November may be a time for cooler weather and fall flavors, but it is also a time to highlight the epidemic of diabetes in our country. Diabetes Awareness Month reminds us that over 30 million Americans are living with the condition, both diagnosed and undiagnosed. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, the hormone needed to get glucose (sugars) into the cells. In type 2, the body does not use insulin properly. Working with a health care team, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, proper medication, physical activity and healthy eating all play a role in managing diabetes.
Carbohydrates can have a big impact on blood sugar but also are important in a healthy diet. Many foods contain carbohydrates, including fruits, whole grains/breads, starchy vegetables, dairy and sweets. The key is to balance these foods with other foods at meals and snacks. “The Dietary Guidelines recommends three servings of dairy each day for adults, and that is easily incorporated into a diabetic meal plan,” states Amanda Marsh, Registered Dietitian with St. Louis District Dairy Council. A good rule of thumb is to choose your carbohydrates by the company they keep. That means select whole grains for fiber, fruits for antioxidants and dairy for the nine essential nutrients they offer in each serving.
Physical activity is important in helping to manage blood sugars for those with diabetes. Regular activity can help lower blood sugar levels and improve how the body responds to insulin. Not sure where to begin? Find an exercise partner for accountability or try short 5-10 minute bouts of exercise throughout the day. Set small goals for increasing exercise and write them down. Check with your medical team before starting any exercise program more intense than just brisk walking.
A key component to controlling blood sugar levels is to always have a meal plan. Whether taking insulin or another medication, knowing your carbohydrate intake at meals and snacks is essential. Measure foods for accurate portion sizes, eat a variety of foods throughout the day, and avoid skipping meals. The dairy case is stocked with a variety of choices that fit in a diabetic meal plan. “Cheese is a low carbohydrate food that is perfect with meals or snacks, and the yogurt selection continues to expand,” notes Marsh. Be sure to check all food labels because carbohydrate amounts vary depending on the brand.
For more information on Diabetes Awareness Month, visit the American Diabetes Association’s website at www.diabetes.org. For dairy-rich recipes or additional information about the health benefits of dairy foods, visit www.stldairycouncil.org, call (314)835-9668, or e-mail email@example.com. To learn more about our local dairy promotion efforts in Illinois and Missouri, check us out on Facebook and Instagram at STLDairyCouncil.