Getting diagnosed with diabetes can be scary at first. What do you need to do? How does it affect your daily life? With the support of a dedicated medical team, you can learn what diabetes is, how to manage your symptoms through dietary changes, and continue to live an active, fruitful life.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease surrounded by so many misconceptions: you can get it from eating too much sugar; you won’t get diabetes if you’re an acceptable weight but will get it if you’re overweight; diabetes is your fault if you get it; only adults can get diabetes.
None of these things are true, and none of them fully grasp how diabetes works.
So, what is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition where your body doesn’t make insulin, doesn’t make enough insulin, or doesn’t use insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that moves glucose, or blood sugar, from your bloodstream to your cells to give them energy—and too much glucose in your bloodstream can cause serious health problems like vision loss, heart disease, and kidney disease.
There are three main types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune reaction, meaning the body’s immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic cells and therefore the body can’t make insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin every day. It’s generally diagnosed in children and young adults, and symptoms can appear quickly. Unfortunately, there’s no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make or use insulin well. This is the kind of diabetes people associate with the disease as it’s the most common type. While it can develop at any age, including childhood, it’s generally diagnosed among middle-aged and older people. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 can be delayed or prevented through healthy eating and exercise.
Gestational diabetes develops in some pregnant people who’ve never had diabetes. It usually goes away after the baby is born, but the baby may be at higher risk for health problems and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
As a special mention, we need to talk about a diabetes precursor condition called prediabetes. During prediabetes your blood sugar is higher than it should be but not high enough for an official type 2 diabetes diagnosis. The good news is prediabetes can be reversed through medical support and lifestyle changes.
When first diagnosed
You just got diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes.
Ideally, you’ll have or develop a medical team to help walk you through managing (or in the case of prediabetes, reversing) your symptoms, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, registered dietitians, and more. You’ll learn how to monitor your blood sugar, use insulin if necessary, accommodate life changes, and mitigate health risks.
Specialist diabetes educators will teach you that there are many aspects to self-care in the face of diabetes and prediabetes, such as developing healthy coping mechanisms and social support systems to manage stress, exercising regularly, and taking any necessary medications.
One of the major ways you’ll learn to manage your symptoms is developing new eating habits.
Starting new dietary changes
Learning to monitor your body and your eating habits can be intimidating. It’s okay!
Working with your medical team, such as doctors, educators, or dietitians, can help you get started on your journey. In the beginning they’ll probably have you log or track the foods you eat every day, plus measure your blood glucose to see how those foods affect your body. Diabetes educators and registered dietitians can also teach you how to count carbohydrates, the main type of nutrient in food that provides glucose for your body, and how to read nutrition labels properly to calculate your carbohydrates.
Once you and your doctor have documented some trends, you can start changing your habits as desired and set realistic goals.
For example, let’s say you enjoy hot coffee in the morning or some black tea for an afternoon pick-me-up. You notice every time you drink your coffee or tea, you add some cane sugar to sweeten. Maybe you want to lower your sugar intake to better control your blood glucose, so you start replacing the cane sugar with Stevita Naturals Supreme with Xylitol packets. Since stevia is a natural sweetener with no calories or carbohydrates, you can use it without worrying about a spike in your blood glucose levels.
By learning about different kinds of foods and how they affect your body, you are arming yourself with the ability to decide what foods and management methods work best for you and your lifestyle.
Carbohydrates: the big deal in your diet
For folks with diabetes and prediabetes, the types and portions of foods you eat on a daily basis are key.
If you are prediabetes, the dietary and lifestyle decisions you make can even reverse your condition.
The main type of food you’ll learn about is carbohydrates, which is one of the main food nutrients besides protein and fat. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, and appear in the form of starches, dietary fibers, and sugars. They include grains like wheat and rice, certain vegetables such as potatoes, beans and legumes, many fruits, and some dairy products that contain a milk sugar called lactose. Sweeteners like cane sugar, honey, and maple syrup also fall under the carbohydrate label.
Lots of the foods we love to eat are carbohydrates! This can be a good or bad thing depending on your diabetes or prediabetes condition.
With prediabetes, you might be more focused on keeping your blood sugar down. Some strategies for this include cooking with whole grains, which release glucose into the blood more slowly, and reducing the amount of sugar you use in your baking. But what if you still want a chocolate baked treat? Try using Stevita Naturals Cocoa Delight, a perfect blend of cocoa powder and the natural sweetener stevia. With no sugar or fillers and few carbohydrates, you can keep your carb count down and still enjoy delicious chocolate flavored goodies.
Diabetes is a little more tricky. While you want to keep your blood sugar from getting too high, or hyperglycemic, you also need to keep your blood sugar from becoming too low, or hypoglycemic, especially if you have type 1 diabetes. Changing the types of carbohydrates and their portion sizes you consume will definitely help, but if your blood sugar drops too low you’ll need to keep fast-acting carbohydrates on hand. The general rule is to have 15 grams of carbs, such as 4 ounces of fruit juice or a tablespoon of sugar or honey, and then check to see if your blood glucose has risen to adequate levels after 15 minutes.
Always make sure to talk to your doctor, dietitian, or diabetes educator about how to measure your blood glucose and put together a meal plan that works for you.
After all, there’s foods to eat other than carbohydrates!
Other foods to eat for prediabetes and diabetes
While carbohydrates may be a big deal, they’re not the only deal in town.
There’s lots of other foods you’re encouraged to eat to both manage symptoms and maintain a healthy, active life.
- Don’t forget non-starchy vegetables. There are vegetables out there other than potatoes! Leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower and broccoli, green beans—don’t be afraid to try new veggies and expand your palate, keeping in mind vegetable carbohydrate levels.
- Try to keep your proteins lean. Lean proteins have lower levels of fat and include fish and skinless poultry, eggs, and soy foods like tofu. Some lean red meat is okay too.
- Plant-based fats are the better choice. Plant-based oils like sunflower or olive oil contain plenty of healthy fats, and who can forget avocados? Nuts and seeds also make great snacks and sources of protein too.
As a reminder, you can still eat carbohydrates! Carbohydrates like whole fruit are still very good for you. And if you’re one of those people that likes sweetening your out of season fruit with sugar, consider instead sprinkling them with some Stevita Naturals Simply Stevia. No sugars, no carbs, no calories, and you still get that intense fruity flavor you love.
Above all, your diet will be a unique reflection of you and your needs.
Getting diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes and having to make sudden life changes is daunting. With proper support from your doctor and a medical team, you can learn how to incorporate a well-rounded diet that includes carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and dairy, and healthy fats. Stevita Naturals can also help manage your blood sugar so you can continue living a high quality of life.
After all, life doesn’t end at diabetes.