to the Rescue in Diabetes Epidemic
This past holiday season, President Obama signed the Child Nutrition Bill into law as part of a national campaign to combat childhood obesity.
This bill comes at a time when the connection between excess weight and Type 2 diabetes in both children and adults is conclusive.
The percentage of children between the ages of 2 and 11 who are overweight has nearly tripled, and rates continue to rise in those ages 12 to 19 (Harvard Health Publications, 2009).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, one in three U.S. children born in 2000 will become diabetic. Do I have your attention now?
Never before in human history have we had such an emergency need to lower blood sugar. This is due to the fact that we are inundating our bodies with sugar and refined carbohydrates. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that in 1821, Americans consumed 10 pounds of sugar per person per year compared to 141 pounds of sugar per person per year in 2004.
Our bodies were never meant to handle this kind of sugar intake. It is not only sugar that is the culprit, but also the overconsumption of cookies, cakes, pastries, breads, chips and crackers. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
Carbohydrates are the fuel that most directly affects blood sugar, as they are converted immediately to glucose or “blood sugar”. Complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains, beans and legumes) are absorbed into our blood stream more slowly than simple sugars, but in the end all carbohydrates break down into sugar in our bloodstream. Intake of carbohydrates triggers the release of the hormone insulin whereas low glucose/blood sugar levels triggers the release of glucagon to return the blood sugar levels to normal. Our bodies’ intelligence continually monitors the amount of glucose in our bloodstream to maintain balance.
With the overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, we stress this delicate system and overtime can develop blood sugar imbalances. If imbalances are not corrected, there is a greater chance of developing the continuum of blood sugar disorders such as hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
According to Dr. Lutz, author of Life Without Bread, Type 2 diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate overload. The author states, “By eating carbohydrates in quantities that humans, as hunters and gatherers did not evolve to eat, people simply have overwhelmed their bodies’ natural ability to process these sugars.” Another consequence of high carbohydrate consumption is that glucose that is not used immediately for energy is stored as fat. So when intake of carbohydrates is too high, more insulin is produced and more fat is stored. How do we get out of this vicious cycle?
Like everything else in life, the solution is all about balance. Human beings are designed to use a combination of unrefined carbohydrates along with healthy fats and proteins as our primary sources of fuel.
Let’s use the analogy of a campfire. Carbohydrates are the kindling or quick burning fuel for the fire, and healthy fats are the logs or slow burning fuel needed to sustain the fire. Both are needed as fuel to sustain energy, along with protein, which supplies the building blocks for a strong body.
In my opinion, a nutrient-dense meal or snack is one that includes healthy fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
So whether you are looking for healthy snacks, struggling to manage your child’s weight issues or are concerned about diabetes, these nutrient-dense snacks and meals will point you in the right direction and are kid-tested and kid-approved by my 6- and 9-year-old daughters:
- Hummus (made with good quality olive oil) is a great dip for any raw vegetable.
- Almond butter on sliced apples is a quick and easy snack.
- A smoothie made with whole coconut milk, banana and berries will provide energy for hours and supply myriad nutrients.
- For a quick hot lunch on a cold day, beans and shredded cheese with some sliced fruit on the side will satisfy your family. If your child has a dairy sensitivity, nutritional yeast tastes great with beans, has a cheesy texture and is full of B vitamins.
- Make an antipasto plate with sliced meat, olives, avocadoes and tomatoes, and drizzle with olive oil.
In addition, some key tips for maintaining blood sugar balance throughout the day, for children and adults alike, include eating a breakfast of healthy fats and good quality protein (such as an egg and vegetable scramble); eating carbohydrates in combination with protein and healthy fats; eating a whole foods diet 80 percent of the time; getting more of your carbohydrates from vegetables; switching from juice to herbal teas; and having fruit for dessert.
By keeping our cupboards and refrigerators well stocked with nutrient-dense foods, we are modeling healthy choices for our children and setting the stage for better nutrition — and better health — now and in the future.
About the Author:
Pathways for Health, LLC-Holistic Nutritional Counseling & Therapy
Ellen Syversen has a Masters Degree in Public Health and over 10 years of experience as a certified health educator. Combined with her training as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, she offers clients of all ages holistic nutrition counseling, therapy and education with the goal of correcting imbalances in body chemistry and achieving optimal wellness naturally. For more information visit her web site at www.pathwaysforhealth.net. To schedule a consultation, e-mail Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her at 541-912-8624.
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