Decoding Diabetes

Diabetes is this horrible buzzword that has been looming over America for years. It is thrown around and used in everyday conversation but does anyone really know what it means? Is it a death sentence? Is it a painful disease that requires constant pricks and pokes with a needle? Or is it disease that "they" get, and not something that can happen to you? Well, in the spirit of National Diabetes Awareness month, I would like to take some time and shed some light on this common disease, to debunk some of the myths and decode some of the medical jargon that surrounds this ominous word.

First of all why is diabetes so complicated?

Diabetes itself is not complicated, it is the treatment of diabetes that can sometimes get dicey. When most people are diagnosed with diabetes, it is not until they are hospitalized. It is within the two to three days that they are in the hospital recovering, that doctors, nurses and dietitians will be delivering information on the disease state and bring packets upon packets of information on what their diet will be for the rest of their life. Usually every meeting with a healthcare provider is about 15 minutes long (if you are lucky). That means you get about 45 minutes to talk with the experts on how to manage your disease, then you are off on your own to figure it out. This can lead to questions left unanswered and difficult barriers to cross.

Who needs diet education?

This is the great thing about the diabetes diet- everyone can do it! Everyone can benefit from this diet, whether you are a newly diagnosed patient, have had diabetes for years, or simply want a healthier lifestyle.

Bonus tip: Holidays are the perfect time to start a healthier lifestyle. The support of all of your friends and family is the key to success!

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is: a disease where sugar cannot move from your blood into your cells. This is because sugar requires insulin to enter into cells from the blood. In diabetes, the organ that produces insulin, the pancreas, is not working properly. The pancreas can work a little bit, and produce a small amount of insulin, or the pancreas can completely shut down and not produce insulin at all. In either case the result is the same, there is too much sugar in the blood, and not enough sugar going into the cells.

Think of it this way: you need a key to get inside your house. Without a key, there is no way for you to get inside. If the key manufacturer stopped making keys, there would be a lot of people in the street. You can imagine what sort of problems that would cause! It would be really crowded, it would take a long time to get to your destination trying to get through the mass amount of people, the ground would start to wear and tear due to so much foot traffic, and the houses would start to deteriorate over time because no one is inside to keep up maintenance.  

The same complications can happen in your body! There is too much sugar in your blood, so your blood starts to move slower and can get as thick as honey! This means it can be difficult for other nutrients that your blood carries, such as oxygen, to get to the far ends of your body, such as your fingers and toes. Poor circulation (lack of oxygen) can lead to cell suffocation/death. Your blood vessels can also start to wear and tear due to the unnatural amount of traffic in your blood. This is a risk for heart disease.

So I have diabetes and I realize that it can lead to many health complications. Now what?

You eat! Food is the best medicine for diabetes. If your body still produces some insulin then typically, eating the right foods at the right time will be enough treatment to prevent complications. If your body cannot produce enough insulin, then your doctor will prescribe you outside insulin that will help your body maintain a good amount of sugar in your blood with your new healthy lifestyle.

Food will help your body slowly release sugar into your blood. This will allow time for the small amount of insulin that your body produces, to be able to safely deliver sugar into your cells. In order for food to do this, it is UP TO YOU to eat the right foods at the right time.

Only three kinds of foods put sugar in your blood: Starches, Milk, Fruit. When you eat, your body thinks that it is starving, so it wants to dump all of the sugar (energy) you eat into your blood right away. Without enough insulin, your body cannot deliver all of that sugar into your cells, and so the sugar will simply sit there with no where to go. That leads to health complications, and that cannot happen. You want all of the sugar that you eat, to be slowly released into your body. To do that, you must eat sugar (starch, milk, fruit) with fat and protein. Fat and protein slow down digestion and forces your body to slowly release sugar into your blood instead of dumping it into your body all at once. A good way to look at this is through MyPlate:

Using MyPlate can help you see how well you release sugar into your blood. Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, while the other half should be of grains (starch) and protein. Dairy products can be added in the form of cheese, yogurt, milk and dairy free products such as almond milk.

Bonus tip: Low-fat and Fat-free milk are the best dairy products for a heart healthy lifestyle!

When snacking, think about pairing certain sugar foods with protein to slow down sugar released into your blood. Some of them you already know:

Apples with peanut butter

Cheese and crackers

Dried fruit and nuts

What else can you think of? Be as creative as you want!

Wait! I still have questions!

This is just to get you started. If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes, I strongly suggest that you attend one of your hospitals diabetes education classes. These classes will go into detail about carbohydrate counting, insulin and blood sugar.

No matter what stage you are in diabetes, there is always a class here at Market Street! Throughout the month of November, Market Street at locations in DFW will offer diabetes tours of the grocery store. Your dietitian will go into detail about what sugars to avoid, what sugars to consume and where sugar hides to help you treat your diabetes better! Click Here to check out our different tours and availability.

How Well Can You Decode Diabetes?


3.Organ that produces insulin
5.Goes well with crackers
9.What happens to cells when it takes oxygen too long to reach them
10.This drink contains sugar
1.Can help you see how well you are releasing sugar into your body
2.When sugar in the blood cannot enter into cells
4.Sugar cannot enter into cells without this
6.Diabetes can lead to this other kind of disease
7.Slows down the release of sugar in blood
8.How thick your blood can get without insulin

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