The 2016 Community Scholar Award winners, Catherine Chan and Rhonda Bell, know a thing or two about the benefits of enjoying a fresh and healthy meal.
As nutrition researchers with the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, they spent a lot of time putting together menus and recipes for people with diabetes. Soon, those people began to encourage them to share those resources more widely, and the Pure Prairie Eating Plan was born.
Although it was originally developed to manage Type 2 diabetes, the plan offers a way of eating that’s good for almost everyone. The menu is based on a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and Canada’s Food Guide, with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, balanced proteins (including meat, poultry, fish, dairy and pulses), and plenty of fibre, but without a lot of processed foods.
“Research shows that when people prepare foods themselves, they tend to eat a healthier diet,” says Chan.
Unlike other plans, which focus on excluding foods, one of the key features of Pure Prairie is a focus on including foods people eat regularly. Chan explains, “We think that if people are going to stick with healthy eating for a lifetime, the foods in the menus have to be culturally relevant, not too expensive, readily available and great-tasting.”
That element of availability and cultural relevance was also a factor in choosing a lot of locally produced foods in the menu. But unlike trends such as the 100-Mile Diet, Chan and Bell’s plan leaves some flexibility for more exotic choices to complement local options, with foods like coconut milk and tuna still making the shopping list. “While we focused on prairie-grown foods, it's not exclusively that,” Chan says.
“We think that if people are going to stick with healthy eating for a lifetime, the foods in the menus have to be culturally relevant, not too expensive, readily available and great-tasting.”
Two years after the team self-published the book, it’s had quite an impact. With support from agricultural groups, promotions by the Alberta Diabetes Foundation and Alberta Diabetes Institute, and even a nod from the U of A’s Tim Caulfield in The Cure for Everything, the plan is getting noticed. Alberta Health Services has picked up the book for a pilot project creating a community kitchen for seniors, and Health Canada has started using it in programming for Aboriginal communities in Alberta. It’s also been picked up for cooking classes offered through Sunterra Market.
The widespread community adoption of the plan has been rewarding for the team. Chan says, “A lot of our research is community-oriented, which means the community comes to us and says ‘yes, we'd like to participate and give to the university.’” The publication of the plan deepened those connections. “After publishing PPEP we had the opportunity to interact with the community in a whole new way. We met a lot of great people who supported our work on a whole different level. The whole goal of our original research was to develop something practical, and PPEP seems to have achieved that.”
The Community Scholar Award recognizes an individual or team of academic staff members who not only excel in their scholarship, but also readily and frequently bring that scholarship into the community, showing how their work affects people’s lives.
“Cultures all around the world incorporate food and eating together into celebrations. We want to have special foods for these occasions. The trick is to pick favourite recipes with a healthy twist, like in this menu—a yummy barbecued steak on a big plate of greens, super-fresh seasonal vegetables like asparagus, and for the dessert a combination of fruit and whole grains that satisfies our desire for something sweet but still delivers something nutritious. The main trick is to not go overboard on portions—everything in moderation!”
Imagine this. Recently you’ve noticed that your child hasn’t been acting quite like their usual self lately. You can’t quite pinpoint it, so you chalk it up to a rough week. But maybe that rough week turns into two. You start to think on their behaviour more and you grow more concerned; they are always asking for extra water or juice at breakfast, they seem to be constantly hungry, they’re rushing off to the bathroom more frequently, and they are tired as soon as they step in the door from school.
Although these symptoms may seem common for children who may not have had a good night’s rest or for those going through puberty, that’s not always the case. These symptoms should be taken seriously, and if you notice these in your child for a prolonged period of time, you should discuss a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test with your doctor. An A1C test will determine your child’s average blood glucose level over the past 3 months. If your child’s A1C level is 6.5 or over, if could mean that they have Type 1 diabetes.
As a parent, your child’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis can be earth shattering for both you and your child. So many thoughts can go through a parent’s head; why does it have to be my child? How is my child going to live with this? How am I going to be able to give my child everything they need now that they have this condition?
Every parent and child will go through this journey in their own way, but it is important to know that Type 1 diabetes is a disease that can be managed, and proper management will allow your child to live a healthy life. As for the questions, you have as a parent, we would like to help by providing you with a few answers.
Why does my child have to be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes? Where does Type 1 diabetes come from? What could wehave done as parents to prevent it?
Type 1 diabetes is not a preventable disease. It is a mixture of genes and environment. Although scientists do not know the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes , they do know that genes and environment play a role . They have figured out that individuals who have a certain type of HLA complex (human leukocyte antigen on chromosome 6) may be susceptible to Type 1 diabetes. This complex can create an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by a viral infection.
Simply put, when your body tries to fight the viral infection, it may also attack beta cells in your pancreas—cells that make insulin. This process usually takes several years before symptoms develop. The right combination of genes (HLA complex) and environment (exposure to a viral infection) can contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes.
How is my child going to live with this condition?
