Diabetes is a complex disease that millions of Canadians struggle with. In Alberta alone, there are 1 million people suffering from diabetes and prediabetes. With so many people affected, it is easy to create generalizations about what a group of people go through, even though everyone manages their diabetes in different ways.
Because of this, we want to do debunk some common and not so common myths about diabetes.
Currently, there is no cure for diabetes . Insulin is only a maintenance tool that helps regulate and control diabetes. Insulin injections—which keep blood glucose levels in check—act as a substitute for individuals who cannot produce insulin on their own or are insulin intolerant.
You are at an increased risk for type 1 diabetes [CJ1] if you have a parent or sibling who has diabetes because type 1 is genetic—a predisposition pattern is passed down through families, although the inheritance pattern is unknown. Weight and age factors do contribute to your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. However, you are also at risk of type 2 diabetes with any of the following factors: a family member has diabetes, you are part of a high risk group (Hispanic, Native American, South Asian, Asian, or of African descent), or if you have high blood pressure, to name a few.
Many people don’t realize that type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas; it isn’t caused by poor diet or lack of exercise. Type 1 diabetes is believed to be genetic or brought about through exposure to certain viruses. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly use the insulin that is released or when the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Although weight and age do contribute to your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, there are other factors, including diabetes history in your family, descendency (Hispanic, Native American, South Asian, Asian, and African descents have a higher risk), and blood pressure, to name a few.
A diabetic’s recommended diet is not all that different than one recommended for a non-diabetic. People living with diabetes can still have sugary foods, carbs, and starches; however, it is important to look at how much of these foods you should consume—as a diabetic or non-diabetic. People with diabetes are recommended to have no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake come from sugar, while a person without diabetes may have up to 25% .
The most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. But did you know there is a third type called gestational diabetes ? This happens temporarily during pregnancy and increases both the mother’s and the child’s risk of developing diabetes (2% to 4% of pregnancies by non-aboriginal women experience gestational diabetes). There is prediabetes, which occurs when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Diabetes UK even suggests that there are 12 forms of diabetes!
Diabetes and denial: there’s more to diabetes than just it just being a physical affliction. There is no denying the mental health issues that diabetes can cause.
Constantly dealing with diabetes management, stressing over blood glucose levels, and worrying about the many complications that diabetes brings (such as heart attacks, blindness, and kidney disease) can also have a significant impact on a person’s mental health.
People struggling with diabetes are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. 30% of Canadians living with diabetes were affected by depression, and 10% experienced major depression. Poor mental health can have a snowball effect on your physical health. Just imagine how much harder it can be to work at getting your health in order when you are feeling depressed on top of your physical symptoms.
There is no one sure way to know if you have diabetes. It can mask itself under a variety of common sickly symptoms like fatigue, unusual thirst, or weight change. Look for symptoms such as tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision, or cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, as these may be more specific to diagnosing diabetes.
While there are symptoms , there are individuals who display no signs of type 2 diabetes , which makes annual health checks and blood-work a good habit.
So you’ve been recently diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. It can be a scary and confusing time, with lots of information to take in. Of course, many people are afraid of what that means for their eating. Am I doomed to a life free of dining delights, you may wonder.
While it’s no surprise diet is of the essence, diabetes isn’t a life sentence of bland food. Truth is, a healthy eating plan for diabetes is a healthy eating plan for everyone. And it doesn’t mean a lifetime of choosing cardboard over carbonara and never enjoying another meal again.
By following a simple recipe at each meal and snack you can enjoy delicious, nourishing food while still managing your blood sugars.
All you have to do is toss in the right ingredients, whip them up with the proper amounts, add a pinch of good timing and season to taste.
Step One: Ingredients
This may take just a dash of patience, but bear with me—and trust me when I say there are no secret ingredients. All you need is real, wholesome foods like fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. Just eat and repeat.
Eating nutritious whole foods at every meal will go a long way in ensuring you get the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Don’t forget, all these foods come with a generous side of vitamins, minerals and fibre!
Step Two: Portions
There are a few different steps to this, but I promise it’s as easy as 1,2,3. How much of each ingredient may vary depending on your age, gender and activity level. But in general, there are two ways to be sure the recipe can’t be beat.
