Type 2 diabetes is widespread and continuously growing, with over 100 million Americans living with diabetes or prediabetes. With type 2 diabetes, the body is not able to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar, and the glucose levels build up. If left unchecked, high blood sugar can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye problems, stroke, slow healing and foot problems.
It is well understood that type 2 diabetes is directly impacted by diet and lifestyle. Most immediately, diabetics know they need to keep their blood sugar under control by not eating foods that are high in sugar or will rapidly turn to sugar in their bloodstream. These would include processed grains, sugary desserts, fruit drink/juices and other highly processed foods.
It’s important to understand what leads to diabetes and what to do to reverse those processes in your body. At the root of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes is insulin resistance, where the sugar in the blood is not able to enter the cells as easily as they should, so you’re left with a back-up of glucose in the bloodstream. In order to try to keep up with that excess glucose, the pancreas has to keep producing more insulin.
There are a number of factors that contribute to insulin resistance, including inflammation, obesity and the buildup of fat around the belly and on major organs in the abdomen. The fat cells produce chemicals called cytokines that cause inflammation, which leads to insulin resistance. If you want to break the vicious cycle of inflammation and insulin resistance, it’s important to make changes to your lifestyle that include exercise as well as adopting a diet that will be anti-inflammatory as well as helping you lose excess weight.
Whole, plant-based, high fiber foods offer a wide range of health benefits. They are metabolized more slowly to avoid spikes in blood sugar. These include dark green leafy or cruciferous vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale. Antioxidant-rich foods help reduce inflammation and they include deep red, blue and purple foods like berries and purple cabbage as well as green tea and spices like turmeric and ginger. Instead of thinking you need to cut out all carbs, focus instead on unprocessed complex carbs like beans, peas and sweet potatoes instead of refined carbs like bread or white rice. Eat healthy fats from wild-caught fish like salmon or mackerel as well as olive oil, avocados, flax seeds and chia seeds. Nuts are an excellent source of non-meat protein as well as minerals.
Exercise and physical activity flood the body with anti-inflammatory chemicals as well as causing the cells in your body, especially muscle cells, to become more sensitive to insulin (decreasing insulin resistance). It also plays an important role in weight loss.
Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes involves adopting a lifestyle that includes eating the right foods, exercising regularly, reducing stress and getting plenty of sleep. This lifestyle promotes overall health and reduce your risk of disease.