According to an online portal, ssajm.org, Nigeria has the highest number of people with diabetes, with an estimated 3.9 million people (or an extrapolated prevalence of 4.99%) of the adult population aged 20-79-year-old in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, in a research paper titled: “Prevalence and Risk Factors for Diabetes Mellitus in Nigeria: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” diabetes has shown a tremendous increase in prevalence with a demographic transition in its epidemiology in recent years.
Populations previously unaffected or minimally affected by DM are now reporting soaring prevalence figures. This poses a real challenge to health financing by governments and nongovernmental organisations.
The latest prevalence figure published by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is 425 million persons living with DM worldwide, with nearly 50% of these undiagnosed. Those who contributed to the research include Andrew E. Uloko, Baba Musa, Mansur A. Ramalan, Ibrahim D. Gezawa, Fabian H. Puepet, Ayekame T. Uloko, Musa Borodo, and Kabiru B. Sada.
An expert on the issue of the causes and treatment of diabetes, Jennifer Huizen, writing for MedicalNews Today states that if a person has diabetes, it is either their body does not produce enough insulin, or it cannot use the insulin correctly.
This leads to the accumulation of glucose in the blood. High levels of blood glucose can cause a range of symptoms, from exhaustion to heart disease. We now see high rates of DM-related amputations, cerebrovascular disease, heart-related problems, and kidney disease in populations that were not previously known for these challenging health problems.
Foods to the rescue
One way to control blood sugar is to eat a healthful diet. Generally, foods and drinks that the body absorbs slowly are best because they do not cause spikes and dips in blood sugar. The Glycemic Index (GI) measures the effects of specific foods on blood sugar levels. People looking to control their levels should pick foods with low or medium GI scores. A person can also pair foods with low and high GI scores to ensure that a meal is balanced.
Food items recommended include whole wheat bread or pumpernickel bread, fruits, sweet potatoes and yams, oatmeal and oat bran. Others are nuts, legumes, garlic, cold-water fish and yogurt. Some of the best foods for people looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Whole wheat bread
Pumpernickel has a low GI score and fewer carbs than other breads. Many kinds of bread that available in the market are high in carbohydrates and quickly raise blood sugar levels. As a result many breads should be avoided. However, pumpernickel bread and 100 percent stone-ground whole wheat bread have low GI scores, at 55 or less on the GI scale. Processing removes the fibrous outer shells of grains and cereals. Fibre slows digestion and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.
In a 2014 study, researchers reported that spelt and rye both caused low initial glycemic responses, specifically in rats.
Most fruits are highly recommended. Except for pineapples and melons, most fruits have low GI scores of 55 or less. This is because they contain lots of water and fibre to balance out their naturally occurring sugar, which is called fructose. However, as fruits ripen, their GI scores increase. Fruit juices also have very high GI scores because juicing removes the fibrous skins and seeds.
A large 2013 study found that people who consumed whole fruits, especially blueberries, grapes, and apples, had significantly lower risks of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers also reported that drinking fruit juice increased the risk of developing the condition.
Sweet potatoes and yam
Sweet potatoes and yams are recommended because regular potatoes have a high GI score, but sweet potatoes and yams have low scores and are very nutritious. Some research indicates that the flesh of the sweet potato contains more fiber than the skin, indicating that the whole vegetable could be beneficial for those with diabetes.
According to Huizen, while there is still no conclusive evidence that sweet potatoes can help to stabilise or lower blood sugar levels in humans, they are undoubtedly a healthful, nutritious food with a low GI score. People can substitute sweet potatoes or yams for potatoes in a variety of dishes, from fries to casseroles.
Oatmeal and oat bran are also recommended because oats contain B-glucans, which help maintain glycemic control. They reduce glucose and insulin responses after meals, improve insulin sensitivity, help maintain glycemic control, reduce blood lipids (fats). Oats have a GI score of 55 or lower, making them less likely to cause spikes and dips when it comes to blood sugar levels.
Most nuts are very rich in dietary fibre and have GI scores of 55 or less. Nuts also contain high levels of plant proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, and other nutrients, including: antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, minerals, including magnesium and potassium
A 2014 systemic review concluded that eating nuts could benefit people with diabetes. Nuts with coatings or flavorings have higher GI scores than plain nuts.
Legumes, such as beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils, have very low GI scores. They are also a good source of nutrients that can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. These nutrients include: fibre, complex carbohydrates and protein.
A 2012 study found that incorporating legumes into the diet improved glycemic control and lowered the risk of coronary heart disease in people with type- 2 diabetes.
Avoid legume products that contain added sugars and simple starches, such as those in syrups, sauces, or marinades. These additions can significantly increase a product’s GI score.
Garlic is a popular ingredient in traditional medicines for diabetes and a wide variety of other conditions. The compounds in garlic may help reduce blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity and secretion.
In a 2013 study, 60 people with type 2 diabetes and obesity took either metformin alone or a combination of metformin and garlic twice daily after meals for 12 weeks. People who took metformin and garlic saw a more significant reduction in their fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels.
People can eat garlic raw, add it to salads, or use it in cooked meals.
Cod does not contain carbohydrates and may reduce the risk of developing type -2 diabetes. Fish and other meats do not have GI scores because they do not contain carbohydrates. However, cold-water fish may help manage or prevent diabetes better than other types of meat.
A 2014 study included data taken from 33,704 Norwegian women over a 5-year period. The researchers found that eating 75–100 grams of cod, haddock or pollock daily reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Eating plain yogurt daily may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Authors of a large 2014 meta-analysis concluded that yogurt may be the only dairy product that lowers the risk of developing the condition.
However, plain yogurt is generally a low-GI food. Most unsweetened yogurts have a GI score of 50 or less. It is best to avoid sweetened or flavored yogurts, which often contain too much sugar for a person looking to lower their blood sugar levels. Greek-style yogurt can be a healthful alternative.
On the whole, as it is with other diseases that are curable with the right type of food items, combined with regular exercise, when it comes to treating diabetes the choice is yours.