About 3.0 million Canadians are living with diagnosed diabetes and an additional 1.5 million have diabetes and don't know it! Diabetes is a chronic disease affecting Canadians of all ages, and causing high blood sugar levels due to the body either not producing enough insulin, or not properly using the insulin it does produce.
If left uncontrolled, consistently high blood sugar levels can cause damage to organs, nerves, and blood vessels, and lead to serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, vision loss, kidney failure and amputation. Therefore, it is very important to keep blood sugar levels tightly regulated. Making healthy lifestyle choices like eating well, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight can play a major role in controlling and, more importantly, preventing the disease.
In fact, according to the International Diabetes Federation, over 50% of type 2 diabetes cases could have been prevented through early detection and healthy lifestyle choices. The following nutrition and lifestyle guidelines can help you get started.
• Eat three regular meals, spaced evenly apart, comprising nutrient-rich, whole foods.
• Eat a balanced breakfast within an hour of waking.
• Space your meals no more than 4-6 hours apart.
• You may benefit from the addition of small snacks throughout the day, especially if you go long stretches between meals.
• Include a combination of protein and unrefined carbohydrate at each meal and snack.
• Choose high-fibre, complex carbohydrates (limit sweets and simple carbs).
• Choose low glycemic index (GI) and low glycemic load (GL) carbohydrates most often.
• Limit your intake of saturated fat and avoid trans fats altogether.
• The bulk of your daily fat intake should be in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats.
• Try to consume fatty fish, such as salmon, twice each week, or take an omega-3 supplement.
• Consider opting for a vegetarian meal at least once or twice each week.
• Drink at least 8 cups of water per day and avoid juice, pop, and other sweetened beverages.
• Follow the “Plate Method” when serving your meals: fill 1/2 your plate with vegetables, 1/4 with lean protein, and 1/4 with complex carbohydrates.
• Aim for at least 5 servings of vegetables each day to help increase your fibre intake and maintain a healthy weight, as well as provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
• Exercise regularly - aim to get moving for at least 30 minutes each day or 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week (like walking, bicycling or jogging). Include both cardio and resistance training activities into your regular routine.
• Maintain a healthy weight – Diabetes Canada recommends people with pre-diabetes to lose just 5% of their initial body weight, as this can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. Click here to download our healthy eating guide.
• Get regular preventive health assessments - You could be one of the 1.5 million Canadians who has diabetes and doesn’t know it. According to Diabetes Canada, anyone over the age of 40 should be tested for diabetes every three years, and anyone presenting one or more risk factors should be tested earlier and more frequently. Risk factors include high blood pressure, being overweight, and having high levels of cholesterol. Click here to learn more about our preventive health assessments.
• Manage stress - When you’re stressed, your blood sugar levels go up. You may also forget to exercise and eat well. Find ways to relieve stress through activities like meditation, yoga, and seek professional advice if needed. Click here to join the 30-day mental health e-challenge.
Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of diabetes. At Medisys, our registered dietitians can help you adapt your diet to control and stabilize your diabetes, make wise choices while preserving the pleasure of eating.