Type 2 diabetes is a blood sugar disease that occurs when your body is either unable to produce enough insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces, causing an overabundance of sugar in the bloodstream. And it’s this high level of sugar that slowly damages the ability of your pancreas to produce insulin. Somewhat ironically, the pancreas’s response is to overcompensate, and produce even more insulin, resulting in levels in the body that are far too high all the time.
The effects can be devastating: heart disease, deteriorating vision, issues with wound healing, nerve damage (that can lead to amputations) and even death.
Type 2 in China
In recent years, type 2 diabetes has become a major health crisis in China: according to a 2013 study, almost 12 percent of the Chinese population is afflicted with the disease, while another 50 percent show symptoms of pre diabetes. This is, in part, the result of societal shifts – the consumption of more and more fatty, Western style fast foods; the adoption of a more sedentary lifestyle with the shift from rural to urban living. And add to that the fact that the Chinese consume the most white rice in the world – a grain virtually void of nutrition, which simply turns to sugar in the body.
A global problem
While China has the largest diabetes population, the problem is global, make no mistake.
A 2013 report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) suggested that 387 million people live with diabetes; the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 90 percent suffer from type 2.
But what can be done?
The good news is that the condition is livable so longer as a sensible diet is adopted. And while, in the past, diabetic diets used to be very restrictive, with a little creativity and forethought, type 2 diabetics don’t have to compromise taste for health.
Ease up on the white rice
White rice reigns supreme in China but there are far more nutrient rich options available. Indeed, whole grains are an invaluable addition to a diabetic diet plan.
Whole grains are rich in fiber, making you feel fuller for longer and also helping to slow rising blood sugar levels. While most refined grains, like white rice, go through a process that strips away vital nutrients, unrefined whole grains retain full nutrition. So switch out white rice and use millet, brown rice or quinoa instead.
Beans, beans and more beans
Beans are a great source of fiber and protein and are usually low in fat. Throw them in a salad in place of meat, mash them up into healthy dips and spreads, or even let them shine as the main player in a chili or soup. Such is their versatility, don’t shy away from eating a several servings a week. Buy them dry and soak them for a day before cooking. Alternatively, if time isn’t on your side, use canned beans – just remember to rinse them to get rid of added sodium.
The best beans for a diabetic diet? Think lentils, black beans, chickpeas and pinto (broad) beans.
There’s no shortage of tofu in China and diabetics would be apt to use it in place of meat, especially fatter red cuts. 3 ounces of tofu contains just 70 calories, 7 g of protein and 3 g of fat – a great substitute. Use firmer tofu in stir-fries or to replace eggs in breakfast dishes; turn to soft and silken tofu for puddings, dips and sauce bases.
Choose Chinese greens
Green veg is low in calories and carbs, practically void of fat, and usually ripe with vitamins and nutrients. Known as white cabbage, bok choy is used in everything from stir-fries to soups. Pan fry in olive oil, steam or boil just like regular cabbage or spinach.
Purple potatoes make a great substitute for normal, carb laden yellow potatoes – the latter rank highly on the glycemic index, meaning that they cause glucose to turn to sugar relatively quickly and should be avoided or eaten sparingly. Try pairing Chinese long beans with purple potatoes for a twist on a traditional dish.
Studies show that raw persimmons can aid help combat heart disease and reduce diabetes risk. Grown in the fall, this orange and yellow fruit produces pectin, a fiber that has been known to help regulate blood sugar.
Resembling a cucumber, studies have shown that bitter melon may help to reduce diabetic side effects: it contains insulin like compounds that help the body absorb and use sugar better. Brew four or five pieces of dried bitter melon in hot water and ingest while still warm.
While there is no one food that will cure diabetes, with a variety of nutrient rich foods, portion control, and regular physical activity, type 2 diabetics can be controlled. Those diagnosed with prediabetes are urged to lose 7 percent of their body weight in order to lower the risks of the condition developing. If you are prediabetic or simply want to lower your risk of developing full blown type 2 diabetes, adopting this diet early can help to reverse or prevent the condition from progressing.
Contributed by FIELDS (www.fieldschina.com), a popular online grocery store for safe, quality food in China. FIELDS stocks fresh and organic fruit and veg, imported and domestic meat and seafood, plus essential pantry items from home. Order before 5 pm in Shanghai and benefit from same day delivery with delivery free for orders over RMB 200. A new customer? Great – you’ll receive a free gift with your first order!