According to statistics from the WHO, 422 million people had diabetes as of 2014, with an average global prevalence of 8.5%. The excellent news about diabetes is that its fatalities are preventable as long as one learns to recognise the symptoms and takes precautionary measures. Additionally, studies show that with some lifestyle changes, it is possible to live a healthy life with diabetes without taking any medication.
Diabetes comes in two types, 1 and 2, with type 2 being more prevalent globally. Type 1 diabetes arises from insulin deficiency in the body, while in type 2, the insulin is not used effectively. Insulin is a hormone responsible for the conversion of glucose to energy for the body. When one gets a diagnosis for type 2 diabetes, the doctor will recommend some medications and healthy living to keep blood sugar levels checked.
However, it is possible to live with type 2 diabetes and even make a recovery by adjusting your diet and lifestyle. One study showed that a healthy lifestyle and exercise effectively control blood sugar levels more than using medication. The promise in this avenue of treatment lies in its ability to abolish the need for taking diabetic medication.
The safety of healthy living and exercise lies in the fact that it is tried and tested. For instance, a randomised control trial overseen by the National Institute of Health Research demonstrates that healthy living and dieting significantly improves blood sugar management in diabetes.
Healthy Living Tips and Adjustments
Living with diabetes is not easy, but adapting to a healthy lifestyle is possible for nearly everyone. Easing into a healthy lifestyle is feasible because it does not require any special or expensive modifications on your part. It is a matter of committing and staying committed to the journey towards a healthy lifestyle.
1. Get All the Help You Can
On diagnosis, most people may have no idea where to begin and where to get help. If you have no hint where to start, your general practitioner is always a great place to start. The general practitioner can help you refer you to other professionals who will help you adopt a healthy lifestyle. For dietary adjustments, a dietician will know what meal plans are best tailored for you and will help you adjust your eating habits.
2. Eat Healthy Carbohydrates
Experts recommend reducing the amount per serving or meal and increasing the frequency of your meals. Consequently, this meal plan ensures that you eat small portions frequently as opposed to large meals. In the long run, you may note that you will eat less than usual.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the body and are amongst the most significant contributors to the amount of glucose in blood. In adjusting your diet, you should take your carbohydrates in a form as close to their natural form as possible. Examples of healthy carbohydrate sources include:
- Whole grains such as barley, buckwheat, and brown rice
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Low-fat dairy such as Greek yogurt
- Legumes such as peas and kidney beans
- Nuts such as peanuts, macadamia, and hazelnuts
- Tubers such as yams and sweet potatoes
- Reduce salt intake
In making choices for carbohydrates to eat, steer away from processed and low fibre foods. Processed foods are often harmful and contain additives that have no nutritional value to the consumer. On the other hand, low fibre diets can interfere with your blood sugar alongside causing digestive problems such as increasing flatulence.
Foods like breakfast cereals, white bread, and white rice are low in fibre and should be eliminated from your diet. Typically, most products have a label to show the amount of fibre present in processed foods. These tags should inform your choice while doing your grocery shopping.
3. Keep your Salt in Check
Diabetes predisposes the patient to cardiovascular system disorders such as high blood pressure and stroke. Similarly, salt consumption predisposes you to high blood pressure. Therefore, if you combine a lot of salt intake and diabetes, your probability of worsening your symptoms and developing complications increases drastically.
Ideally, it would help if you ensured that salt intake does not exceed 6g in a day. Alternatively, you could try to use herbs or spices that make your food tasty without adding salt.
Cooking everything for yourself or keeping the cooking process in check ensures you control your daily consumption. Caution should be taken when buying packaged or processed foods as they tend to have salt that would not be recommended for a person with diabetes.
4. Consume Healthy Fats
Fat is essential in any diet. However, fat comes in many forms that have different effects on the human body. Excess consumption of fat leads to increased fat levels in the blood and weight gain. As a result, it is challenging to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
Experts recommend the use of unsaturated fats as they have more health benefits, especially for a person with diabetes. Examples of healthy unsaturated fats include:
- Fish oil
- Canola oil
- Nuts such as almonds
- Sunflower oil
- Avocado oil
Animal fats such as ghee, lard, and butter are equally healthy. However, one may risk developing cardiovascular problems due to the extra cholesterol in these fats. If you can prepare your food without using any added fat, that would be the healthiest action course. Therefore, steaming, baking, or grilling your food comprise some of the healthful cooking methods available.
5. Reduce Sugar Intake
Sugar is one of the primary triggers of diabetes in adults and is therefore not recommended when trying to live healthily. The high calories in sugar either increase the risk of developing diabetes or accelerate disease progression. The hardest part of sugar intake is quitting it, and many people may find the transition to eliminating dietary sugar challenging.
However, quitting sugar is easy if you can phase out soft drinks, energy drinks, and generally sugary substances from your diet. Instead, you should consider sugarless tea, coffee, water, or plain milk. If you can eliminate the sugar while changing your diet, you can make a habit of living sugar-free life in weeks.
