Diabetes is a very serious illness that has seen a spike in the last several years. Diabetes is when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a healthy blood sugar level in the body.
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes is frequent urination, extreme hunger, unintended weight loss, mood changes, fatigue and weakness, and blurred vision. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.
The pancreas is an organ with glands that secretes substances that help with bodily functions. It aids in digestion and blood sugar control. It can be found at the of your abdomen. The two major functions of the pancreas are to secrete enzymes for digestion, called the exocrine function, and to secrete hormones to control blood sugar, called the endocrine function.
The exocrine gland runs the length of your pancreas. Enzymes are produced that help break down food. Some of the enzymes produced are lipase, which works with bile to break down fats; amylase, which breaks down carbohydrates; and protease, which breaks down proteins.
The endocrine glands release hormones that control blood sugar. There are only two types of hormones that regulate blood sugar, insulin which reduces high blood sugar levels, and glucagon, which increases low blood sugar levels. Your body needs both hormones to balance your blood sugar levels. It helps with kidney, liver, and brain function. Your heart and circulatory system and your nervous system need balanced blood sugar levels to function.
Insulin gets produced by the pancreas and is released into the bloodstream. When your sugars are too high, insulin will allow sugars into the cell. Insulin is sometimes explained as a “key” for your cells to obtain sugars. To reduce the amount of sugar going into your cells, then insulin “key” will close the doors and bring sugar levels back to normal.
Glucagon, in turn, does the opposite of insulin. When your blood sugars are too low, your liver will release stored sugar and allow the sugar into the cells. In some extreme cases of low blood sugars, sugar will need to be ingested to bring levels back to normal. Some quick, simple sugars you should use are fruit juice, hard candies, glucose tablets or gel.
Glucose’s role is to provide energy to your cells that make up muscles and tissues. It can be found in food or stored in your liver. If you have too much sugar in your bloodstream will be stored in your liver called glycogen.
If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s hard and overwhelming to know what to eat. Simply put, a diabetic diet means eating the healthiest foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes. You will want to have a diet that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. This diet is beneficial for everyone, not just diabetics.
When you eat extra calories and fat, your body creates an undesirable rise in blood glucose. If blood glucose isn’t kept in check, it can lead to serious problems, such as a high blood glucose level (hyperglycemia) that, if persistent, may lead to long-term complications, such as nerve, kidney, and heart damage.
A diabetic diet is based on eating three meals a day at regular times so you can better use the insulin that your body produces or gets through medication. Some options to consider for your diet are healthy carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, heart-healthy fish, and good fats.
Some healthy carbohydrates are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes like beans and peas, and low-fat dairy products like milk and cheese. During digestion, sugars and starches break down into blood glucose, so you will want to focus on these healthy carbohydrates. Try to avoid unhealthy carbohydrates like foods or drinks with added fats, sugars, and sodium.
Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber moderates how your body digests and helps control blood sugar levels. Some of these foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes like beans and peas, and whole grains.
Most of the time, fats in foods are seen as bad and you should cut them out of your diet. But there are healthy, good fats that your body needs to help lower cholesterol levels. These goods fats come from foods like avocados, nuts, canola, olive, or peanut oils. Try not to overdo these, though. All fats are higher in calories.
Eat heart-healthy fish at least twice a week. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may prevent heart disease. Avoid fried fish with high levels or mercury, such as king mackerel.
Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke by accelerating the development of clogged and hardened arteries. Avoid foods that contain saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
Of course, the best fruit for diabetics is berries. They are packed with antioxidants and fiber and have low calorie and carbohydrate content. For example, one cup of fresh blueberries has 84 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates. If you’re a diabetic and sick of berries all the time, you might want to try an exotic dragon fruit.
What is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit has recently become a popular staple fruit in local grocery stores. It is known as pitaya, pitahaya, or strawberry pear and has three varieties. There is a red skin with white pulp and black seeds, yellow skin with white pulp, and a red skin with red pulp.
Dragon fruit originates in Mexico and Central America. The name pitaya comes strictly from Mexico. The common, modern name dragon fruit came from when Europeans introduced the fruit to Asia and south America. The fruit has dragon like scales and red like fire.
