November is National Diabetes Prevention Month. When we talk about diabetes prevention, we are talking about Type 2 Diabetes. Individuals with Type 1 are born with it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pre-diabetes is at an all-time high with 1 out of 3 American adults affected – more than 84 million people!
The easiest “first step” to improve pre-diabetes and diabetes with nutrition is to focus on increasing your fiber intake. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – and both are important. Insoluble fiber supports insulin sensitivity, and soluble fiber supports blood glucose control. This means they help reduce your risk for diabetes by helping your body use the sugar from the carbohydrates you eat. Fiber also helps with cardiovascular and cancer protection. The National Cancer Institute recommends 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, with higher levels thought to be helpful for most adults.
The average adult worldwide has a fiber intake between 50 and 75 grams per day. The average American adult, however, has a fiber intake of fewer than 10. High consumption of animal proteins, which have very little fiber, are thought to contribute to the problem.
Why is fiber so great? Fiber is not digested in the stomach, and that leads to many health benefits.
Insoluble fibers maintain a healthy intestinal flow. They increase water in the digestive process, which reduces constipation, pain and discomfort.
Soluble fiber dissolves and forms a gel, which helps reduce blood cholesterol and blood glucose. This helps your body control blood glucose, which aids in preventing diabetes. Soluble fiber also creates a feeling of satiety that aids weight loss.
Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are great ways to increase your fiber intake. A few tricks for choosing foods with high fiber are:
The darker the vegetable, the more fiber it has. Beets, broccoli, carrots and artichokes have the highest. Swiss chard and collard greens come in a close second.Raspberries win the top spot in the fruit category with apples, oranges and strawberries following.All beans are a great source of fiber. Pressure cooking your beans also makes them more digestible. Peas and lentils are a close second in fiber content.Diabetics should opt for fiber from vegetables more often than from fruit and beans.
When adding fiber into your diet, do it slowly and drink lots of water. Adding fiber too quickly without drinking more water can cause constipation; adding it too quickly and drinking more water can create diarrhea. The trick is to add it slowly. You can handle more fiber and get all the health benefits, you just have to take it slow.
Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.