Reducing sugar intake not only helps your health but also keeps your weight in check. In case you find that outright quitting sugar is hard, you can begin using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar as they do not have detrimental effects.
The only time you should consider incorporating sugar in your diet is if the treatment regimen causes hypoglycaemia. Fortunately, choosing a healthy lifestyle will gradually and significantly lower your dependence on medication.
6. Change Meat Consumption Preferences
Sometimes, sticking to a strict carbohydrate diet may not be healthy; hence you should consider taking more proteins. According to research, red meat can predispose you to some cancers and cardiovascular problems. Therefore, processed meat are not ideal for a health lifestyle. Examples found in the market are:
- Cold cuts
Instead of these meats, you could try healthy alternatives such as:
- Poultry meat
- Lean beef
Oily fish such as pilchard, herring, salmon, and mackerel are very healthy because fish is rich in omega-three fats that are good for cardiac health. Taking fish 2-3 times a week can cover your beneficial eating objectives.
7. Take More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits are a healthier substitute for snacks as they have more health benefits than detrimental side effects. Even though some fruits contain sugar, they are perfectly safe as they have natural sugar. Natural sugars are more straightforward to metabolize than the processed sugar in soft drinks and energy drinks. It is healthy if you take the whole fruit at different times of the day instead of consuming many fruits in one sitting.
Additionally, experts recommend a variety of fruits in the form of fruit salads. The individual fruits in the salad will convey additional and wholesome benefits.
In terms of vegetables, green and leafy vegetables are the healthiest and well-rounded in terms of nutrients, vitamins, and fibre. Vegetables not only balance your diet but also reduce the health risks that diabetes predisposes you to. Some vegetables that you can incorporate into your diet include:
8. Diabetic Foods not Worth your Time
There are unsubstantiated claims that ”diabetic foods” are good for your health and can help you live healthily. However, there is no empirical proof to suggest that they have the edge over all the diet options discussed here. On the contrary, these foods are just as unhealthy as an unregulated diet, and it would be beneficial to steer away from them.
9. Get Your Dietary Supplements from Food
Vitamins and supplements do not have any significant effect on your diabetes. Unless you receive express instructions from your physician or dietician to take them, you do not have to. All-natural foods and meats in combination are likely to have any vitamin or mineral supplement you could need.
Some dietary supplements have antagonistic interactions with diabetes medication and can worsen the condition. Therefore, adhering to a healthy diet will likely solve your problems.
10. The Glycaemic Index
The glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of blood glucose levels. Healthy living with diabetes requires that you keep your glycaemic index low by taking foods with a low GI. A low index is achievable by ensuring that the foods you consume have a low GI and keeping the serving portions in check. If you consume large servings of a low GI meal, then the result is counter-intuitive to healthy dieting objectives.
11. By All Means, Keep Moving
A crucial aspect of diabetic management is ensuring that you stay physically active. A healthy diet with a sedentary lifestyle will seriously slow down progress as the glucose in the diet is not getting used up. Exercising and physical exertion helps you to:
- Keep your blood glucose levels low
- Keep your cholesterol levels low
- Maintain a relatively low blood pressure
- Increase bone and muscular strength
- Get quality sleep
- Reduce your anxiety levels and improve your temperament and self-confidence
On average, you should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity weekly. Spacing out the exercise in shorter duration, such as in the technique known as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIITS), can help the more accomplished athletes.
You can opt for a vigorous aerobic exercise routine that lasts between thirty to forty-five minutes a day to achieve healthy living. Such routine exercises should occur for most days of the week for maximum health benefits.
Additionally, you can try a form of workout known as resistance training to manage your diabetes. Resistance training is helpful because it aids build your muscle and bone strength. Furthermore, resistance training is known to improve insulin sensitivity and reduces your blood glucose levels. Approaches that you could use for resistance training include:
- Exercises that involve body weights such as push ups and squats
- Lifting weights
- Using dumbbells
The objective of the routine exercise is to ensure that you stay active and mobile. If you find professional training or facilities expensive, you could try to change how you do some day-to-day activities. For example, you could:
- Use stairs more
- Walk or cycle to work
- Drink water regularly
- Walk to your destination if you can
Healthy living is without a doubt as suitable a treatment as taking medication in diabetes. There is evidence to show that it works, and it ends up being more cost-friendly and increasing the probability of making a full recovery.
The best part of choosing the healthy living path is that you will not need to deal with expensive specialists and medication; all you need is a doctor or dietician to guide you at intervals. With time, you find that your life is as fulfilling and even better by choosing to live healthy than if you took medication continuously.
Aleenta Healthy Living programme
Aleenta Phuket, together with Thonburi Hospital and Ayurah Wellness have partnered to offer another exceptional life changing programme to address the pre and post diabetes in a way that will reduce your dependency on heavy medications.
The programme is available for 14, 21, or 30 days.
As this wellness package is meant to assist with lifestyle transformation, a longer stay will allow you to establish the new habits into your daily routine and make them permanent; the new you!