Managing Diabetes with Diet and Exercise

The Importance of Diet

A proper diet is the cornerstone of any glucose control program. But, since the dietary goals for Type 1 and Type 2 are very different, there is not a single plan that will work appropriately for both.

Type 1 diabetics must match their insulin delivery with their insulin requirements. Since they produce little or no insulin of their own, the timing and amount of insulin injected must be based on the timing and content of the meals eaten. Professional and personal consultation with a nutritionist, as well as constant monitoring of glucose levels is very important.

On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes is most usually caused, or at least greatly exacerbated, by the wrong kind of nutrition. So, the dietary goal for the Type 2 diabetic must be to limit the intake of foods that quickly flood the bloodstream with glucose.

Of course, at the top of the list of these foods would be refined sugars and starches. But, rather than listing the foods you should avoid, here is a list of foods you should eat with a recommended number of servings per day:

Fresh Fruits2-4
Fresh Non-Starch Vegetables6-8
Whole Grains, Beans, or Lintels2
Protein (Meats, Poultry, Fish)3-4
Dairy (Soft Cheeses, Eggs)2-3
Non-Trans Fats (Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Vegetable Oils, Butter)1

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise lowers blood glucose levels and boosts the body's sensitivity to insulin. So, for the Type 2 diabetic, an exercise program that includes as little as 30 minutes per day of brisk walking can have a major impact on the ability to manage the disease.

In addition, exercise has many added benefits including weight loss, appetite control, lower blood pressure, lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol, reducing stress, and even slowing down the aging process.

Important Exercise Guidelines

  • Too much (or too vigorous) exercise — especially after an injection of insulin — can result in hypoglycemia. The best time for insulin users to exercise is about 3 hours after a meal. Other medications (sulfonylureas) can also cause this problem. Remember, exercise does not have to be hard to be beneficial. Blood sugar should be closely monitored and pre-exercise levels should be above 100 mg/dl. It is also advised that the level be checked after any strenuous exercise. Hard candy should be available while exercising to counter a hypoglycemic condition.
  • Diabetics who are overweight or have a heart condition or other medical problem should consult their physician before making significant changes to their exercise routine.
  • Diabetics should wear a Medic Alert bracelet at all times — but especially while exercising.
  • Good footwear is a must to protect the diabetics vulnerable feet.