We're all aware of making healthier choices to prevent an array of illnesses from breast cancer to brain fog, but there's one that often gets left behind: diabetes. Despite the fact that some 26 million people in the United States have the disease (while another 79 million have prediabetes), there's still so much we don't know. Such as how do you develop type 2 diabetes? What are the diet changes you can make to lower the risk? Or is it a combination of diet and exercise?
One thing we do know for sure is that cooking your own meals at home will help. According to a study from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and reported in MindBodyGreen, "People who cooked meals for themselves at home about 11 to 14 times a week were 13% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes." Which is why The Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes Cookbook by Karin Hehenberger, MD, PhD, is a game changer. We quizzed the diabetes expert on the foods we should cut out, lifestyle changes we need to make, and telltale signs of diabetes. Be sure to scroll to the end for three exclusive recipes from the new book.
MYDOMAINE: What are some simple lifestyle changes we can make that will prevent type 2 diabetes from occurring?
KARIN HEHENBERGER: Keeping a normal weight, exercising regularly, eating a low-carb diet, and reducing stress in life.
MD: What are the foods you would cut/remove from our modern diet to prevent diabetes?
KH: Soda, candy, cake, cookies, rice, potatoes, pasta, and white bread.
MD: What are the exercises should we be doing to keep diabetes at bay?
KH: All kinds of exercise is good! I believe in exercise as part of your day. Walking 45 to 60 minutes daily, strength training, and endurance training. As long as we do not exercise so much that we get injured, it is good since exercise increases glucose uptake in the skeletal muscle and thus improves insulin sensitivity and normalizes glucose levels in the blood. Exercise also brings on a better mood, reduces depression, and stimulates circulation in the brain.
MD: In your book, you mention it's important for diabetics to always keep sugary snacks or PowerBars on their bedside table. Why?
KH: People with diabetes use insulin that is injected subcutaneously to survive. When that insulin has been injected, the blood sugar may plunge if there are not enough carbs in the system to handle the insulin. In a normal person, the secretion of insulin from the pancreas is reduced when fasting or exercising, but in a person with diabetes who has miscalculated the amount of carbs ingested (or done exercise that was more than planned), the blood sugar can plummet rapidly. That is when the person with diabetes needs to eat sugar to increase the blood sugar back to normal levels.
MD: Sugar is something we all know to cut back on, but what are the "danger" foods we should avoid?
KH: Pasta, rice, potatoes, and white bread.
MD: What are some important eating, drinking, lifestyle and/or health habits we should establish or adopt in our 20s and 30s to prevent diabetes later on in life?
KH: Drinking at least two liters of water daily, reducing carbs; cutting out white bread, white rice, pasta, and potatoes; sleeping enough (six to eight hours); and exercising daily.
MD: What are some telltale signs of diabetes or warning signs of developing type 2 diabetes?
KH: The typical symptoms of diabetes are weight loss, increased urination, and excessive fatigue. However, in slowly developing type 2 diabetes, the complications may show signs before the diagnosis of full-fledged type 2 diabetes: poorly healing wounds, fatigue, blurred vision, poor vision, heart conditions, and high blood pressure. Anyone who is overweight and has a history of diabetes should check their blood sugar at least annually.
MD: What does a healthy diet look like to avoid t2d? What are some of the right choices we should make for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks?
KH: A low-carb diet.
Breakfast: An omelet or oatmeal and berries with nuts for a snack.
Lunch: Tuna salad, vegetable, or chicken soup with a hard-boiled egg for a snack.
Dinner: Grilled fish or chicken with a vegetable and cheese or berries for dessert.
MD: What is the ideal portion size? What should our plates look like at every meal?
KH: The ideal portion size is different for different people, but my rule is that you should never eat until you are full. Always leave a little room. So 50% of the plate should be vegetable based, 25% grains and 25% protein. You can add a healthy fat, such as avocado or olive oil or nuts to all your meals; this makes you more satisfied and keeps you from snacking.
Baked Chicken With Curry Yogurt Sauce
"Succulent chicken thighs become extra exciting when paired with a simple and creamy curry sauce. Use your favorite curry powder and good-quality yogurt to make the recipe as piquant as you like and as satisfying as possible."
2 lb. boneless and skinless chicken thighs
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp. curry powder
2 cups plain yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
2. Place the chicken thighs in a baking pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Rub the oil evenly over the chicken and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan over medium–low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly colored. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the yogurt and heat through for a couple of minutes. Stir in half a teaspoon of salt and a sprinkling of pepper.
4. Pour the yogurt sauce over the chicken. Cover with foil and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the juices run clear.
5. Mix together the cooked rice and peas and serve with the chicken.
2 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice
4 oz cooked peas, to serve
"These filling and satisfying 'muffins' are delicious. They taste great when served at room temperature, which makes them ideal for a quick breakfast, a snack, or to bring along for a picnic."
Butter, for greasing
1 tablespoon heavy (double) cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, or basil
6 slices (rashers) of thin bacon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a 6-cup muffin pan with butter.
2. Use a slice (rasher) of bacon to line the inside each muffin cup.
3. Whisk together the eggs and cream in a bowl. Stir in the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture evenly into the prepared muffin cups.
4. Bake the muffins in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes until the eggs are cooked and the muffins have a golden tone. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. The muffins will keep for 2–3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
"For a more filling dish, try adding some leftover cooked vegetables to the egg mixture."
It's the Weekend Shakshuka
"Here is a great weekend breakfast that combines brightly-colored vegetables with eggs for a Mediterranean-style meal. The eggs cook right in the tomato sauce, so this is a one-pan meal."
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 x 28-oz can (2 x 400-g cans) diced tomatoes (or 4 cups/650 g diced fresh tomatoes)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (puree)
4–6 large (medium) eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (10 g) chopped fresh herbs, such as mint, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro (coriander), or basil, to garnish (optional)
Whole wheat pita bread, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet (frying pan) with a lid over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to brown.
2. Add the bell pepper, paprika, and cumin and sauté for 3–5 minutes, then add the tomatoes and tomato paste (puree) and simmer for an >additional 3–5 minutes until the tomatoes are warmed through and the sauce just starts to bubble.
3. Make 4–6 small divots in the sauce and carefully crack an egg into each divot. Cover and simmer for 10–15 minutes, until the eggs are cooked and the sauce is slightly reduced.
4. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh herbs, if using. Scoop the shakshuka onto 4 plates, and serve with whole wheat pita bread.
For more expert information on diabetes along with 70 nutritious and tasty recipes that will help control your disease, shop Hehenberger's new book below:
What else do you want to know about diabetes? Or are there other specific ailments or health concerns you'd like us to write about? Let us know in the comments.
Copyright The Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes Cookbook by Dr. Karin M. Hehenberger. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.