Diabetes will be a day-to-day change in you and your child’s life. Your child will require insulin injections. You might even be required to administer insulin injections for your child depending on recommendations from the doctor. You will also want to revaluate the lifestyle that you and your child live. Focus primarily on the diet and exercise your child gets. And remember to stay on top of these few daily tasks you will need to complete:
Although it may not happen everyday, your child will go through highs and lows with their diabetes. Both diabetic highs and lows are serious and can be life threatening
Symptoms of a diabetic high and low are:
Symptoms of a diabetic low also include:
You and your child’s first encounter with can be frightening. If you prepare yourself to know that symptoms and you are able to react accordingly, you can make your child feel safer in the earlier stages of this condition.
How am I going to be able to provide everything my child with everything they need to take this condition on?
The biggest change a parent can have on their child’s life is setting a great example. Your child relies on you and looks up to you. As a parent you should eat healthy, exercise, and take on proper responsibility for your own health. Your own accountability will benefit your child in the short-term and long-term. Additional support from friends and family will also help your child manage emotional and physical effects of the diabetes diagnosis. You may also consider joining a diabetes support group or participating in a run to fund diabetes research.
Advice from the following people can help ease the stress of your child’s diabetes:
As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is simply to be there for them. Communicate with your child in a way that is supportive and will help to boost their self-esteem. Allowing your child to be open and honest with you will make treating diabetes that much easier.
No parent wants to see their children suffer. Remember that diabetes was not something that your child was marked for, and it isn’t your fault as a parent. As a family, you can work through this disease together, and put your child down a path of success.
You’ve seen the ads: “Cut out bananas and banish belly fat forever.” It seems like the world is going bananas over a simple piece of fruit.
It’s a bit strange. They’re almost identical in carbs to a delicious pear, but nobody seems to be preaching safe pear practice. So why do bananas get a bad rap? Why do people suddenly find them so un a-peel-ing?
Don’t be Split on Bananas
Many have tried to bruise the banana’s reputation by spreading the rumour that they’re loaded with carbs and sugar, instantly leading to weight gain and sending your blood sugars into a spiral. This is nothing more than a far-fetched fruit fallacy.
For one, at just 105 calories, a medium banana puts a mere 5% dent in a 2,000-calorie diet ( 1 ). Yes, bananas do contain starch and sugar, which does cause blood sugars to rise, but that doesn’t mean you should steer clear! First off, our bodies need carbs to function. Second, there is a world of difference between the sugar in fruit and that found in pop, cake or candy. Unlike sweets, bananas are rich in naturally-occurring sugar, plus 3.5 grams of fibre and a ton of nutrients needed for good health.
Bet on Bananas
Fibre—like that found in bananas—is essential for weight and blood sugar management. It helps prevent overeating by making you feel full for longer. It also helps to slow the absorption of sugar. Just-ripe bananas and other carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels ( 3 ).
Another boast for the banana is that it packs, on average, more than 400 milligrams of heart-healthy potassium . That’s almost 10% of your recommended daily intake! Potassium is vital for normal muscle, nerve and brain function and is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure .
Since many Canadians may not be getting enough potassium in their diet ( 2 ), bananas are a tasty way to up your daily dose
Still think bananas are to blame for all your weight woes? Here’s the truth: No one food is responsible for the number on the scale.
A diet high in fibre-rich fruits and vegetables —including bananas—is a key ingredient for a healthy body weight and reduced risk of chronic disease.
Bananas are a carbohydrate-rich food. If you're watching your blood sugars, be mindful of your portions. Otherwise, there's no monkey business when it comes to bananas. Unless you have been told to limit them by your doctor, there’s no reason to shun this simple fruit.
Some tasty tips to enjoy bananas:
1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Banana, raw . Accessed June 7, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=119
2) Health Canada, Food and Nutrition (2012). Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? Accessed June 7, 2017 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/surveill/nutrition/commun/art-nutr-adult-eng.php
3) University of Sidney, Glycemic Index Database (2017). Banana, raw. Accessed June 7, 2017 from http://www.glycemicindex.com/index.php
For most of us, our phone is our world. It connects us, informs us, and even gets us up in the morning. So it’s no wonder that our phones can help us manage our diabetes too! With over 50 apps available, there’s the perfect app for everyone. Some apps cost you money, but you’re already spending enough on your treatments! So here’s 5 free apps to help keep you on track.
Last week’s article touched on the different types of artificial sweeteners that are meant to work as sugar substitutes. We also talked about some of the reasons it may be a good idea for diabetics to stay away from artificial sweeteners. Now, we will dive a little deeper into the problems these sugar substitutes could have on your health and the balance of the good bacteria in your gut.
The most popular study to make this claim happened in 2014. The study showed that mice who ate saccharin (a component of some artificial sweeteners) developed a glucose intolerance. The sweeteners created an imbalance in the gut bacteria of the mice. These bacteria are responsible for converting food to fuel or fat.
The team wanted to make sure this also applied to humans, so they continued the study on seven healthy people who consumed the maximum serving of saccharin suggested by the FDA for six days. Four of these individuals were on the road to glucose intolerance—a step towards a diabetic diagnosis.
The team concluded that this was only a preliminary study but did create grounds to explore this research further.