Type 2 diabetes is on the rise all over the world. It is estimated that 1 million Australians have the disease, but unfortunately half of them are unaware of this fact.
Diabetes develops when the body cannot effectively use the insulin produced by the pancreas, or when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level. This means that glucose accumulates in the blood where it causes serious harm. If unchecked, eventually the blood vessels become damaged, leading to diseases of the heart, kidney and eyes.
There is plenty you can do to protect yourself from diabetes. It’s worth remembering that small changes can make a substantial difference to your future health. Here are 7 key steps to get you started.
Know the risk factors
While a healthy lifestyle goes a long way to prevent and manage diabetes, there are several risk factors to take into account that are beyond our control.
Your age – the older you are, the more likely your chances of becoming diabetic
Your background – many ethnic groups have a greater susceptibility, including people from an indigenous Australian, Asian or Chinese background
Your family history – if you have a parent or sibling who is diabetic, your risk increases
Your health in other areas – overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and individuals with prior cardiovascular disease are also at increased risk
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese is the single most important predictor of developing diabetes. Abdominal fat is especially dangerous. Men are at risk if their waist circumference is more than 102cm, and women if theirs is more than 88cm.
Being overweight is something we can control. If your BMI is high, aim to bring it down to closer to 25. A small weight loss of 10% can reduce your risk by as much as 50%. This is not just about having a beach-ready body, but making a serious investment in your health and quality of life.
Our Weight Loss program is designed for safe and effective weight loss and offers steady results. Simply go to My Profile if you wish to change your current program.
Upgrade to wholegrains
Make your diet as nutritious as you can so you stay well and healthy while losing weight. One easy way to do this is to swap processed carbs (white bread and rice, cakes and biscuits) for wholegrain carbs (grainy bread, brown rice and quinoa).
Wholegrains lead to a lower release of glucose and insulin while we digest them as it is more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose. They are also rich in protective micronutrients such as minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients.
A recent study shows that the simple act of replacing even some white rice with wholegrains leads to a lower risk of diabetes. Try our classic fried brown rice as a chewy, flavoursome alternative to its greasy takeaway relative.
Read more: How low GI carbs help you lose weight
Eat more plants
The plant kingdom abounds with many other nutritious goodies that protect from diabetes. Try a few of these:
Leafy greens such as spinach, cabbage, silverbeet and rocket are supercharged with folate and insoluble fibre. Our scrumptious Grilled tuna nicoise salad is fresh and satisfying.
Nuts are power-packed with protein, unsaturated fat and fibre, all of which serve to control blood sugar. They are high in calories, so we don’t recommend chomping your way through packets of roasted peanuts. But a sprinkling added to yogurt (as in our Fresh fruit salad with roast nut yogurt) or a stir-fry (as in our yummy Chicken and cashew stir-fry) adds valuable nutrition, not to mention crunch and taste.
Legumes and pulses such as chickpeas and lentils are a versatile addition to the diabetes-dodging pantry because they contain plenty of soluble fibre and resistant starch.
Soluble fibre forms a thick gel in the large intestine, which lowers blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Resistant starch is not digested at all, but passes through the gut, slowing the digestive process and keeping you nicely satisfied.
Our bacon, lentil and tomato soup is hearty and warming and our chickpea, feta and coriander tarts are irresistible and easy to make.
Inactivity contributes to diabetes
. On the other hand, working your muscles regularly through some kind of exertion improves their capacity to use insulin and absorb glucose.
Our Walk & Tone program is a great place to start with exercise that can be done at home. When you’re ready to rev up the pace, our Specialty program, Run Fit: 5km, will have you running continuously for 25 minutes by the time you complete it.
Go to the My Profile section to set up your diabetes-proofing, healthy-living plan. Your online diary is proven as an effective tool for tracking your progress.
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