1. Plate method
Using a 9-inch plate, fill half your plate with vegetables, fill one quarter with meat or another protein and finish it off with a whole grain or fibre-rich starch. Bon appetit! Feel free to add a small piece of fruit and a small glass of milk into the mix, depending on appetite.
2. Portion it yourself
Sometimes the best solution is right in the palm of your hands; other times, the best solution is your hands. Here are a couple good rules of thumb that will have you eating well-portioned meals in a pinch:
Step Three: Timing
It’s not as simple as setting a timer, but eating regularly during the day helps stabilize your blood sugars, helping you rise to any occasion. It also prevents overeating by managing your hunger.
You’ve heard the advice before, but it’s as simple as this: Eat three meals a day at regular times and space them no more than six hours apart. Make sure to eat breakfast every day and include 1 – 2 small snacks as needed.
Step Four: Season to Taste
Just like any good recipe, this one also leaves room for a pinch of your favourite flavours. While it’s important to watch added sugar, salt and fat, that doesn’t mean they’re completely off the table. Just save them for special occasions, be sure to monitor your portions and savour every last bite.
As you can see, healthy eating for diabetes is a healthy way of eating for everyone. You don’t need separate meals or special “diabetic” foods. All you need is a healthy appetite for fresh, wholesome ingredients and of course, a recipe for success.
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It’s no surprise that Albertans go cuckoo over chicken. Not only is it a healthy protein source; it’s also delicious, versatile and easy to prepare. Since September has been hailed as National Chicken Month , it seems like the perfect time to sing the praises of this popular poultry.
The Inside (S)coop
If you’re looking for a high-quality lean protein, the bird’s the word. One serving (75 g or 3.5 oz) of roasted, skinless chicken breast clucks in at about 124 calories, 3g total fat and 1g saturated fat ( 1 ).
And that lean serving is also packed with protein, dishing up 23 g per serving! Protein is key to helping you feel full longer after eating, which helps stave off hunger and prevent overeating. A protein-rich diet also helps slow age-related muscle loss and maintain healthy bones.
Chicken also rules the roost when it comes to iron, B-vitamins, bone-building phosphorus and immunity boosting selenium and zinc. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for infections, so it’s extra important to keep the immune system strong.
No Paltry Poultry
Do you feel like chicken tonight? If so, you’re in (c)luck! There are as many ways to eat chicken as there are hens in the henhouse. Don’t be afraid to wing it. Just make sure you always remove the skin and choose healthy cooking methods like roasting, broiling or braising to keep the fat content down.
And don’t ruffle any feathers over light vs. dark meat—there’s nothing fowl about the dark stuff. Although it’s higher in calories and fat, dark meat also contains more iron, zinc and certain B-vitamins than white meat, which means all cuts can be part of your healthy diet.
Also don’t fret over hormones or steroids. Fun fact: their use in chickens has been banned in Canada since the 1960s.
With cold and flu season just around the corner, many of us will turn to chicken noodle soup. Next time you feel a sniffle coming on, whip up the Chicken Noodle Bowl from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan . It’ll be just what the doctor (and the dietitian) ordered!
1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Chicken, broiler, breast, meat, roasted. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=842
The weather may be cooling down, but your healthy fall food choices are heating up! It’s time for all of us to fall in love with fall—because, frankly, we don’t really have another choice!
By using these four simple tips (along with the Pure Prairie Eating Plan ), you’re sure to make fall feasting healthier than ever before.
1) Fall in love with your autumn fruits and veggies! Alberta’s growing season is short. That means buying seasonal produce is key to saving money and getting the freshest and most nutritious foods. Plus it’s a great way to support our local farmers!
2) Settle back into a routine! As the days get shorter and schedules get busier, it sometimes seems like there isn’t enough time to put together a nourishing, home-cooked meal. But simple ways of establishing a routine can do wonders for making your life simpler and healthier.
3) Have a couch day game plan! Whether you’re a sports fan or just want to catch up on fall programming, some simple swaps can help you eat healthier —even when you’re vegging out.
4) Get back in the kitchen! Is it cold outside? Stay in and get cooking! Nothing warms up a fall night like experimenting with delicious, Alberta-grown foods. Try some of the following:
For an array of tasty recipes that feature your homegrown harvest ingredients, look no further than the Pure Prairie Eating Plan Cookbook . All recipes are 100% dietitian approved and sure to satisfy. Happy Harvest!