The fruit grows on the Hylocereus cactus. It is also known as the Honolulu queen, meaning the flowers only open at night. To prepare this fruit, simply cut it open and scoop out the white or red pulp. The red skinned dragon fruit tastes like a mixture of a pear and kiwi, with a similar texture to a ripened kiwi.
The Perfect Pick
For shipping reasons, dragon fruit is normally picked under ripped. They do this because it is firmer and doesn’t bruise as easily, and wont spoil during it’s travels. When picking the perfect dragon fruit, look for a heavier fruit for its size. This means it’s the juiciest one of the bunch available. You will know this by picking up a few and feel the difference.
It should be consistently pink on the outside with no signs of bruising. Dragon fruit is normally firm to the touch, but when it’s ripe it will give a little under the pressure of a squeeze, just like an avocado. Another sign to tell when it is ripe is when the “scales” or wings dry out and turn a yellow with brown at the tips. If you do buy an unripe dragon fruit, leave it on the counter to ripen until the wings turn yellow.
Dragon fruit has many health benefits for everyone, especially those with diabetes. It contains vitamin C, E, fiber, iron, and magnesium. It also has a low-calorie count. It also has several types of antioxidants, which help rid your body of free radicals. Free radicals are linked to chronic disease and aging.
Some of the antioxidants are betalains, hydroxycinnamates, and flavonoids. Betalains can be found in the pulp of the red dragon fruit and have been shown to protect against bad LDL cholesterol. Hydroxycinnamates aid in anticancer activity in test-tube animal studies. Lastly, flavonoids are the largest and most diverse group of antioxidants. It is linked to better brain health and reduced risk of heart disease.
Dragon fruit is also good for strengthening your immune system. The fruit contains vitamin C and carotenoids that boost immune system function and prevent infection. It also protects your white blood cells from damage. The white blood cells in your immune system attack and destroy harmful substances. However, they are extremely sensitive to damage by free radicals, which dragon fruit also aids in.
Dragon fruit is one of the few fresh fruits that contain iron. Iron plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen throughout your body. It also plays an important role in breaking down food into energy. About 30% of the world’s population is deficient in iron, making it the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide. Dragon fruit contains 8% of your recommended daily intake, while vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron.
Dragon fruit offers more magnesium than most fruits, with 18% of your recommended daily intake in just one cup. Your body contains about 24 grams of magnesium which is present in every one of your cells and takes part in over 600 important chemical reactions. Magnesium takes part in reactions needed for the breakdown of food into energy, muscle contraction, bone formation and even DNA creation, for example.
A study done with both red and white dragon fruit show that there was a reduction in insulin resistance and fatty liver in obese mice. When the mice were given an extract of the fruit, they gained less weight and reduced inflammation, as well as the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Dragon fruit has a potential link to better control blood sugar levels. This is because dragon fruit encourages the growth of pancreatic cells that produce insulin. In a clinical trial, the effects of dragon fruit with a placebo in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Its authors conclude that the dragon fruit’s effect on fasting plasma glucose in people with prediabetes was significant.
While dragon fruit can’t heal diabetes, it has a lot of nutritional value. Some argue that there is no specific type of dragon fruit that is better suited for diabetics. Some of the trials conducted show that dragon fruit had very little effect on those with type 2 diabetes. Those with prediabetes had more of a reduction in sugar levels than type 2 diabetics.
There was another study stating that those with no allergies had dragon fruit and found they were extremely allergic to it. Studies still need to be done when it comes to dragon fruit and allergies, as well as diabetes. Dragon fruit has also been used to treat hypertension. The seeds are what have been demonstrated to help regulate blood sugar levels.
They also found that the more dragon fruit a person eats, the greater the blood sugar benefits can be. However, the study did not find a correlation between eating dragon fruit and improved control of type 2 diabetes.
Great for Everyone
Dragon fruit has many benefits for everyone. It has a low glycemic index, low calories, and many vitamins and minerals that aid in bodily functions. The flesh itself is a good source of fiber, but it’s the seeds that have the power. Unlike some seeds that must be ground for your body to access the good stuff on the inside such as flax, the natural bacteria in your gut can break down the fibrous shell of dragon fruit seeds and unlock their prebiotic benefits.
Dragon fruit can be eaten by itself, in smoothies, fruit salads, or in salads. Some great combinations with dragon fruit are grapes, apples, watermelon, and oranges. Make sure to choose fruits that you can have that don’t raise your blood sugar, though!
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