If you have prediabetes, you have company. An estimated 35 percent of adults over age 20 in the United States have been diagnosed with it. Your body is developing insulin resistance, which causes abnormally high blood sugar levels.
Are you wondering why you ended up with prediabetes? Genetics do play a role. If others in your family developed prediabetes or diabetes, you may be more prone to the condition. However, your lifestyle factors usually contribute to the diagnosis to a much greater degree than your genetics.
Statistically speaking, people who have prediabetes are at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes within a decade. But the good news is that you can significantly lower your risk factors. Getting diagnosed and treated early is key.
Food: Your new diabetes prevention strategy
Your food choices play a major role in whether your prediabetes is controlled or escalates into full-blown diabetes.
Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates
A diet filled with refined and processed carbohydrates that digest quickly causes high spikes in blood glucose. Refined carbohydrates quickly turn into sugar in your body. Avoid white potatoes, white rice, soda, sweet juice, and white bread. Strike them off of your grocery list.
Choose low-glycemic carbohydrates that are high in fiber
Using a new tool to help you choose carbohydrates can help you establish new carbohydrate habits. Look up the glycemic index (GI); it tells you which foods spike your blood sugar levels and which don’t.
The following carbohydrates rate low on the glycemic index, so they’re much better for you than refined and processed carbohydrates. Eat these in moderation:
- Oatmeal: Choose steel-cut, not instant
- Whole-wheat bread: Look for stone ground
- Vegetables with low starch content like carrots and greens
- Fruits with the skin you can eat
- Whole grains like quinoa and barley
- Sweet potatoes
- Pasta: Look for whole wheat
You may be used to instant oatmeal, white rice, and white pasta. Using new spices and sauces on your new food choices can enhance their taste. For instance, using cinnamon on your steel-cut oatmeal instead of refined sugar may help you to adjust to its new texture and taste, and using a delicious pesto sauce on your whole-wheat pasta makes it a delicious dish.
Adjust portion size
You may not realize how large your portions are, because, in the past 50 years, dinner plates have mushroomed in size. Plates were only 9 inches in diameter in the 1960s. Now many dinner plates are 12 inches or more. Partially because of plate size and the huge bowls that are used to serve food at restaurants, you’re likely eating more than your body requires to maintain your health.
Look for smaller dinner plates, or use salad plates as dinner plates to help you adjust food portions. Extra calories are stored as fat. If you’re overweight, you may have excess belly fat, which is associated with insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes.
You can order many portion-control tools to help you learn what a regular portion of cereal or pasta is. Cereal portion bowls, measuring cups, scales, and more are available online.
Keep hydrated: Drink water
If you choose soda or juice over water to quench your thirst, it’s time to make a change. A 12-ounce soda may have 45 grams of carbohydrates. That equals the amount of recommended carbs for an entire meal if you’re a woman with diabetes.
Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. One test: When you’re properly hydrated, your urine is pale yellow, not bright yellow.
Exercise: Get on the move!
Everyone needs regular exercise to maintain a healthy body. Our bodies are made to move. If you’re sedentary, you’re more likely to become insulin resistant. Being active helps your blood cells handle insulin efficiently.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends being active for at least 30 minutes five days a week. You can meet this guideline by simply going for walks during the week; 15 minutes at lunch and 15 minutes at a break and you’ve accomplished it!
Call or book an appointment with board-certified specialist Samuel I. Fink, MD, for your internal medicine health care needs.