While Alberta’s summer yield may be running dry, it is harvest time for many delicious fruits and vegetables. It’s also the perfect time for an early fall favourite: Zucchini!
Also known as summer squash, this versatile veggie may come late in the season, but its comeback game is strong. Low in calories and loaded with vitamins and minerals, this valiant vegetable always squashes the competition.
Zucchini for the Win!
Zucchini is 95% water, making it naturally low in calories and an excellent choice if you’re watching your weight. One serving (½ cup) contains 0.7 grams of protein , 1.9 g carbs and 0.6 grams of fibre . That’s a steal of a deal when you consider it’s only 10 calories! And since zucchini is a low-glycemic food, it won’t cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar ( 2 ).
And that’s not all! Along with vitamin A , potassium and other important nutrients, zucchini also provides 15% (11 milligrams) of your daily vitamin C needs ( 1 ). Vitamin C is best known for boosting the body’s immune system, which is extra important with flu season right around the corner.
It’s health benefits don’t stop there! As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also helps squash free radicals in the body, which helps our bodies repair damage and fend off conditions like heart disease and cancer.
A favourite among Alberta’s gardeners, zucchini has a mellow flavour, soft edible skin and a creamy white flesh that makes it a delightful addition to any dish.
It can be sliced, diced or shredded and is delicious pan-fried, baked or raw. In addition to its tasty flesh, female zucchini plants also produce large yellow blossoms, which can be eaten raw or cooked.
Move over cuke, it’s time for the zuke! Here are some tasty ways to enjoy this fall favourite:
Okay, so let’s say you just brought in your garden harvest and have no idea what to do with those monster zucchinis. Try grating them up and adding them to baked goods like muffins, loaves or chocolate cake. It may sound like baking blasphemy, but they add an extra dose of nutrition, a moist texture and a surprisingly delicious flavour.
For a breakfast muffin brimming with flavour and nutrition, try the Breakfast Zucchini Muffins in the Pure Prairie Eating Plan .
1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Squash, summer, zucchini, raw. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=2225
2) University Health News Daily (2017). Glycemic Index Chart: GI Ratings for Hundreds of Foods. Retrieved from: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/glycemic-index-chart/
Every good parent wants to take a bite out of their kids’ hunger by offering up a nice, hearty granola bar. They’re small, portable and easy to toss in a backpack or keep in your car for when you’re stuck in traffic. But just because the right bar is perfect for almost any occasion doesn’t mean any bar is perfect for you.
Many of these bite-sized snacks are packed with more sugar than a donut and are so low in fibre and protein they don’t stand a chance against your growling stomach.
So when faced with an ever-growing assortment of granola bars, how do you pick a smart snack over a chocolate bar in disguise?
Protein is a source of endless debate. Some bodybuilders say if you’re trying to bulk up, it should be the bulk of everything you eat. Others say the power of protein is overestimated. How did we get so mixed up about a few amino acids?
The fact is, it’s an essential nutrient that keeps your body functioning well by building and repairing muscle, hormones and enzymes, as well as your skin, nails and hair. But obviously there’s some confusion so I offer this to you: a protein primer.
One of the first projects funded by the Alberta Diabetes Foundation when it was founded in 1988 was the clinical research of Dr. Ray Rajotte, which it funded for 12 years. Dr. Rajotte pioneered the first-ever islet cell transplant, which was the biggest breakthrough in diabetes research since the discovery of insulin. That work, plus an expanded islet cell transplant team and the addition of anti-rejection protocol, ended up becoming the international standard of care for islet cell transplantation.
Since 2000, when the protocol was developed, Alberta Diabetes Foundation has invested in a capital campaign to build the world-class building that now houses the Alberta Diabetes Institute. Since then, the Foundation has endeavoured to continue to invest in world-class research for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes right here in Alberta.
Alberta Diabetes Foundation works in tandem with the best-in-class Alberta Diabetes Institute to allocate funding where and when it is needed most, ensuring that important diabetes research and projects do not become stalled. The Alberta Diabetes Foundation is able to fund projects, even at early stages, often filling in gaps left by traditional granting organizations. The researchers in Alberta are confident that a world without diabetes is possible and, today they are doing more than providing sustainable solutions to treating diabetes -- our researchers are on their way to a cure.