Be Proactive About Diabetes With Chia Seeds And Lentils
We have a diabetes pandemic on our hands. According to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 34.2 million people (10.5 percent of the U.S. population) have diabetes. This includes 26.9 people who have been diagnosed, and 7.3 million people who have not been diagnosed. In addition to this, 88 million people (aged 18 years and older) have prediabetes.
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
People of all ages can develop type 1 diabetes, however, it is more commonly diagnosed in children, teens and young adults. It is also less common than type 2.
“If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps blood sugar enter the cells in your body where it can be used for energy,” reports the CDC.
“Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into cells and builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and causes many of the symptoms and complications of diabetes.”
When I speak of the diabetes pandemic, I am mainly referring to type 2 diabetes (or as I like to call it ‘diet-related diabetes’).
“If you have type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin; this is called insulin resistance. Your pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond. Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, and your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes,” (CDC).
Although some medical professionals might say that genetics plays a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, I would argue that more than 95 percent of competent medical professionals would also agree that type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight or obese and having a sedentary lifestyle.
Studies have shown that consuming processed foods (which are very popular in the American diet) may increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes. Through their work researchers have also suggested that having a lot of belly fat (visceral fat) may increase the risk of fatty liver disease, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
According to one report, more than 73 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese!
Basically, it may start with an unhealthy weight which can lead to a whole host of problems: type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, hypertension and heart disease (which is the leading killer of both men and women in the U.S.).
This isn’t to say that people with leaner builds are not at risk for these issues. There have been plenty of cases in which people who are not considered obese or overweight develop issues such as type 2 diabetes. This is why a body composition test may be a better indicator of health than weight, but the following story also proves my point that type 2 diabetes can often be linked to diet (what we eat, afterall, does affect our blood sugar on a constant basis).
Ten years ago Sami Inkinen, a young, athletic and healthy-looking businessman, was surprised when his doctor diagnosed with him with type 2 diabetes.
“The culprit, he discovered, was his low-fat, high carbohydrate diet,” according to this Forbes report that discusses Inkinen’s journey.
Now, he is the CEO and founder of Virta Health, a company dedicated to type 2 diabetes reversal.
According to the University of Michigan (Michigan Medicine), “There is no known cure for type 2 diabetes. But it can be controlled. And in some cases, it goes into remission.”
“For some people, a diabetes-healthy lifestyle is enough to control their blood sugar levels. That means losing weight if you are overweight, eating healthy foods, and being more active. But most people with type 2 diabetes also need to take one or more medicines or insulin.”
Every person is different, and it really depends if you are in the earlier or later stages of type 2 diabetes. For example, someone who has had type 2 diabetes for 10 years as opposed to someone who has had it for just six months will most likely have a much more difficult time going into diabetes remission. Do not be discouraged about having to take medication. As always, take the medication your doctor prescribes, but also know that it is possible to get off medication by committing to a healthier lifestyle. With diabetes, you will have to be more diligent than the average person if you want to get off of medications.
In the case of Sam Inkinen, it was his diet that he had to address. He was following a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Carbohydrates are not bad (carbs are one of the six essential nutrients along with vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and water). However, “[w]hen people eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood,” (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).Diet is key.
Too much sugar in the blood on a constant basis is what may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. We also have to consider carbohydrate quality. A piece of cake, for example, is a high-carb food that is obviously less favorable to a slice of whole grain toast when it comes to type 2 diabetes.
Healthy fats, such as avocado and walnuts, can help slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. As mentioned, every person is different, but it makes sense that a high-carb, low-fat diet may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
And, a recent study found evidence which suggests that consuming chia seeds (a source of healthy fat, omega-3 fatty acids specifically) may be very effective in managing diabetes. The study involved diabetic rats who were given black or white chia seeds (black chia seeds are more widely available, but black and white chia seeds are overall the same and have the same benefits). The researchers found that both types of chia seeds were “...effective in reducing the levels of fasting blood glucose, improving lipid profile, and liver function, and therefore may be able to improve public health,” according to this study report.
“At baseline, the fasting blood glucose levels were not significantly different between the groups. However, after chia intake, the fasting blood glucose levels were significantly lower in both the black and white chia seed groups compared to the non-diabetic and diabetic control groups.”
This may have to do with the high soluble fiber content of chia seeds (along with them being a source of healthy fat).
“Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries,” (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).
(Check out this pH Labs blog about how lentils may also be great for diabetics).
Chia seeds are easy to incorporate into your daily diet. You can add them to smoothies, Greek yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, bake them into bread and healthy muffins and more. As always, speak with your doctor about what foods you are including in your diet, especially if you have any existing health issues, are pregnant or are breastfeeding.
Overall, there is so much we can do to help fight this diabetes pandemic. Move everyday, maintain a healthy weight, avoid a diet full of processed foods and focus on eating nutrient-rich, whole foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits and lean proteins. Fruit can be tricky if you are diabetic. This all has to do with whether a fruit is high glycemic or low glycemic. High glycemic foods may cause dangerous blood sugar spikes. Fruits such as blueberries are considered to be low glycemic, and pineapple is considered to be on the higher glycemic index scale. This isn’t to say you can’t have pineapple (which is a natural, nutrient-dense food), but you may have to eat it in low to moderate amounts depending on what your blood sugar level is. Check out this glycemic index food chart for some guidance. Always avoid canned fruits which usually have added sugar.
Be sure to get tested for type 2 diabetes. All it takes is a simple blood test. As mentioned earlier, millions of Americans have diabetes and prediabetes and don’t even know it. If caught early, it may be easier to take control of and put into remission.
Finally, I highly recommend taking routine nutrient tests in order to determine if you have any nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. When we are not nutritionally balanced, this may make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. And being overweight or obese may cause type 2 diabetes. If you discover that you are not nutritionally balanced, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
I also recommend taking a body composition test.
(Be sure to check out all of these prior pH Labs blogs on diabetes education, prevention and management).
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
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