Can you control your diabetes?

World Health Day was celebrated on April 7 and this year’s theme was “Beat Diabetes.” Our department provides education for type II diabetes on a daily basis. I often find that patients are diagnosed without a clear understanding of what diabetes actually is. According to The World Health Organization, “Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.” Insulin is needed to help the body utilize carbohydrates, a main energy source found in some foods. Hyperglycemia, or elevated blood sugar, is common in uncontrolled diabetes and can lead to damage in the body over time. Damage may occur in nerves and blood vessels and may lead to problems with eyes, kidneys, and other areas of the body.

Can you control your diabetesAs a dietitian, I educate patients about foods that contain carbohydrates and turn into a form of sugar called glucose. Once carbohydrates in food turn into glucose, this has a direct impact on elevating blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It is important to balance carbohydrates with other foods that do not have an impact on blood sugar. I use the idea below for diabetic educations:

food plate ¼ plate foods that contain carbohydrates and turn into glucose, ¼ plate protein that does not turn into glucose, and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables that do not turn into glucose.

Many patients have a vague understanding of foods that are “bad” and those that are “good.” They are often told that they can never eat bread or rice again. They should avoid sweets and stock up on sugar-free items. With that being said, it is so beneficial to meet with a registered dietitian to build a better knowledge about nutrition and diabetes. The “how and what you eat” are very important factors in diabetes management. Physical activity is also an essential component.

The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people worldwide have diabetes and this number is expected to double in the next 20 years. This is such an alarming number considering many cases of type II diabetes could be prevented with better food choices and increased physical activity.

Recommendations for prevention:

  • Eat a variety of foods, including those that contain carbohydrates, lean proteins, and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Use the plate method above as a guide at main meals. is a great resource when learning about the different food groups and healthy eating.
  • Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.

Click here to find out more information on World Healthy Day 2016 and diabetes.


Alana Scopel

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