Lifestyle factors affecting blood sugar
Diabetes is a complex metabolic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is multifaceted and characterised by a collection of metabolic diseases in which an individual has high levels of blood glucose over an extended period of time. This can further result in the onset of other conditions, including heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is early-onset (30 years or younger) and is typically associated with inherited gene mutations, while type 2 diabetes is late-onset. Type 2 diabetes, in particular, is a major non-communicable disease with increasing prevalence globally.
The good news is - lifestyle factors can greatly influence diabetes, and they are modifiable. Here are some evidence-based tips on how to manage and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Introduce more low GI plants to your diet
Diet and nutrition plays a significant role in the maintenance of blood sugar levels on a daily basis. Evidence repeatedly shows that a diet high in fruit and vegetables with low glycemic index (GI) can lead to a reduction of blood glucose levels.
Fruit and vegetables contain a myriad of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (beneficial plant compounds) that can have a positive impact on blood sugar levels. Dietary fibre, in particular, has shown to be an important factor in diabetes management. Studies show that a high-fibre diet results in improvements in blood sugar control, blood lipids, body weight, and inflammation, as well as a reduction in premature mortality, regardless of the type of diabetes.
In spite of its complexity, diabetes can be managed and even reversed with the very action that you take 3 times a day - eating. Choosing to consume lots of fruit and vegetables within a supervised meal plan can be highly beneficial. Green bananas and sweet potatoes are great examples of low GI fruit and vegetable that have a blood glucose lowering effect, when eaten in moderation. Moringa leaves also demonstrated benefits on blood sugar control due to the presence of antioxidants like quercetin, chlorogenic acid, alkaloids, tannins, ITCs, and B-sitosterol. Dhow offers all three of these - in the form of organic green banana flour, sweet potato flour and moringa powder.
Make exercise a part of your routine
Physical exercise is one the most powerful factors affecting diabetes and its treatment. It is considered an important part of the diabetes management plan and should be carefully supervised to avoid hypoglycemia (too low blood sugar levels).
Physical activity has been shown to improve blood glucose control, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, contribute to weight loss, and improve well-being. However, the effects are more visible in people with Type 2 diabetes compared to Type 1.
It is recommended that adults with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes engage in 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week, spread over at least 3 days a week, with no more than 2 consecutive days without activity. It is also important that an individual engage in 2 to 3 sessions of resistance exercise each week.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products
In addition to adding more low GI fruit and vegetables and exercise to one’s diet, it is also recommended that individuals with diabetes limit the intake of alcohol and cigarette smoking.
While moderate alcohol consumption does not have detrimental effects on long-term blood sugar control, it can compromise the immune system and the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. Excessive intake of alcohol can also increase one’s risk of diabetes-related complications.
Similarly, the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products can negatively impact certain metabolic parameters and cause diabetes complications. Studies of individuals with diabetes consistently demonstrate that smokers (as well as secondhand smokers) have a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, premature death, and microvascular complications.
Given the complex nature of diabetes, if you live with or care for someone with diabetes, it is important to seek medical help and support, establish a treatment plan and perhaps join a diabetes self-management education program to achieve better clinical outcomes.
Dhow X Soulsfood Nutrition
Thimpika Sachdej, a qualified & registered nutritionist, founded and currently runs Soulsfood Nutrition (@soulsfood_nutrition). A great solution for translating scientific evidence regarding health & nutrition into daily, achievable steps to practice at the comfort of your own home. Soulsfood mainly focuses on the benefits of whole foods and a plant based diet.