Participants at the Falls Active Adult Center were provided valuable information on healthy eating on Monday by nutritionist and integrative health coach Donna LaBar of Tunkhannock.
One of the major subjects covered by LaBar was how the diet of a person with diabetes impacts how the body handles the disease.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the cells of the body do not respond properly to the insulin produced.
Left untreated, diabetes can cause serious complications - including cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, foot ulcers, eye damage and death.
LaBar explained that the human body normally requires about one teaspoon of sugar in its system. People who exercise a great deal quickly use up the sugar, which is rapidly replaced. But for those who lead a more sedate lifestyle, the sugar is used up much more slowly.
Diabetes has a tendency to show up in older people, Labar explained, because age slows them down. Although healthy eating is important to everyone, it becomes even more critical to those who are getting on in years.
Insulin is necessary to allow a body’s cells to assimilate sugar for use. But if too much sugar is introduced into the body, the pancreas can interpret that too much insulin is being produced and cut back on production. This in turn causes complications associated with diabetes to occur, LaBar said.
“Some make the mistake of consuming a high sugar product, thinking it will provide them with quick burst of energy,” LaBar explained. “But just the opposite will occur. One can of Coca-Cola will shut down the immune system for three to five hours. This can make you fall asleep.”
Consuming foods high in carbohydrates and starches is a mistake, because of the body converting them into sugar, requiring a great deal of energy.
“This is why a lot of people want to go to sleep after eating,” LaBar explained.
Even foods that many consider to be ‘healthy’ are actually high in carbohydrates, and can have a detrimental affect if too much is consumed.
“For years, many people thought that brown rice is healthy,” LaBar said.
But using a formula in which the fats, fiber and protein were subtracted out, LaBar demonstrated that three-quarters of a cup of brown rice is actually very high in carbohydrates.
Items containing a large amount of carbohydrates typically form a larger part of a meal, because they are cheaper, LaBar said.
A better combination is vegetables forming the largest part of a meal, some meat, while cutting back on the carbohydrates.
Eating foods that have a high sugar content is also definitely not recommended. Among the foods listed by LeBar that have high hidden sugar include many breakfast cereals, canned bake beans, canned fruit, cereal bars, protein bars, pre-made soups, iced tea, chocolate milk, and spaghetti sauce.
LaBar strongly recommended that people carefully eat a balanced diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to sticking to one narrow formula.
She pointed out that gluten free foods have become very popular over the past few years, on the grounds they are healthier.
But many of these foods are still high in carbohydrates, making them an unhealthy choice for those suffering from diabetes.