Although many of us exhibit some characteristics of poor nutrition, it won't kill most of us any time soon. That's not the case for people who have diabetes, a hormone-based disease that leaves high levels of sugar in the blood as a result of the body's inability to process food properly. As a result, many diabetics suffer from circulatory problems, a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, the possibility of gangrene in extremities, a serious eye condition that can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage that could cause either pain or loss of feeling.
Diabetes results from either too little insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, or cells that are unable to use the insulin available to them in the bloodstream. There are two major types: Type I, insulin-dependent juvenile-onset diabetes, and Type II, non-insulin-dependent adult-onset diabetes.
If left untreated, Type I disease quickly progresses into a life-threatening coma and then death. People with this form of diabetes have very low or no insulin in the body and must inject it every day to prevent symptoms.
Type II disease appears gradually, usually after about age 40, and tends to run in families. Although sufferers may have low, normal or high insulin levels, the body's cells block its usage. Type II diabetics are more often women, and 60-90 percent are overweight. For nearly half, diet alone can be used to control the disease. For some who require insulin, losing weight can reduce the amount of insulin they need to take or allow them to be off insulin altogether.
Treatment involves regular monitoring of the disease using diet and medication must be adjusted regularly to meet individual needs. The condition requires regular medical treatment, active patient participation, and work with a nutritionist for food planning and preparation.
Guidelines For Healthy Food Choices
The following guidelines were developed by the American Diabetes Association.
It is Important to:
- Reach and stay at a reasonable weight.
- Be careful of serving sizes.
- Avoid skipping meals.
- Increase daily activity.
Eat Less fat
- Eat smaller servings of meat. Eat fish and poultry more often. Choose lean cuts of red meat.
- Prepare all meats by roasting, baking or broiling. Trim fat. Be careful of added sauces or gravy. Remove skin from poultry.
- Avoid fried foods. Avoid adding fat in cooking.
- Drink skim or low fat milk.
- Eat less ice cream, cheese, sour cream, cream, whole milk and other high fat dairy products.
Eat More High Fiber Foods
- Choose dried beans, peas and lentils.
- Eat whole gram breads, cereals and crackers.
- Eat more vegetables -- raw and cooked.
- Eat whole fruit in place of fruit juice.
- Try other high fiber foods, such as oat bran, barley, bulgur, brown rice and wild rice.
Use Less Salt
- Reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking.
- Try not to put salt on foods at the table.
- Eat fewer high salt foods, such as canned soups, ham, sauerkraut, hot dogs, pickles and foods that taste salty.
- Eat fewer convenience and fast foods.
Eat Less Sugar
- Avoid regular soft drinks. One 12-ounce can has nine teaspoons of sugar.
- Avoid eating table sugar, honey, syrup, jam, jelly, candy, sweet rolls, fruit canned in syrup, regular gelatin desserts, cake with icing, pie and other sweets.
- Choose fresh fruit or fruit canned in natural juice or water.
Use sweeteners that don't have any calories, such as saccharin or aspartame, instead of sugar.