Diabetes and Nutrition

By John C. Jackman, MS, Director, Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine
Arizona Wound Centers at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the 29.1 million people in the United States living with diabetes, nearly eight million of those people are undiagnosed. There are two types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin
  2. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body does not use insulin properly.

Nutrition plays an important role in managing both types of diabetes.

It can be difficult for people to know what they should and should not eat to achieve optimum nutrition. Food ingredients, and the labels that explain them, can be very confusing for some. People affected by diabetes should be aware of what they are eating at all times, as well as how some foods may affect their diabetes. There are key aspects to nutrition that all diabetes patients should understand.

Incorporate Super Foods into Your Diet

A key to good nutrition: know what to eat and what not to eat. Fruit, non-starchy vegetables and fat-free dairy have a low glycemic index and provide key nutrients. The American Diabetes Association developed a list of diabetes super foods including:

  • Beans
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Citrus fruit
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Fish high in Omega-3
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Fat-free milk and yogurt

Watch the Carbohydrates

There are three types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars and fiber. A proper amount of carbohydrates can be good for anyone’s diet, but people with diabetes need to be especially careful with carb intake. Carbohydrates are directly related to blood glucose. The glycemic index measures how carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose. Foods can have a low, medium or high glycemic index. A food with a high glycemic index should be mixed with a low or medium glycemic index food.

Incorporate Routine Physical Activity

In addition to eating healthy, it is also important to live an active lifestyle if you have diabetes. Regular activity can help lower blood glucose. When you’re active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin so it can work more effectively. Your cells also remove glucose from the blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise. Physical activity can help with other health conditions and overall well-being.

Keep an Eye Out for Non-healing Wounds

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of chronic wounds. Neuropathy, a common co-morbidity of diabetes, is a result of damage to peripheral nerves and can often cause weakness, numbness and pain in the extremities. Neuropathy can lead to chronic, non-healing wounds in some people affected by diabetes.

For more information about living a healthy life with diabetes and how to prevent non-healing wounds, contact the Arizona Wound Centers at www.arizonawoundcenters.com, or at any of our 3 Valley locations: Tempe 480-333-5152, Phoenix 602-251-8714 and Mesa 480-358-6090.