To Your Health
March, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 03)
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What Can Be Done to Prevent Diabetes?

If the drug companies are to be believed, there are medications on the market to help you control your blood sugar. However, if the recent FDA alert about an increased risk of heart attack with one particular medication, Avandia, is any indication, drugs might not be the answer.

Fortunately, there are much easier and less dangerous ways to not only control diabetes if you have it, but actually prevent getting it in the first place. Both the CDC and the National Institutes of Health agree that there are two basic elements to this:

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Eat foods low in fat and reduce total caloric intake.

Small Goals Can Lead to Big Rewards

There are a number of things you can do to prevent diabetes. Individually, they may not seem like very much, but they can add up to a healthier lifestyle. If you try to make sudden, drastic changes, you won't stick with the plan for very long - just look at the lack of success with quick-loss, crash-diet programs as a perfect example.

First, set realistic goals. Tell yourself that you will work toward losing 7 percent of your body weight, for example. That may not seem like much, but if you do the math for someone who weighs 240 pounds, that's a 17-pound weight loss. Not quite so insubstantial, right?

Fuel Your Body the Right Way

Pay attention not only to the types of food you eat, but also the portions. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the following:

  • Eat a variety of fruits (2 cups per day for a 2,000 calorie diet) instead of just juice. You can have these fresh, frozen, dried or canned. An example would be: one small banana, one large orange and ¼ cup of dried apricots or peaches.
  • Make your veggies more colorful by adding dark green (broccoli, kale, spinach) and bright orange (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and other winter squashes). Also add more beans and peas to the mix (kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils).
  • Eat more calcium for healthy bones. The USDA recommends three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk per day. You can substitute the same amount of low-fat yogurt and/or low-fat cheese (1 ½ ounces of cheese is equal to one cup of milk). Try lactose-free milk if you have trouble digesting dairy products.
  • Focus on whole grains. Make them at least half of your total grain intake. Try to eat at least 3 ounces of whole grains per day. This is equal to one slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta.
  • Go lean with the protein. Opt for lean meats such as chicken or fish. Be sure to prepare it in a healthy manner, such as baking or broiling. Don't forget that nuts, beans and peas are also good sources of protein.