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Sugar, Sugar Everywhere

Diabetes is essentially a result of the body’s inability to process sugar.  Most of the food we eat is turned to glucose (sugar), and then used as energy.  Your pancreas secretes insulin to help the glucose move into cells to be used as energy.  In diabetes, either the pancreas cannot secrete insulin (type 1 diabetes) or cannot use the insulin appropriately (type 2 diabetes).  The result is a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream , which is called diabetes.
Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States and can cause kidney disease, heart disease, blindness, impotence and loss of lower limbs.  There are 2 main types of diabetes, Type 1, which is usually genetic and Type 2, which does have modifiable risk factors.  In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin.  These people need to get insulin shots in order to live.  Type 1 diabetes cannot be “fixed”.  Thankfully, it makes up only about 5% of all diabetes seen in the US.

Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for more than 90% of the diabetes we see, is a disorder of insulin “use”, rather than production.  People with Type 2 diabetes usually take oral hypoglycemics, although the latest guidelines call for use of insulin if the diabetes is difficult to control.  So who gets Type 2 diabetes?  It becomes more common with age; and obesity and physical inactivity will increase your risk.  Blacks, hispanics, American Indians and Pacific Islanders have increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  You are also at increased risk if you have a family history of diabetes or had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant.

Symptoms of diabetes may include: excessive thirst, frequent urination, sudden weight loss, vision changes, numbness in hands or feet, fatigue and extreme hunger.  If you suspect you may have diabetes, you should see your medical provider immediately for testing.  Testing includes a fingerstick blood sugar, checking urine for ketones or glucose, and doing a blood test called a HbA1C, which measure your sugar over a 3 month duration.

There is also a medical term we use, called prediabetes.  Prediabetes means your Hb A1C is too high to be considered normal, but too low to be considered diabetes.  Prediabetics are at increased risk to develop diabetes.  So what do you do if your medical provider tells you you have diabetes?  Or prediabetes?

You need to immediately look at your diet and exercise patterns.  You should be doing 20-30 minutes of some sort of exercise daily.  You don’t have to do intense exercise, walking is fine.  Get the okay from your medical provider prior to starting an exercise program.

Diet is the real star of Type 2 diabetes management.  You can reduce or eliminate your need for medication simply by changing your diet.  Remember the SAD diet (Standard American Diet)?  It’s loaded with added sugars and carbohydrates.  Those sugars and carbohydrates (which turn to sugar in your body) cause inflammation.  Which, in turn, impairs your body’s ability to use insulin effectively.  The result is too much sugar circulating in your blood stream.  This is called diabetes.

So what should you be eating?  

  • Start with a clean, whole foods diet.  

  • Eliminate processed foods like crackers, cookies, cake, chips, pretzels and soda.  

  • Remove fast foods like McDonald’s and pizza.  

  • Limit bread, rice, oatmeal and pasta.  

  • Carbohydrates should be limited to 1 serving a meal (assuming you eat 3 meals a day)  

  • 1 carbohydrate serving is approximately a ½ a cup.  

Start eating vegetables and lean proteins like chicken and fish.  Make these the bulk of your meal.  You may have a ½ cup carbohydrate serving with each meal.  Remember, carbohydrates turn to sugar in your body, the more you eat, the higher your sugar.  Lowering your carbohydrate intake is the quickest way to lower your blood sugar.

Good carbohydrate sources are fruits like berries, apples and pears.  Their glycemic index, or “sugar load” is lower than other fruits.  Similarly, vegetables like carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and corn would count as your carbohydrate serving.  If you must have rice or pasta, limit it to ½ cup.  1 serving of bread is 1 slice.

Beans and legumes are also a great carbohydrate source.  They are considered “complex carbohydrates” which do not spike your sugar levels.  Examples of legumes include lentils, black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas.  While these are healthy carbohydrate choices, they still need to be limited to a ½ cup serving per meal.

Your medical provider will either tell you, “change your diet” or “we need to start you on medication and you need to change your diet”.  If they just say change your diet, you can follow the guidelines above.  If they say that you need medication, please discuss the above guidelines with them prior to starting.  We don’t want your blood sugar to drop too low, too quickly.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) include sweating, shakiness, confusion, headache, blurred vision, sleepiness, irritability, pallor, fainting, nausea and vomiting.  Seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur.  They can be life threatening!  Remember, your goal is to control your blood sugar,  NOT to drop it too low.


There are some natural and herbal remedies that may help you lower your Type 2 diabetes:

  • Bitter Melon contains a chemical that acts as insulin and may lower blood sugar. 

  • Cinnamon supports the action of insulin which can lower blood sugar, use 1/2 to 1 tsp daily.

  • Consuming 6 or more cups of Green Tea has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes by 33%.

  • A compound in raw Onions called, allul propyl disulfide, has been shown to stimulate insulin production.

  • The capsaicin in Cayenne Pepper, used in a cream form, may reduce diabetic nerve pain.

  • Basil leaves and seeds  and Fenugreek seeds may lower blood sugar.

  • Ginko Biloba may reduce nerve pain and damage associated with diabetes.

  • Gymnema leaves may slow the transport of glucose to the bloodstream, thus lowering blood sugar levels.

  • Ginseng improves the body's ability to use glucose and stimulates insulin production; it also slows carbohydrate absporbtion.

  • Vitamin D may reduce your risk for developing diabetes.

  • Omega 3s are heart healthy.  People with diabetes are at increased risk for developing heart disease.

  • Low levels of Magnesium can impair your body's ability to use insulin effectively.  Get your levels checked prior to starting supplementation.

  • Psyllium husk contains soluable fiber which can slow the rise in blood sugar after meals. Aim for 1 tsp mixed with 8 ounces of water prior to your meals.

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid, may reduce the nerve pain associated with diabetes by neutralizing free radiacal which damage cells

Here is a delicious diabetic friendly recipe for you to try.

Spaghetti Squash "Ramen" Noodle Bowl


1 medium (2.5-lb) spaghetti squash
4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp Asian style hot sauce (such as sambal oelek)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper strips (1-inch-long)


Preheat oven to 400° F. Fill a 9x13-inch glass or metal baking dish with 2 inches of water. Cut the ends off the spaghetti squash then cut in half lengthwise. Place the squash cut side down in the pan and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the squash immediately from the pan. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Using a fork, scrape the squash out of the skin and set aside. Makes 4 cups cooked squash.

While the squash is cooking, in a medium saucepan, heat the broth over medium heat until simmering. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce and hot sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and heat through, 2 minutes.

Place 1 cup of squash in a soup bowl. Pour 1 cup of broth over the squash and add 1/2 cup of chicken. Top with 2 Tbsp scallions and 2 Tbsp bell pepper strips.

Repeat process for remaining three bowls. 

Chef Tip: Garnish soup bowls with cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.