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Diabetes: What is it? & What to eat?

With Halloween just having recently passed and all the candy that goes along with it, I guess it’s only fitting that November is National Diabetes Month. We have all at least heard of diabetes or maybe even been personally affected, but its prevalence continues to grow and the effects it has can be profound. In this week’s Health Journal, we dive into diabetes, how it’s more complex then we may think and what to eat to help maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

What is Diabetes? What are the numbers?

In its simplest terms, diabetes is a chronic health condition that effects how our body turns the food we eat into energy. Most of the food that we consume is broken down into sugar and released into the bloodstream and when your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas is signaled to release insulin.

The insulin then plays the crucial role of letting the blood sugar into your cells, which the cells use as energy. The issue for those with diabetes is your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin as well as it should.

When your body is unable to create enough insulin or the cells stop responding, too much blood sugar stays in the bloodstream and over time this causes a variety of health problems. Some of the common health problems include heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

Unfortunately, given the health problems that it creates, there is no cure for diabetes but there are ways to better manage it. Some tips include losing weight, eating healthy food and being active, which can make a big difference.

Now that we’ve seen how diabetes works, it’s time to look at the numbers and see just how prevalent it is here in the United States.

The Numbers:

  • 2 million U.S. adults have diabetes, and 1 in 5 don’t know that they have it.
  • Diabetes in the seventh leading cause of death in the United States
  • Diabetes is also the No. 1 cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations and adult blindness
  • The number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years alone

The types of diabetes:

Diabetes is an illness that is not at all simple to figure out as it comes in different forms that affect our bodies differently. Here we will break down the different types of diabetes and what that means for our bodies.

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction, where the body attacks itself, which prevents and stops your body from producing insulin. Of those with diabetes, approximately 5-10% of those people have Type 1. Symptoms for Type 1 diabetes develop fairly quickly and it is most commonly diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have Type 1, you will need to take insulin on a daily basis in order to survive. There is currently no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body does not use insulin well and can’t naturally keep your blood sugar at normal levels. Of those with diabetes, about 90-95% of people have Type 2. This type of diabetes is known to develop over the course of many years and is usually diagnosed in adults, but it is becoming more common to see this in children, teens, and young adults. It is possible you many not notice any major symptoms so it is important to get your blood sugar tested on an occasional basis if you’re at risk. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 can be prevented or helped with healthy lifestyle changes, like losing weight.

Gestational diabetes is different from the aforementioned Type 1 and Type 2 as it occurs in pregnant women who have never had diabetes before. Having gestational diabetes may possibly put your newborn child at a higher risk for health problems and it also increases the mom’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Your newborn child is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen as well as being at a higher risk for diabetes later in life.

Diabetes Diet:

As we mentioned above, healthy eating can help you prevent or control your diabetes so a proper diet is crucial. Even if you have diabetes, we understand that your nutritional needs are virtually the same as those don’t, so there are no special foods that are necessary. However, it’s important to pay attention to some of your food choices, especially how many carbohydrates you are eating. Below we list a few replacement options to some of our favorites that might not be the healthiest for us.

Instead of…                                         Try These…

White Rice                                             Brown or Wild Rice

White Potatoes                                    Sweet Potatoes, yams, cauliflower mash

Regular Pasta                                      Whole wheat pasta

White bread                                         Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread

Sugary Breakfast Cereal               High-fiber, low-sugar cereal

Corn                                                        Peas or leafy greens







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