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The Truth About Diabetes and Carbs

By Dennis Faye
Click here for more great resources, tools and information from Team Beachbody to help you reach your health, fitness and lifestyle goals!

Bacon and eggsThere's a lot of confusion out there about how people with diabetes should deal with carbohydrates. The flawed popular logic is that carbs need to be avoided. In fact, this couldn't be further from the truth. The American Diabetes Association suggests that 50–60 percent of a diabetic's diet consist of carbs! Furthermore, those uninformed, unfortunate souls who feel that going all Atkins is the answer are in a world of hurt. Given people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease, replacing fruits and veggies with bacon and eggs only ups their cholesterol and their risk of having a heart attack. As is also the case with a healthy body, it's best to keep your fat intake at no more than 30 percent of your calories.

What is diabetes and why might you get it?
Before we go any deeper into how to eat, let's have a quick look at what diabetes is. When you eat carbs, they're broken down into glucose, which enters your bloodstream. There, insulin helps bring this glucose into your cells which use it as energy. When you have diabetes, the insulin doesn't do its job, so while there's plenty of fuel there, it doesn't actually enter your cells, so they starve. This can be life threatening in a variety of ways, resulting in dehydration, nerve damage, and diabetic ketoacidosis, which causes the buildup of acids in the blood.

Think of the body as a car and glucose as the gasoline. The insulin is like the carburetor; it regulates the gas—but for a diabetic, it doesn't, so the engine floods easily.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's own immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas called beta cells. These people need to take insulin treatments. People with type 2 diabetes, however, actually do produce insulin, but just not enough. No one knows what exactly causes the disease, but it's safe to say that obesity and a lousy diet can go a long way towards the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The symptoms of diabetes vary, but they can include increased thirst or hunger, abdominal pain, fatigue, increased urination, vomiting, and blurred vision.

Small mealsHow to change your diet
Here's where the flawed logic comes in. If sugars/carbs cause the problem, then it would seem that cutting them out would solve the problem, as one would do with a food allergy. Unfortunately, our bodies need carbs, just like a car needs gas. They are our primary fuel, so the trick is to get a slow, constant flow into the system.

As it turns out, eating to get that constant flow is just plain healthy whether you have diabetes or not, so a lot of the tips you've picked up from Beachbody are the same ones that work for avoiding diabetes. First off, instead of packing all of your daily food into one or two meals, it's important to eat several small meals throughout the day.

Protein and fatsKeeping your meals balanced will also help. Protein and fat both slow the flow of carbs into your system. But careful with that fat! Because of the previously mentioned heart issues, lean towards unsaturated fats, like you'll find in olive oil, avocados, raw nuts, and fish, not the saturated ones you find in meat, eggs, and dairy.

BerriesFiber is also key, so fruit is okay, as long as it's full of fiber. Bananas are low in fiber, so you might want to avoid them. Berries, however, tend to be fiber rich, so they're generally all right in moderation. Other great sources of fiber include veggies and whole grains.

Finally, stay off hooch. One or two drinks might be fine for most diabetics, but heavy drinking can Avoid alcoholcause complications with many diabetes medicines. It can also raise fat levels in the blood and cause blood sugar dips.

You see? It's easier than you'd think. But still, if you think or know you have diabetes, go see a doctor, and follow the advice of a dietician. It's a serious medical condition and needs to be treated as such. But don't stress. With the proper diet and a steady regimen of exercise, people with diabetes can easily live full, healthy lives.

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