November is National Diabetes Month, a month set aside to focus on this disease that affects the more than 34 million Americans who live with diabetes, both diagnosed and undiagnosed.
In all forms of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes), the body's ability to make or properly use insulin is affected. Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas, and it helps your cells store and use energy from food. If you have diabetes, glucose collects in the blood but doesn't get transported into the cells. Thus, your body is not getting the energy it needs. Also, the high levels of glucose circulate throughout the body, damaging cells along the way. Diabetes increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke and may lead to kidney, eye and nerve damage.
The good news? Diabetes is manageable. While changing eating habits can be challenging, eating the right foods -- fiber and consistent carbohydrates at each meal -- can make a huge difference in glucose management. The goal is to maintain healthy blood sugar levels through diet along with proper medication and physical activity.
Here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for those with diabetes and prediabetes.
-- Eat a variety of foods. Choose foods from each food group every day, and don't be afraid to try new foods.
-- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Fruit contains fiber, vitamins and minerals and can satisfy your sweet tooth. Include more non-starchy vegetables including leafy greens, asparagus, carrots and broccoli each day. Also, choose whole fruit more often and juice less often.
-- Choose healthy carbohydrates. Increase the amount of fiber you consume by eating at least half of all grains as whole-grain foods each day. Counting carbohydrates is a way to plan what and how much you can eat at meals and snacks to help keep blood sugar levels near normal.
-- Limit foods and drinks that are high in added sugars.
-- Eat less fat. Choose lean meats, poultry and fish whenever possible. Bake, broil, roast, grill, boil or steam foods instead of frying. Also, choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Try to eat less saturated fat and focus on healthy fat sources such as salmon, avocados, olive and canola oil, nuts and seeds.
-- Focus on fiber. Eating high-fiber foods can help keep blood sugar from rising too high too quickly after you eat. Good sources of fiber include beans, buckwheat, whole-wheat breads and cereals, brown rice, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables.
-- Avoid skipping meals. It's best to eat every three to four hours while awake and to try to eat the same amount of carbohydrates for meals and snacks at regular times throughout the day. Skipping meals can make you more hungry, moody and unable to focus. It can also result in overeating at the next meal.
-- Watch portions. One of the keys to good blood sugar control is watching how much you eat. You don't need to cut out carbohydrate-rich foods, but it is important to eat a balance of them spread evenly throughout the day. Check food labels and pay attention to portion sizes and carbohydrate content.
-- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight, even a few pounds, can make a big difference in helping bring blood sugars down.
Q and A
Q: Do I need to drink eight glasses of water a day?
A: While eight glasses is a simple number to follow, the recommendations on the amount of water you need in a day have changed and are now based on individual lifestyles. How much water we need depends on our size, body composition and activity level as well as the temperature and humidity of the environment. If you exercise often, live in a hot climate or are pregnant, you'll need to drink more water than you otherwise might. Check the color of your urine -- it should be light in color -- and ask yourself if you're thirsty. Those are good determinants of how hydrated you are. Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, headache and dark urine. Chronic dehydration can cause declines in alertness and ability to concentrate.
When you're not having turkey -- or thinking about fixing it -- here's an easy recipe for those busy days that provides a good source of vitamin D and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It's from Hy-Vee Seasons magazine.
HONEY-WALNUT CRUSTED SALMON AND BROCCOLINI
Nonstick cooking spray
4 (4-6 ounce) skinless salmon fillet portions
Fine sea salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces broccolini spears, trimmed
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly spray a large, rimmed pan with cooking spray. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Place salmon in center of pan. Tuck under thin edges of salmon, if necessary. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Combine walnuts, mustard, honey, 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon thyme in a small bowl. Spread mixture on top of salmon. Toss broccolini and bell pepper pieces with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Spread vegetables around salmon in pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in 425-degree oven until salmon reaches an internal temperature of 145 F and vegetables are crisp-tender. Garnish with additional thyme if desired. Serves 4.
Per serving: 580 calories; 30 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 44 grams fat (6 grams saturated); 60 milligrams cholesterol; 4 grams fiber; 12 grams sugar (9 grams added); 210 milligrams sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.