There are over 29 million people in America with diabetes and over 86 million people with pre-diabetes. Some of the risk factors such as age and genetics can’t be changed but many other risk factors can. Change is certainly difficult but by making some modifications you may be able to prevent pre-diabetes to becoming diabetes and if you have diabetes you may achieve improved control. Read ways to fool diabetes below:
1. Go Greek
The best overall eating plan this year and in years past point to the “Mediterranean diet”. It not only helps with cardiac issues and blood pressure reduction but it is excellent for pre-diabetes and diabetes. Include grilled fish, lot’s of non-starchy vegetables, fruit in moderation and eaten in the beginning of the day (with a handful of nuts), whole grains-millet, quinoa, amaranth, oats and whole wheat in moderation along with salads dressed in olive oil and small amounts of red wine (if you drink and are medically cleared). This step alone, with some cheat foods like small servings of dark chocolate, will help you with blood sugars.
2. Move That Body
The best way to increase insulin sensitivity and possibly make new insulin receptors on cells is to move. Call it what you want but you can’t sit at your desk all day and think that is acceptable when you have pre-diabetes or diabetes. The golden rule is 30 minutes and 5 times a week but no one denies that 10 minute intervals and 3 times daily will work as well. Make a plan for 3-10 minute desk diversions and your body will thrive. Stand up for 5 minutes for each 55 minute work hour. Go up and down the stairs several times a day. Walk the hallways. This will actually make you more efficient. Get a standing desk which will cost anywhere from $175-300 hundred dollars. Start by elevating the desk for 30 minutes every 2 hours and work up to standing more than sitting during your day. Consider using a balance ball to sit on during work to engage your core muscles and improve your posture. If you have more time that you are willing to devote to exercise then do it. If permitted by your physician, think about doing short bursts of high intensity exercise which will give your insulin sensitivity a huge boost. According to a Finnish study, “people who exercised up to 4 hours a week dropped the risk of diabetes by 80%”.
3. Try to Relax
This is easy to say and difficult to do but it really makes a difference with diabetes. Stress increases blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugars. It causes hormones to circulate in the blood stream and creates insulin resistance. Stress makes you lose your focus and willpower and for stress eaters this can be a disaster. Find alternative “escape valves” which will replace stress eating. Deep breathing and meditation are easy ways to lower stress and restore focus. These practices should become a 10-20 minute daily encounter. Meditation requires choosing and repeating a word called a “mantra” which sole purpose is to “remain focused and in the present”. Thinking about what happened in the past or what could happen in the future adds to your stress. If you find you can’t accomplish stress reduction on your own find a yoga class which normally ends with a 10 minute wind down meditation or seek a therapist/counselor who specializes in stress reduction.
4. Spice It Up
Forget about bottled sauces such as spaghetti sauce, steak sauce, BBQ sauce, and condiments like ketchup when you have pre-diabetes or diabetes. These are laden with sugar, salt and artificial ingredients. Use fresh or dry spices to wake up food flavor without the blood sugar elevation. Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and turmeric are the “go to” spices for anti-inflammation and good health.
5. Eat More Citrus
According to Preventive Medicine “eating oranges, lemons and other citrus may slow glucose uptake which can help improve blood sugars”. Slice up an orange as a perfect afternoon snack but skip the orange juice even if it is fresh squeezed. Juice raises blood sugars too quickly. Remember, if you take statins for cholesterol, you should avoid grapefruit, a citrus fruit, since it can intensify the action of the medication and possibly affect your liver. Add lemons and limes to a jug of water for a delicious taste with no calories and the blood sugar benefits of vitamin C.
6. Be a Lifter
Don’t think of lifting weights as something a “bulky guy does” because weight training helps reduce insulin resistance and adds more muscle mass. More muscle equates to increased calories being burned efficiently due to a higher metabolic rate. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine “men who weight lifted 2.5 hours per week lowered diabetes risk by 34%”.
7. Eat Lean Protein
Eating red meat has recently been associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes. As Americans, we generally eat too much food which also includes too much protein. Then there are those who fall short on lean daily protein which helps repair and build muscles. Eat small amounts of lean protein during the day such as 2 egg whites for breakfast, a 3-4 ounce skinless chicken breast for lunch and a 4-6 ounce piece of baked fish for dinner instead of avoiding protein all day and then eating an 18 ounce steak for dinner. Always mix protein foods with carbohydrates at a meal.
