Written by Vera Coetsee, Health and Nutrition Coach
3 Nov 2022
This week we celebrated World Diabetes Day, with the aim to bring more awareness to this often unspoken global health issue. Did you know that in 2021, 537 million adults (1 in 10) were living with diabetes and this number is expected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045. According to the World Health Organisation, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in countries all over the world, which increases the need for more healthcare professionals to address this illness.
What exactly is diabetes and how can we prevent this disease from developing? Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. The good news is that diabetes is preventable by incorporating the right diet and lifestyle habits into your life.
The first warning sign that can sometimes be a precursor of diabetes, is if you experience blood sugar imbalances, also known as dysglycemia. When dysglycemia is present, your blood sugar levels rise abruptly following ingestion of refined carbohydrates leading to a surge of energy, only to drop abruptly a few hours later, leaving a feeling of tiredness and irritability. So if you find yourself feeling tired and fatigued after meals, then you might be experiencing blood sugar imbalances. Other key symptoms you can look out for are mood swings, craving for sweets, feeling thirsty all the time and frequent headaches.
Now let’s get into natural ways to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Remove refined sugar and carbohydrates from your diet
The golden rule to maintain a healthy blood sugar level is to remove all refined sugar and carbohydrates from your diet. This might sound like an impossible task, especially when you feel like you need that afternoon pastry or cola drink to keep you awake at work. Just try this for a week, and you will be surprised to see how quickly your energy levels stabilise. Before you know it, you won’t be craving those sugary snacks anymore.
Although sugar is loved by all around the world, more research is confirming that sugar should be avoided as much as possible. Sugar has many hidden side effects that can negatively impact your health, such as being linked to heart disease, causing problems with your cholesterol levels, having addictive qualities, and messing with your appetite control. Be also aware that sugar is hidden in most processed products, so make sure to read the label before buying any packaged goods. Instead, replace those sugary snacks with foods that taste sweet, but contain a low glycemic load such as apples with nut butter, berries and plain yogurt or pears with goats cheese. Adding one teaspoon of cinnamon to your diet every day has also been shown to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Add protein and fibre to each meal and snack
Eating more frequently and ensuring adequate protein with each meal will help to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream, which will help to avoid spikes in your energy levels. Clean protein sources include organic chicken, cage-free organic eggs, lentils, quinoa, almonds, chia seeds and wild caught fish. Another tip is to avoid eating fruits on an empty stomach. Instead, add protein with your daily fruit to avoid spikes in your blood sugar. The sugar in fruits can easily be absorbed, which can raise blood glucose levels, so remember to add a good quality protein source such as nut butter with an apple and greek yogurt with your berries.
Consuming a good fibre source in each meal can help prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Fibre-rich foods also have a lower glycemic index and are essential for weight management, which is also an important factor in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Good sources of fibre include legumes, oat bran, seeds, pears, apples and most vegetables.
Incorporate more movement in your day
Human beings are meant to move, but unfortunately we have become more static over time due to our lifestyle trends. Exercise is essential and should be a part of everyone’s daily routine. It alleviates stress, helps you lose weight, lower your blood sugar, and boost your sensitivity to insulin, which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Movement doesn’t have to mean devoting hours to the gym. You can introduce more movement into activities that are already part of your daily life, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or replacing your coffee break with a walking break. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of movement into your day, and you will be surprised at the positive effect it will have on your energy levels, and also your mood and mental health.
Supplement with Chromium
Chromium is a mineral, which works with insulin in facilitating the uptake of glucose into cells. It reduces the requirement for insulin release, increases insulin sensitivity, and lowers blood glucose levels. Having very strong sugar cravings throughout the day, might be a possible sign of chromium deficiency. Natural food sources of chromium include organic meat, shellfish, clams, brewer’s yeast and whole grains. Avoid white processed flour, which is stripped of chromium and replace it with whole grains. If you prefer to supplement with chromium, then we recommend taking it as part of a mineral complex or daily multivitamin. Note that only a small quantity is required, so it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider before adding chromium to your supplement list.
See your doctor for a check-up
Do you think that you might need help maintaining a healthy blood sugar level? We recommend you to schedule an appointment at our clinic for comprehensive health screening to test your metabolic markers, which include glucose and insulin levels. Our doctor will be able to determine the root cause of your symptoms, and provide you with the right protocol to stabilise your blood sugar levels. This will help to prevent the development of diabetes in the future.