Type 2 Facts
Q: Did I cause my diabetes by eating too much sugar?
A: Eating sugar doesn’t not directly cause diabetes but eating sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause spikes in insulin, which can lead to excess weight gain. Overweight and obese individuals are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There are many risk factors for developing diabetes such as family history, stress, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and age.
Q: Is there a cure for diabetes?
A: Not yet, but many researchers, including the ones at WSDC, are working on it!
Pre-diabetes often can be reversed with lifestyle changes in diet, activity, stress reduction and weight reduction of just 5%-10% of current weight. Type 2 diabetes can be treated and controlled also with lifestyle changes, with or without medications. Some researchers suggest type 2 diabetes can be reversed to the prediabetes stage if diagnosed and treated early. This is why annual A1C screening is so important. Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, requires taking insulin daily and incorporates a healthy lifestyle to control blood glucose levels. The good news is that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be treated and managed to decrease the risk of complications later in life.
Q: What food should I eat? What food should I avoid?
I read that I cannot eat carbohydrates anymore so what can I eat?
A: All foods are comprised of varying quantities of carbohydrate, protein and fat, each one having a different effect on blood sugar. Carbohydrates provide energy and are the main culprit of raising blood sugar. Common examples of carbohydrates are bread, pasta, rice, tortillas, crackers, noodles, fruit and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Eating these foods less often and in smaller quantities can help prevent spikes in blood sugar. Proteins have minimal impact on blood sugars as long as they are consumed in reasonable sized portions (3-6 ounce portion). Common proteins are chicken, fish, meat, eggs, peanut butter and cheese. Fats do not raise blood sugar significantly but can delay absorption of carbohydrate (via slowed gastric emptying) causing long, extended high blood sugars when over consumed. This is particularly common when both fats and carbohydrates are eating together in large quantities as in the case of dishes like pizza, Chinese food and Mexican entrees. Fats also can contribute to insulin not working well (insulin resistance). Common fats are butter, oil, avocado, nuts and bacon.
Q: Is a vegetarian diet better for diabetes than a Mediterranean diet?
A: How foods affect blood sugar is very individual. Research shows that people with type 2 diabetes can benefit from a diet that contains plenty of leafy green vegetables, fiber, lean protein (whether it be from plant and/or animal sources) small amounts of whole grains, healthy fats and low fat dairy products. All diets that focus on real foods, are primarily plant-based, have health benefits. This includes vegan, vegetarian and Mediterranean diets. What these diets have in common is that meat is not the primary focus of the meal, rather it is used as a condiment in small quantities or at special occasions.
Q: My mother was on insulin when she got older so does that mean I will have to take insulin when I get older?
A: DNA is not destiny. What this means is, even though diabetes is in your family genes, lifestyle and environment have a lot to do with how your diabetes will progress. The more you can maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, manage stress, mind the foods you eat and maintain blood sugars within normal range (with or without the help of medications) you better your odds of not needing insulin. However, in some cases, despite doing all of the above, some people need insulin to keep blood sugars within target range. This does not equate to failure. It just means the cells on your pancreas that produce insulin can no longer keep up, even though you’ve done all you can to help them out.
Q: I’m on medication now to control my blood sugar (glucose). Can I ever get off the pills/ insulin?
A: Maybe. There are many factors to consider. How long you have had diabetes is an important factor. The earlier you are diagnosed and begin lifestyle modifications, the better the chance you have of decreasing or avoiding medication. Another factor is body weight. Often losing weight, if you are overweight, can help your body use insulin better. Diet also plays an important role. Some research shows that eating a whole-food plant-based diet can also decrease the need for medications/insulin. Lastly, sustaining or building up muscle mass can help your body use insulin better. An important point to make here is that the goal in diabetes is to maintain normal blood sugars, be that with or without the assistance of medications/insulin. If blood sugars and A1C are too high, medications/insulin can get you to your goal and increase your chances of a long, healthy life, hopefully free of diabetic complications.