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Prevent Problems With Healthy Diet
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Eating junk foods and forgetting to exercise can cause health problems much more serious than simply being overweight.
Americans are aware of the importance of good nutrition and physical activity, but many don't realize that neglecting those habits can lead to health risks, such as type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. It affects more than 150,000 Mississippians. Compared to type 1 diabetes, which most often occurs in children and young adults, type 2 is the most common form of the disease, but more than half of all diabetics remain undiagnosed.
Type 2 diabetes, which may not develop before a person is over 45 years old, makes up about 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases. It is becoming even more prevalent due to a greater occurrence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles among Americans.
"Although there are a variety of factors that can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes, obesity greatly increases a person's risk, but diet can be used as a tool to guard against it," said Dr. Melissa Mixon, extension nutrition specialist at Mississippi State University.
Some type 2 diabetics need medication as part of their daily treatment plan, but many can control type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone.
"The goal of a diabetic treatment plan is to keep blood-sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Food choices greatly affect glucose levels," Mixon said.
Meal plans should meet a person's individual needs, so there is no one diet recommended for every diabetic. However, basic nutrition guidelines can help diabetics make food choices.
"Healthy food choices for diabetics usually aren't very different from those of anyone who wants to eat well," Mixon said.
"Foods with less fat and sugar, as well as plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish are important to any nutritious diet. Diabetics' meals should be sources of just enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, which you, your doctor and dietitian agree on," Mixon said.
Type 2 diabetics should especially focus on cutting down on saturated fats and cholesterol in their diets.
"Striving to make the foods healthier is sometimes an easier goal than simply trying to lose weight. Some changes in eating habits also may be necessary. Eat lightly over the course of a day instead of eating a few large meals," Mixon said.
Aiming for modest weight loss and making slight lifestyle changes are good ways to cope with type 2 diabetes. Cutting diets back by about 250 calories a day and walking briskly for about 20 minutes three times a week may be all that is necessary for some people to control weight and blood glucose levels.
"Remember that a diet should meet your individual needs. Food plans should be made with consideration of your overall health and treatment goals. Seek help from a registered dietitian and your doctor," Mixon said.