Glucose is the most important fuel for our body.
Because from it we extract the energy we need to walk, think or make our heart beat. It is essential for our vital functions.
But if that level of glucose (or sugar) in the blood is not high enough, it can cause serious health problems.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels, which over time causes serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or does not produce enough insulin.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) states that an estimated 62 million people live with type 2 diabetes across the American continent.
According to Diabetes Atlas, this number has tripled in the region since 1980 and is projected to reach the 109 million mark by 2040.
The spread of the disease increased more rapidly in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
This 14 November, World Diabetes Day, we ask: What should we eat and avoid to help keep blood sugar levels under control?
To find out the answer, we spoke with Clara Eugenia Pérez Gualdrón, vice president of the Latin American Diabetes Association (ALAD) and associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Colombia.
Why do you have to control blood sugar level?
You would think that if you eat sugar, your blood glucose will increase, but it is not so.
We have a hormonal deregulatory enzyme complex that keeps glucose at ideal levels for 24 hours.
But it is necessary to keep it regular. That is, neither go too high nor go too low. Diabetes patients often have this problem.
If someone has too much glucose over a long period of time, it creates toxins in the body that damage the body over time. For example, small and large blood vessels.
A diabetic patient with chronic hyperglycemia may lose, for example, function of the eyes and kidneys, and even amputation may occur. They are chronic complications of diabetes.
And if the blood sugar level becomes too low, the patient may die within seconds.
So it is not good to have too much or too little.
We have cut-off points to know the healthy glucose level in diabetes.
For example, it is known that in fasting – for a period of six to eight hours – we should have about 100 or less glucose.
And after eating, it shouldn’t go above 140. If it’s above that mark, there’s a problem.
Are there foods that help control blood sugar levels?
There is a pattern to healthy eating. There are foods that help regulate glucose and others that, on the contrary, prevent it from being regulated.
Healthy eating patterns have three basic components:
- Consume fruits and vegetables.
- Eliminate foods concentrated in sugar.
- Cut down on foods high in saturated fat and replace them with foods high in monounsaturated fat.
The foods that we can consume that control glucose very well are those that are rich in fiber, such as wheat bran. In addition, you need to consume a lot of fluids.
This is the roadmap.
Which are those fruits and vegetables and in what quantity should they be eaten?
Eat vegetables as much as possible. We never misuse vegetables.
However, we tend to abuse the fruit. And this is especially so in Latin America because the region is rich in fruit trees.
Fruits should be eaten in parts. The recommendation for the patient is the 3-2 formula: two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day. Or vice versa: three fruits and two vegetables.
Generally, as our diet is formed in Latin America, we include fruit in breakfast. We eat fruits in the mid morning. And in the middle of the afternoon we eat fruit again.
While vegetables will be in lunch and dinner.
The secret lies in eating vegetables of three different colors in part because in this way the body is nourished with a complex of vitamins, minerals or trace elements that foods bring.
Sometimes the person is monogamous and starts eating bananas (or bananas), bananas and bananas. It is the most chosen fruit by Latinos. But bananas have a higher sugar content than other fruits.
Most fruits contain 10% glucose. That is, 100 grams of a fruit contains 10% of its glucose. There are others that are 20%, such as bananas. And there are others that are 5% like a tangerine.
If one eats four tangerines, it is like eating one banana in proportion to sugar.
What are the foods that concentrate a lot of sugar?
In many places, coffee with milk is eaten for breakfast and sugar is added. You have to eliminate the sugar that we put in.
When the patient says to you: “Ah! But the coffee is too bitter”, I recommend a replacement: sweetener.
That sweetener can be caloric or non-caloric. Using a caloric sweetener means that glucose will increase. Therefore, a non-caloric sweetener is recommended.
However, evidence suggests that non-caloric sweeteners upset the gastrointestinal flora. And this has three major effects on the body.
The intestinal flora serves for the body’s immunity, regulates body weight and favors the production of neurotransmitters associated with happiness, so that the person feels good.
As I tell my students, many people are fat, depressed, and down with the flu. Why? Because they don’t have bacteria, they eliminate them with a non-caloric sweetener.
Many soft drinks are sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners that destroy our gastrointestinal flora.
Sweet liquids like juice are also consumed more.
A classic example of this is: What is sweeter: strawberries or potatoes? Everyone answers a strawberry.
But which of the two has more sugar? 100 grams of strawberries contain 5% sugar. And 100 grams of potato or one large potato contains 20% sugar.
If you juice, you make the sugar in the strawberries soluble, so you absorb it more quickly. Therefore, it is better to eat strawberries whole.
Whereas if you eat a fully cooked potato, it will take some time to digest, due to which your blood sugar will not increase quickly.
This is what I call hygiene of eating habits. It’s eating with you, in your wee hours, sitting down and with the amount of chewing required. If I chew a potato, after 15 minutes the signals of satiety reach the brain.
And what are saturated fats?
You have to reduce saturated fat and increase monounsaturated fat.
For this you have to use olive oil.
It is widely consumed in the countries of the Southern Cone, but not in other regions of Latin America.
Instead of consuming olive oil, they are using subcutaneous tissue of pig or chicken. That is, melt your skin. In many regions it is called lard (not to be confused with butter).
Means saturated fat. Any fat that is solid at room temperature has a large saturated fatty acid component.
And this causes insulin in high concentrations in our blood to not work well.
If insulin does not work well, it automatically elevates the blood sugar level.
In contrast, an ideal fat intake is about 20 ml of olive oil a day. That fat makes your life better. And hence, the glucose level decreases.
What should a diabetic patient eat and what not?
You should eat more fruits and vegetables, and eat fewer foods high in sugar, avoid sweetened liquids, and consume positive fats like olive oil.
That fat is also found in nuts and fish from cold, deep ocean waters.
But along with eating, it is also necessary to walk, walk and walk.
If you exercise, ride a bike, skate, swim, that’s great. But at least he walks more than 7,000 steps a day.
You have to give up hours of sitting. The one who dies is the chair. It is a silent enemy.
If you spend 8 hours a day sitting, start by reducing it by half or a third. You can start by standing or walking and try to move. This is something that anyone can implement.
All this complex nutrition plan should be accompanied by physical activity and it will make you feel great.
And is a glass of wine bad for blood glucose levels?
Moderate drinking has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. If someone drinks a glass of wine a day, he does not feel pain. On the contrary, it does well.
Wine contains a large number of chemicals that have a positive effect on health.
The problem is that most of us Latin Americans do not consume wine like in southern Latin America, where one or two glasses a day are taken with meals.
Bad deposit. For example, if a person drinks all their glasses of wine for the week together on Saturday.
That’s why drinking alcohol is not advised.
But the diabetic patient who is harmed by drinking alcohol is hypertriglyceridemia-type dyslipidemia.
Because alcohol favors the formation of new triglycerides in the liver, which can eventually harm a diabetic patient.
Are there any other factors that help us control our glucose?
Another very important thing is the hours of sleep. Sometimes Sapna herself feeds more than diet.
How to improve the quality of sleep? Practicing physical activity every day.
If you follow all these steps you will see that everything will turn out great.
With information from the BBC.