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The ABCDs of diabetes

Published:Wednesday | November 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Marsha N. Woolery, Healthy Eating & Diet

Growing up as a child, diabetes was an everyday affair for me because my mother was diagnosed with diabetes from she was age 12 years. Yet, she lived a productive life as a wife and mother. I remember all of us eating the same foods, watching her inject herself with insulin, going to the doctor and doing blood tests.

I lived diabetes as a child; hence, the passion.

Diabetes Mellitus is an illness that cannot be cured but can be prevented and managed with making lifestyle changes and following the ABCD and Es of Diabetes management.

A: is for the A1C test. This test measures the average blood sugar level for the past three months. This test is accurate because no amount of drinking cerassee or bush tea can change this result.

B: is for Blood Pressure. This is the force of blood against the walls of the blood vessels. Having diabetes increases the chances of developing high blood pressure, as these two illnesses are usually referred to as being 'relatives' - they usually walk together and keep each other's company.

C: is for Cholesterol. A type of fat that is found in the blood. Cholesterol is made by the liver in the body of humans and all animals. Eating foods from animals increase the risk of having high blood cholesterol and developing a stroke. Despite the belief, cholesterol is NOT found in plant foods such as ackee, pear/avocado, coconut oil/ milk or margarine.

D: is for the Diet - all foods and drinks that are taken into the body, whether as a meal or a snack. Most foods and drinks provide energy in the form of glucose for the body, excepting water. Persons with diabetes are allowed to eat all foods in moderation, but the recommended amount eaten depends on the medication(s), physical activity, weight, age, height, and if there are other illnesses.

E: is for Exercise. Exercise or physical activity in moderation can help to control diabetes and also can prevent or delay the development of diabetes. Exercising at least 30 minutes per day gets rid of excess fat on the body. Having less fat on the body allows the body to use the diabetes medication in a better way to reduce the blood-sugar levels. Getting rid of excess fat on the body will make the insulin that the pancreas makes control the sugar in the blood and prevent diabetes. Blood pressure can be controlled with exercise also. Exercise the way you like to and be consistent.

Tips for the 'D':

Eat a variety of foods from all food groups but in moderation. See a registered dietitian who can help you develop a meal plan based on the foods you like to eat. There is no such thing as a 'Diabetic Diet'.

Eat more peas and beans and less meat - chicken, goat meat and fish.

Eat whole grains such as 100 per cent whole wheat products, old-fashioned oats/rolled oats, unrefined/'rough' cornmeal, yam, potatoes (Irish and sweet), plantains, dasheen instead of refined foods. Unrefined foods have more fiber and fiber helps to lower blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Eat more fresh, whole fruits instead of juices. Eat a whole fruit such as a ripe banana, a guava, an orange, 4-6 ounces pineapple or watermelon or papaya with each meal and drink water.

Eat more vegetables, especially raw vegetables. Raw vegetables are higher in fiber than cooked vegetables. Do not overcook the vegetables that require cooking, such as callaloo and pumpkin.

Eat less fat. Remove the skin and visible fat from animal foods and bake, boil, steam, and stew instead of frying. Use lowfat or non-fat milk because whole milk is high in fat, and consuming more fat may cause the blood sugar to be more difficult to control.

Eat a variety of foods from all food groups everyday.

For the month of November, make a commitment to take the necessary steps to manage or prevent diabetes by practising the ABCD and E of diabetes management. I am committed, are you?

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay, and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com