
One of the most popular spices to add to your diet is cinnamon. A 2001 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition saw that a compound in the spice, methylhydroxychalcone (MHCP), mimicked insulin's action. It helped process glucose and stabilized blood-sugar levels.
Several studies have backed up this research, showing that patients ingesting cinnamon saw lower levels of blood sugar. In fact, a 2013 review evaluated several studies and found that cinnamon significantly lowered the levels of blood sugar.
Similar to cinnamon, ginger also has blood-sugar-lowering properties.
A randomized study from the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine showed that diabetics who took pills filled with powdered ginger for three months had lower levels of blood sugar and lower insulin resistance than those who took placebos.
The reason spices might be key for your blood sugar is all in the enzymes. One study from the Journal of Translational Medicine showed that spices like ginger and cinnamon affected pancreatic enzymes. That means they worked with the pancreas – the organ that creates insulin – to lower blood-sugar spikes after meals.
Do what I do and enjoy these spices in your diet. As I wrote recently, I enjoy drinking a mixture of pomegranate acai-berry concentrate, ginger, turmeric, and seltzer water a few times a week. I love cinnamon too, but only about a teaspoon or two a week – too much at once can be dangerous.
These food guidelines will help, but you need to figure out what works best for you. New research is showing that people respond differently to the same foods – so it's not just about glycemic index or load. That can make it even more challenging to know the best plan for you.
To help understand how your body works, try starting a food journal where you can keep track of your meals, snacks, blood-sugar readings, and how you feel after certain foods. The website Diabetes Forecast has some great advice to help you get started.
Remember, simply adding cinnamon to your coffee won't be enough to control your diabetes if you're also eating pancakes, jam, and pouring high-sugared syrup over everything. It's a complex disease that involves both your lifestyle and your genetic makeup. Managing your blood sugar is a multi-part process, which includes diet, exercise, and sometimes medication.
And always check with your doctor before making drastic changes.
What We're Reading...
- A pioneer in diabetes research and education, Joslin Diabetes Center, offers free online education classes.
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