Healthy Eating and Diabetic Foot Care

November is National Diabetes Month. During this month, communities across our nation strive to bring attention to diabetes and how the disease affects millions of Americans.

There are certainly other major diseases out there, but it’s difficult to find one more widespread than diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are over 29 million Americans who have this disease. Further, another 84+ million are considered to be prediabetic – which means they have elevated blood sugar levels that aren’t quite to the point of diabetes, but are close enough for them to have a high risk of crossing that threshold.

Clearly, this is a major problem in our nation. Roughly one-third are either diabetic or prediabetic!

Those staggering numbers can be attributed to the amount of sugar consumed in the average American’s diet. If you consider how much sugar is in a can of coke (almost 40 grams in a 12 ounce can) alone, it’s easy to understand why it’s such a common medical problem.

When you are diabetic, it is imperative for you to make healthy lifestyle choices, especially with regards to your daily diet.

The very first step in managing diabetes and reducing your risk of very serious medical complications is to manage your blood sugar levels. Your primary care physician will work with you to provide an accurate guideline in this regard. Following your doctor’s orders can be instrumental in reducing the risk of nerve damage, reduced circulation, and impaired immune system function that come from having too much sugar in your blood stream.

Your daily diet plays an essential role in your efforts to keep your blood sugar within the appropriate range. A dietitian will be able to help you create a healthy plan that works best for you, but there are some general guidelines that will help.

To start, a diabetic diet typically is based on eating meals three times a day, at regular times. Following a schedule will help your body to better use insulin it naturally produces or receives from medication.

Foods you should eat include:

  • Fiber-rich foods. Consuming plenty of vegetables, legumes, nuts, fresh fruits, and whole grains provides the body with dietary fiber. Fiber is important for controlling blood sugar levels and moderating how your body digests food.
  • Healthy carbohydrates. When the Atkins Diet craze caught on, carbohydrates were given a bad name. This is unfortunate because some carbs are really quite good for you. Since most are also high in fiber, the list might seem a little familiar – veggies, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products all fit in this category.
  • Heart-healthy fish. Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health by lowering triglycerides (fats), and are found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, bluefish, and sardines. You can also consume less saturated fat and cholesterol by choosing halibut, tuna, and cod instead of meat and poultry as your protein sources in a couple of meals each week. (NOTE: It’s best to avoid fried fish or fish that contain high mercury levels – like swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.)

Foods to avoid include:

  • Simple carbohydrates. Sugars and refined or overly-processed carbohydrates need to be avoided as much as possible. Diabetes is a disease caused by excessive sugar, so eating sugar-laden sweets is akin to adding fuel to a fire.
  • Trans fats. These types of fats are found in processed snacks, baked goods, shortening and stick margarines. Avoid these items.
  • Saturated fats. High-fat dairy products and animal proteins such as beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon contain saturated fats.
  • Sodium. Aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. However, if you also have hypertension, you should aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
  • Cholesterol. Sources of cholesterol include high-fat dairy products and high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, liver, and other organ meats. Aim for no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day.

Diabetes causes systemic damage in the human body, including the nervous, circulatory, and immune systems. These all play a role in your foot health and safety.