What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition caused by an excessively high level of sugar in the blood. (This specific type of sugar is called glucose.)
When you eat sugar or starch, your body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose serves as the basic fuel for the cells in your body. In order to use the energy created by glucose, your body uses a hormone called insulin. Insulin carries glucose to other cells in the body. If your body does not produce enough insulin or if it cannot use insulin properly, it creates a buildup of glucose in the blood stream.
When glucose builds up in your blood instead of powering your cells, you get diabetes, which can lead to damage in many parts of the body including the heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
While the exact causes of type 1 diabetes are unknown, there are many risk factors related to type 2 diabetes including:
- A poor diet (eating an excessive amount of high-fat and high-sugar foods including fried foods, candies, baked goods, and processed snacks)
- Being above age 45
- An inactive lifestyle
- Having an immediate relative with diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Low HDL cholesterol
- History of cardiovascular disease
- Family history of diabetes
When someone has raised blood sugar levels but is not yet diabetic, they are known as prediabetic. Prediabetes is reversible through a healthy diet and increased exercise.
Many people with type 2 diabetes may not experience any symptoms, but this doesn’t mean the disease is any less dangerous. If you have any of the risk factors above or are experiencing any of the symptoms below, you should ask your GP for a diabetes test. If you are obese or overweight and have one of the following risk factors above, you should also be tested. Common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Increased urination, especially at night
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Sores or infections that do not heal or are slow to heal
If you’d like to find out how at risk you are, go to riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/start to take the 3 minute test.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease but is both preventable and manageable. There are two main ways to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes:
- Losing weight through healthy eating
- Becoming more physically active
Healthy eating is an important part of any lifestyle change, but it’s especially important for those who have or at risk of type 2 diabetes. Beginning a healthy lifestyle can be overwhelming but here are a few quick tips to get you started:
Eat more fruits and veggies
We all know we should eat more fruits and veggies, but doing it is the hard part. These nutrient-dense foods are naturally low in calories and are packed with good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Experiment with different varieties and cooking techniques until you find the right ones for you. Need some ideas? Try these:
- Add a cup of berries to your breakfast
- Top a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter and a sliced banana
- Dip carrots, celery sticks, broccoli, and cauliflower in hummus
- Saute spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, or squash in olive oil and garlic
Make the switch to whole grains
Most carb-rich foods (bread, pasta, and rice) come in many varieties including white, wheat, honey-wheat, and whole grain. Of these varieties, whole grains are the most nutritious and the most filling. Whole grains are made using the entire grain which contains essential vitamins and minerals and takes longer for your body to burn off (meaning it’ll take longer for you to get hungry again). When possible, opt for whole grains.
Get your lean protein fix
Lean proteins are a great way to get energy-filled food that will fuel your body throughout the day and keep you full between meals. Lean proteins include chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, and beans. Try to cut down on red meats and high-fat foods and replace with protein-rich foods. Try these ideas:
Grill chicken or fish and serve with a helping of vegetables
Use a whole wheat tortilla to make a black bean burrito filled with veggies
Scramble eggs for breakfast and eat with a piece of whole grain toast
Switch to low-fat dairy
If you love milk and cheese, that’s OK! Dairy can be a part of a heart-healthy diet. But try to reduce your intake to one or two servings per day.
Reduce foods high in fat and sugar
Occasional treats are part of a balanced diet. At Noom, we believe that nothing is off limits! But treats should be eaten in moderation. Try to reduce fried foods, baked goods, and desserts. These foods are high in fat and sugar and can be detrimental to your health.
For even more guidance on how to make healthy food choices, download Noom for iPhone or Android.