November is American Diabetes Month

Posted: November 8, 2016

It is observed every November so individuals, health care professionals, organizations, and communities across the country can bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans.
Photo by Antranias

Photo by Antranias

This year, the National Diabetes Education Program’s theme is: Managing Diabetes – It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It. This theme highlights the importance of managing diabetes to prevent diabetes-related health problems such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and amputation. The theme also serves as a reminder to people who may be struggling with the demands of managing diabetes that they are not alone.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems, such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease. You can take steps to prevent diabetes or manage it.

As of 2014, 29.1 million people in the United States, or 9.3 percent of the population, have diabetes. One in four people with diabetes don’t know they have the disease. An estimated 86 million Americans aged 20 years or older have prediabetes.

Whether it comes from a fruit, vegetable or a sweet dessert, carbohydrates require insulin to be absorbed into the body’s building blocks of cells.  If sufficient insulin or not good quality insulin is not available, the carbohydrate, or glucose will stay in the blood stream. 

What about eating sugar and sweets?  Studies show that sugar and sweets do not raise blood glucose more than other foods that are rich in carbohydrate.  If people with diabetes had to avoid all sugars in order to be healthy, they would not be able to eat fruit or drink milk because fruits and milk are sources of carbohydrate in the form of natural sugars. However, fruit and milk provide the body with many other health benefits such as vitamins and minerals which the sweets do not provide. They also do not have nearly as much fat or calories as the sweets therefore it is more beneficial to get carbohydrate from bread, fruit and milk rather than sweets. But people with diabetes can eat sweets occasionally, if they plan ahead and count it as part of the total carbohydrate intake for a particular meal.

For example: A small piece of cake may have 30 grams of carbohydrate (2 carbohydrate servings). Therefore a person with diabetes can occasionally substitute the cake for the fruit and milk at their meal. People with diabetes, just like all other people, should avoid substituting sweets for healthy foods at every meal. When they do eat sweets, having a nutrition label helps them to know how much to eat and how to count sweets as part of the total carbohydrate allowance for the meal.

Soon it will be easier for folks to compare foods, those with lots of added sugar and not a lot of other nutrients with those without added sugar.  All carbohydrates still count towards managing diabetes.

It is recommended that all Americans limit the amount of fats and sweets eaten. Fats and sweets are not as nutritious as other foods. Fats have a lot of calories. Sweets can be high in carbohydrate and fat. Some contain saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol that increase your risk of heart disease. Limiting these foods will help you lose weight and keep your blood glucose and blood fats under control.

Some examples of fats include salad dressing, oil, cream cheese, olives, and bacon. Some examples of sweets include cake, ice cream, pie, cookies and doughnuts. 

It’s tough to satisfy a sweet tooth.  Try having sugar-free popsicles, diet soda, fat-free ice cream or frozen yogurt, or sugar-free hot cocoa mix.

Other tips are to share desserts in restaurants, order small or child-size servings of ice cream or frozen yogurt and /or divide homemade desserts into small servings and wrap each individually. Freeze extra servings.

Remember, fat-free and low-sugar foods still have calories. Talk with your diabetes teacher about how to fit sweets into your meal plan.

Here is a recipe for a Thanksgiving Holiday dessert: Crustless Pumpkin Pie. It calls for an ingredient that you might not have in your cupboard, dry milk. This give the dessert an extra boost of protein and calcium. It serves 8 and each slice has 33 grams of carbohydrates, 200 milligrams of calcium, a lot of vitamin A (200%) and 8 grams of protein.  Enjoy!

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
2 large eggs (or 3 medium)
1 cup nonfat, dry milk powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup flour
2 cups pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup water

Mix all ingredients except water together in a large bowl. Stir in water gradually until well mixed. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate sprayed with non-fat cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted one inch from the center comes out clean. Serves 8.

Contact Information

Mary Reistetter Ehret, M.S.,R.D.,L.D.N.
  • Extension Educator, Food, Families & Health
Phone: 888-825-1701