8. Medications and Weight Loss/Gain
If you already have diabetes and take certain medications, you may be more likely to gain weight. Medications such as sulfonylurea’s Glipizide and certain types of insulin may make you gain weight. There are so many new varieties of diabetes medications now that actually aid in weight loss which may be effective for you. Talk to your doctor about GLP-1 injectables including Tanzeum, Victoza or Trulicity and Metformin which is an oral pill and may actually help you lose weight.
9. Lose the Juicer
Sorry, if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes eat the fruit instead of drinking the smoothie. Many smoothies contain Agave syrup, rice syrup or honey which added to blended fruit is too intense for your blood sugars. Think of “food particle size”. If you eat an apple it takes longer to metabolize than apple sauce which takes longer to metabolize than apple juice. Fruit juice, even fresh squeezed, is no friend to someone with diabetes even if it is organic.
10. “The Legume” is Your Friend
Beans, peas, lentils and peanuts are good sources of fiber and protein. They help you stay full longer and prevent big swings in blood sugars when eaten in portion size. Add legumes to soups, stews and salads for bulk and flavor. Peanuts are fat so different rules apply but they are still considered a legume. Eat a serving size of 10-12 peanuts in the shell for a great, nutritious snack.
11. Consult the Dietitian
So many patients want to know if it is worth seeing the dietitian for counseling. The answer is always YES when you have pre- diabetes or diabetes. Many insurance plans cover this service so take advantage. They can offer some simple tricks which can get you on track quickly. They will not require you to carry a food scale and weigh your food but they may suggest a portion plate with sections to fill each food group. They will teach you how to read food labels, understand how sugar is counted, and offer tips on how to ‘eyeball’ proper portions. They may introduce you to Smartphone food apps like ‘Lose It‘ or ‘My Fitness Pal‘ if you like technology. This will assist with weight loss and blood sugar control which are 2 winners with diabetes. Consulting a registered dietitian/CDE is a much better option than heading for diet pills or programs for long term weight loss.
12. Figure Out What Your Obstacles Are
We all have barriers that stand in the way of getting healthy. The obstacles that are most common are ‘there is not enough time’, ‘I have too many other responsibilities’, ‘healthy eating costs too much’, ‘I’m too lazy to move’, and ‘the medication has side effects’. Try to explore each obstacle and make a checklist to see how you can make change. If you can’t figure it out on your own, seek professional advice so you do not get stuck in your own thought process. Your goal is to make “you number one” since you must be healthy to take care of everyone else.
13. Order the Appetizer
Portion size is one of the biggest factors in getting blood sugars under control. Good choices matter but eating small meals is important too. Order a salad with the dressing on the side and just dip. Get an appetizer and eat the whole thing. Add one roll or a fruit cup and you have a meal with a sugar free drink.
14. Eat Your Food In Order
According to the latest research food order does matter. Studies have shown that eating the protein and free vegetable choices prior to the carbohydrate showed “a smaller rise in blood sugars compared to staring the meal with the carbohydrate”.
15. Use Oil and Vinegar
Choosing oil and vinegar works for many reasons. First, the oil helps you absorb the vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables. Greens like kale, spinach and romaine have abundant nutrients which will be better absorbed. Vinegar may help lower blood sugars. It should never replace medication but according to a study from Arizona State University, “vinegar contains acetic acid which may inactivate certain starch digesting enzymes slowing carbohydrate digestion”.
16. Drink That Cup of Coffee
Researchers state that “caffeine in coffee, tea or diet soda may boost metabolism”. Coffee also contains potassium, magnesium and antioxidants which may help cells absorb sugar. According to The Harvard School of Public Health Researcher’s, “drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day cut the risk of type 2 diabetes by 29% during an 18 year study”. Make sure to limit caffeine if you are sensitive or have a heart condition including high blood pressure. The FDA states “400 mg or 4 cups of coffee are safe for most adults”. Check with your physician for your personal situation.
17. Live Happy.
Smile, laugh and do anything that brings you pleasure besides snacking. Pumping out feel good endorphins can make you focus on the real stuff and keep blood sugars and blood pressure in line.
There are many tricks you can try to outsmart diabetes. Remember that these techniques should be used along with your medication and proper medical check ups, blood work and long term medical care. Good luck!
Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at RKleinman@adwdiabetes.com if you would like to share them with ADW diabetes.
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.