The diabetes is a chronic disease that results in the increase of the concentration of sugars in the blood and is caused by a defect in the production of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that plays a fundamental role in the metabolism of sugars. When the organism fails to produce it correctly, an imbalance occurs that leads to hyperglycemia, which is an excess of glucose in the blood.
Although there is currently no definitive cure, those suffering from diabetes can lead a normal life and minimize the consequences of the disease, respecting the rules and advice of the doctor and taking special care of some aspects of his lifestyle. The balance in nutrition and control of the sugars taken, constant physical activity and glycemic monitoring are strategies for living well.
1. The different types of diabetes
According to the ‘ International Diabetes Federation in the world, there are 300 million people with diabetes and the most affected age group is between 40 and 59 years old.
There is no single type of diabetes; there is the insipid and the mellitus, different for causes and symptoms.
The diabetes insipidus is the rarest and linked to hormonal alteration that causes excessive urination (relatively constant thirst).
The diabetes mellitus instead is the most common and differentiated into three types – type 1, type 2 and gestational -: in all cases, there is an increase in blood glucose, the blood sugar that becomes increasingly high. The causes of all forms of diabetes are a genetic predisposition, overweight and (rarer) prolonged drug intake.
The type 1, or juvenile diabetes, affects children and adolescents and is an autoimmune disease because the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells and reduces. The level of insulin is therefore never sufficient and the disease is irreversible.
The type 2it is the most common, affecting after age 40 and especially overweight people. It can ‘act’ in two ways, such as insulin resistance (when insulin does not work well) or as a secretion deficit (when insulin is produced insufficiently).
The gestational occurs precisely during pregnancy when some substances promote the increase in blood sugar and generally disappears after the birth of the child without consequences (if not a possible predisposition to the disease).
2. Nutrition and diabetes
Once the diet with strict exclusion of sugars was considered the only solution to control diabetes. Today, after so many studies, we know that we need rules, not (only) sacrifices. First of all the regularity of meals, so as not to ‘bust’ the dose of insulin-related: never skip one, especially if you take the insulin before eating, so as to avoid glycemic peaks.
As explained by Dr. Luca Piretta , nutritionist physician of SISA (Italian Society of Food Science), “the recent scientific knowledge and in particular those related to nutrigenomics, or the science that studies how food can affect the response of our genes, they have allowed us to understand how some foods can intervene to improve cellular functioning and in particular, as regards diabetes, stimulate some important enzymes in the regulation of blood glucose “.
For example, it is important to insert the fibers in the diet every day, if not at every meal, because without fiber the foods containing sugars and starches are absorbed faster by the body. On the contrary, the fibers lead to a slower absorption of sugars and consequently, the blood sugar remains under control. The fibers are found in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, especially the water-soluble ones that are an important weapon against diabetes. Apples, oranges, chicory, artichokes, garlic, and onion are particularly rich in fibers useful for the cause, to never be missed during the day.
Another significant variable is the control of sugars in the meal. For example, ice cream and sugary fruit should not be eliminated but preferably eaten at the end of lunch or dinner rather than as a snack. In fact, before the main meal, the therapy is administered to the patient, so too much sugar can be managed better than an out-of-body meal where the excess sugar is more difficult to manage. Unless they are fruits that contain few sugars and many fibers, such as oranges, apples, pears, strawberries, and peaches, which can also be consumed as a snack.
Obviously, you must always respect the balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and calories suitable for your body. Alternating sugary foods is the best way to live without too many restrictions at the table, eating a little of everything even if you are diabetic.
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And it is also useful to resort to small tricks like eating vegetables before meals, not (only) as a side dish, because in this way they lower the glycemic index, especially if they precede rice or pasta. The asparagus for example, but also the artichokes and chicory, all rich in fiber and important for the prevention and control of diabetes mellitus type2.
“According to some studies,” specifies Piretta, “dairy products and in particular goat’s cheese or cheeses from alpine pasture ruminants (fontina, asiago) seem to be very useful in improving glycemia thanks to the high content of so-called conjugated fatty acids. The latter is still preliminary data on humans because we must be cautious given the high caloric value of these products “.
3.The glycemic index of foods
The glycemic index of foods indicates how and how much glycemia rises after taking a food. It is a value that varies greatly among the various foods because the same amount of glucose present in two different foods can arrive differently at the body. For example, rice and pasta contain more or less the same sugars, but the starches of rice grains are absorbed more easily and the glycemic index rises.
In whole grains, however, the glycemic index is always lower than that of refined cereals, without distinction between pasta and rice, because a part of the sugars remains tied to the fibers that are not absorbed.
There are also factors that intervene on the glycemic index, altering it to a greater or lesser extent, such as cooking: ” the pasta cooked al dente – explains Luca Piretta – disposes of the sugars much slower, so it has a lower glycemic index compared to that sheet “.
Knowing the glycemic index of a food is therefore particularly important for those suffering from diabetes, even for not having nasty surprises with some seemingly harmless foods: baked potatoes (135), carrots (135), honey (126), polenta and potatoes boiled (105), ripe bananas (90).
4. Diabetes: the guide to building your daily menu
In the above table are proposals to compose your daily diet if you have diabetes: 3 Ideas for breakfast, 3 lunch, 3 dinners, 3 for snacks in the morning and 3 in the afternoon snacks, which you can use to build balanced menus. For each meal, choose one of the 3 alternatives proposed: you can combine them as you like, making sure not to repeat the same foods from one meal to another.
The indicated quantities are rough and can be changed in case of specific needs related to an overweight condition or depending on your age and your lifestyle. Of some foods, for example, vegetables, we have not indicated the weights, while others, such as pasta or bread, so it is important to pay attention to the quantities, we have included them.
5. Sport and diabetes
The sport is an important ally to reduce blood sugar and improve overall health.
Not just extreme sports, but also a simple walk and any kind of movement that involves an energy waste. In fact, energy is ‘taken’ by fat and glucose, as evidence of the fact that muscle activities lower blood sugar. And not only that, it also improves insulin resistance, with the benefit for those who have difficulty treating themselves with insulin.
Therefore, it is ideal for everyone to do aerobic exercise or walk quickly, if possible, in order to burn sugars and fats as much as possible.
It is essential, however, before the physical effort, to check the blood sugar, to avoid adverse side effects such as the excessive lowering of glucose levels. In this case, it is sufficient to organize oneself with insulin and with food, assuming something sweet after the sport.
Constancy is fundamental. Better to practice physical activity every day, after a careful assessment of the amount of insulin needed to ‘endure it’. And eat foods with rapid absorption glucose, such as banana or fruit juice for example. Those with low absorption risk causing or aggravating hypoglycemia.
The blood glucose monitoring is essential to avoid complications and metabolic abnormalities, such as hypoglycemia. To assess whether there is a balanced relationship between the amount of insulin, nutrition, and physical activity, the key is to check the rate of glucose in the blood: checking the level of sugar in the blood becomes a daily routine that saves and improves life.
And doing it is easy with a glycemic meter that makes blood sugar control fast, practical and bearable. A few seconds between execution and response, alert on variations, reminders, and delicacy: these are the strengths of an instrument aimed at making monitoring as painless and functional as possible. Pen and glucometer needles targeted to the specific needs of people who take each day.