According to Diabetes Australia, diabetes is the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system. With 280 Australians developing diabetes every day, the impact of the disease at a personal and national level is significant. With some simple lifestyle changes you can manage diabetes.
What is diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body has trouble producing enough insulin in the pancreas, whereas Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition in which the body destroys the cells in the pancreas which make insulin.
In Australia, Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85% of all diabetes cases, and cases are increasing – as are cases of gestational diabetes (a specific type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy).
What happens to my body when I have Type 2 diabetes?
In healthy people, the pancreas produces insulin which regulates the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
When you have Type 2 diabetes, your insulin-producing cells gradually diminish – meaning your body can’t manage the glucose in your bloodstream effectively.
This can result in a variety of symptoms, including tiredness, hunger, skin irritation, frequent urination, slow wound healing, gradual weight gain, mood swings, headaches, dizziness, and more.
In some cases, serious complications such as heart disease, blindness and the need for amputations can arise in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Managing Type 2 diabetes with a healthy diet
Typically, management strategies for people with Type 2 diabetes include:
- Aiming to lose 5-10% of body weight
- Normalising blood glucose
- Reducing heart disease risk factors
Health professionals writing for the journal Australian Family Physician suggest these strategies can be achieved through a healthy diet with the following features:
- Controlling kilojoules – limit the amount of daily kilojoules consumed (the recommended daily energy intake for the average adult diet of 8700 kJ)
- Reducing fats – reducing or removing foods containing saturated fat, trans fat and sodium (eg anything processed or fried)
- Consuming a moderate amount of protein – protein can be found in lean red meats, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu
- Consuming a high amount of dietary fibre – fibre-rich foods include vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- Consuming low-glycaemic index (low GI) carbohydrates – soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, porridge and lentils
The authors also suggest carbohydrates should be spread evenly throughout the day if possible.
What else can I do?
In addition to eating a healthy diet, it’s also important to exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and reduce stress. Maintaining an active lifestyle that complements your healthy eating habits will help you to feel better and live longer.
Remember: if you or someone you know has Type 2 diabetes, or you feel you may be at risk, it’s important to see your doctor for a full consultation and diagnosis.