Choosing Healthier Foods Can Prevent Diabetes and Eye Disease

November is American Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly process sugar for use as energy because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. This lack of insulin causes sugars to build up in the blood and leads to significant health issues.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. In the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report, the American Diabetes Association revealed that 9.3 percent of the American population in 2012 had diabetes. Of the 29.1 million diabetics, 8.1 million of those diabetics are undiagnosed. What is even more disconcerting is that there are 86 million Americans age 20 and older who are pre-diabetic, meaning that if these individuals do not make significant life changes, they will develop type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes affects the whole body and causes damage to the skin, feet, kidneys, nerves and eyes. Vision loss can be one of the most significant complications of diabetes. Diabetics are more prone to glaucoma, cataracts and retinopathy (disorders of the retina). Not controlling blood sugars can lead to vascular damage, retinal detachment and permanent vision loss (Source: American Diabetes Association).

The only way to effectively control your blood sugar is to control your diet. Whether you are diabetic, pre-diabetic or are seeking to eat healthier, here are some everyday foods that are slower to digest and lower in sugar (Source: Web MD):

  • Oatmeal—Although oatmeal is a carbohydrate, it is the good kind of carbohydrate. Oatmeal contains fiber, which makes you feel full and will not raise your blood sugar levels. Just make sure you avoid the pre-sweetened oatmeal and resist the temptation to add brown sugar and sweeteners.
  • Non-starchy vegetables—Broccoli, spinach and green beans are good examples of diabetic-friendly veggies. They are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Avoid vegetables like potatoes, corn, lima beans and peas. These vegetables are high in carbohydrates and should be eaten sparingly.
  • Salmon, fish and lean meats—Proteins do not raise blood sugar as much as carbohydrates. Fish, skinless chicken breasts and lean meats are healthy choices for keeping steady glucose levels.
  • Berries and melon—Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, cantaloupe and honeydew melon are some of the fruits with the lowest carbohydrate count. Other low-carb fruits include lemons, limes, dates, prunes and rhubarb.
  • Cinnamon—recent studies suggest that cinnamon extract may have a moderate effect in reducing blood sugar levels in diabetics. More research needs to be done, but why not sprinkle some cinnamon on your morning oatmeal instead of brown sugar? You’ll get a sweet, spicy flavor without the added sugar!

The truth is, after making daily changes to your diet and removing high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods, you will realize after a time that you do not miss them. You will feel full longer, your hunger will be satisfied and you will be preventing a chronic disease. An added benefit may be a smaller waistline and a lower number on the scale! A healthier diet, exercise and regular doctor visits can prevent millions of new cases of diabetes each year. During Diabetes Awareness Month, take time to be more aware of the foods you are putting into your body. You can prevent diabetes and preserve your vision one forkful at a time!