Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body is unable to manage spikes in blood sugar that occur when food is broken down and sent into the bloodstream to be used as energy. Left unchecked, diabetes can lead to severe health problems, including renal disease, limb amputations, blindness, and death.
According to the FDA, 34.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Another 88 million have prediabetes. But here’s the real kicker: according to the Office of Minority Health, Black American adults are 60 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic White adults.
As Black Americans, we are disproportionately affected by diabetes due to various factors, including:
- Lack of access to health care
- Lower incomes
- High out-of-pocket cost for doctors’ visits and prescriptions
- Poor diets
While some of these factors—such as the lack of access to health care—may be out of our control, early intervention against the other risk factors can help us manage, and even prevent, development of the disease.
Prediabetes is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. It can have a serious health impact by itself but can be easily reversed with the proper diet and exercise. Unfortunately, many people dismiss it as “not real” diabetes and ignore it for too long, which often results in the development of “real” diabetes. This is the wrong approach. If we acknowledge prediabetes as a serious health condition and take action, we can prevent the eventual onset of diabetes itself.
A healthy diet is one of the best ways to both prevent and manage the onset of diabetes. The best types of foods to consume are those that can assist with stabilizing blood sugar.
Here are some nutrition-related suggestions:
Ensure Every Meal Contains Protein and Healthy Fat.
To prevent blood sugar spikes, it is recommended to include protein and healthy, unsaturated fats (these are typically plant-based fats) when consuming carbs or sugar. The addition of protein and good fat has been shown to slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream. Pairing fruit with a handful of nuts is a great example of combining carbs, protein, and fat.
Choose Complex Over Refined Carbs.
It is important to be mindful of the type of carbohydrates you consume at any given time. Refined or processed carbohydrates are easily broken-down during digestion and turned into sugar. As they are converted into energy, the sugar floods the blood stream, creating a spike. Complex carbs take a lot longer to convert, which makes it much harder to spike blood sugar. Examples include beans, oatmeal, whole-wheat breads and grains, and potatoes.
Include Green, Leafy Vegetables in Your Diet Wherever Possible.
Studies have shown that including green, leafy vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, and brussels sprouts) in your diet can have a tremendous impact on preventing the onset of diabetes. They are a great source of fiber, but also full of vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium) that can help your body use insulin to control blood sugar levels.
Limit High-Sugar Fruits.
In moderation, fruit can be a great substitute for processed sugars, but fruits that are high in sugar (like watermelon and pineapple) can have the same effect on blood sugar as soda, cookies, or cake. Instead, choose fruits that have a low Glycemic Index rating, such as apples, berries, and most citrus fruits.
*Please note: soulWELL advises you to consult with your doctor concerning any dietary or supplement changes.