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Truck Drivers and Type II Diabetes

Due to the nature of the occupation, truck drivers are at high risk for Type II Diabetes. If you are over 40, underactive and overweight you are at risk for Type II Diabetes. Type II Diabetes is the most common type of Diabetes and there are 60 000 newly diagnosed cases each year in Canada. Type II Diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels go too high due to poor insulin production by the pancreas or insulin resistance. There are several ways to reduce your risk for diabetes, to manage it if you have it and in some cases, get rid of it.

Body Weight

The first and most important factor is to maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight is a significant risk factor for Type II Diabetes. For some people, losing weight can help reduce insulin resistance and improve blood glucose control to the point where diabetes seems to go away. If you are overweight, consider consulting a registered dietitian to help set you on the right path. Long haul drivers have even greater challenges maintaining their weight as they are sitting for such long periods of time, often eating to stay awake or fend off boredom. Planning ahead and setting goals for yourself can help keep you on track and prevent unwanted weight gain. Remember, it’s much easier to maintain than it is to lose. The following recommendations can help too.

Did you know? Even a loss of 10% of your body weight can significantly improve blood glucose metabolism and insulin resistance.

Activity

Regular daily exercise not only helps improve body weight, it also helps with blood glucose control, self-esteem and stress management. Try to schedule activity into your day as part of your regular routine. It may require getting up earlier and going to the gym before your shift, walking during a break at a truck stop or fitting it in on each of your days off. Regular stretching can help reduce injuries and back pain.

Did you know? Exercise after eating foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can help lower blood sugar levels.

Portion Control

Likely the most important thing to learn about eating is how to manage portions. For a diabetic, overeating on high sugar and carbohydrate foods will lead to high blood sugars which causes damage to the body. Learning to fill your plate with leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables and choosing to eat smaller portions of the other foods will have a significant impact on body weight and blood sugar control. Try to pack your own food from home and divide it up into meals and snacks to space throughout the day. Try to keep your carbohydrates spread throughout the day too. If you have toast for breakfast don’t have potatoes too. If you are having a sandwich, avoid the fries and choose salad instead. For dinner if you are having a pasta dish, avoid the garlic bread and be sure to have vegetables and protein too. Think about covering half your plate with vegetables and lunch and dinner, ¼ with protein foods and ¼ with whole grains.

Protein, Fat and Fibre

When a carbohydrate food is digested and absorbed into the blood stream the glucose circulates in the blood. If your insulin is working fine, the sugar will be taken up into the cells for use as energy. If you have Type II Diabetes, the sugar continues to enter the blood stream but is not taken up by the cells as quickly. If sugar enters into the bloodstream too quickly this can have serious consequences. In order to slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrate foods into the blood stream there are several things you can do: add protein, add fat or add fibre. When you eat a carbohydrate food, always add a source of protein to it, for example, add sliced turkey to your sandwich or peanut butter to your toast at breakfast. Nuts and seeds contain fat and protein as well as fibre and make a perfect snack for in the cab of your truck. Greek yogurt on your berries is also a good snack as is a protein shake. Whole grains are higher in fibre than white processed grains and make better choices for crackers, wraps, breads and pastas. Choose whole grain crackers with cheese and apple slices for a bedtime snack if dinner was a few hours earlier. The more fibre the better. Eating foods with good fats at meals can also help stabilize blood sugars. Good fats include nuts and seeds, avocado and fish.

Did you know? Research shows that a diet high in fibre (26g per day or more) reduces the risk of Type II diabetes.

Reduce sugar

In terms of diet, this is the first place to start if you have Type II Diabetes. Eating foods high in sugar will lead to spiking blood sugars. At the truck stop convenience store avoid the urge to buy sugary foods and drinks such as pop, energy drinks, hard candies, pastries and donuts and candy bars. These foods are not only going to spike your blood sugar, but they are adding calories without nutrients. By cutting back on added sugars you reduce the total carbohydrates your body needs to deal with. Add less sugar to foods such as hot cereal, tea and coffee. Use pureed fruit instead of sugar sweetened jam or honey, avoid sugar sweetened beverages and buy low sugar cereals and yogurts. Limit your intake of cookies and cakes. At the truck stop convenience store if you need to buy a snack choose almonds, cashews, peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, turkey jerky, fresh fruit or vegetables, string cheese or low sugar Greek yogurt. At meals the best choice of beverage is water or sparkling water.

Did you know? There are 9 tsp of sugar in 1 can of Coke. That’s 40 grams of sugar.

Artificial Sweeteners

There is plenty of confusion around the safety of natural and artificial sweeteners. For an artificial sweetener to be sold in Canada it must undergo rigorous testing to prove its’ safety for human consumption. However, current research has found there may be a link with the consumption of very high quantities of artificial sweeteners and altered gut microbiota and glucose intolerance. Although most studies have been done on rats and the quantities used have been significantly higher than what would normally be consumed by a human, there is good reason for further research in this area. For now, limit or avoid artificial sweeteners, use less sugar and consider other natural sweeteners such as stevia.

The Bottom Line

Eating well to prevent or manage Type II diabetes is simply eating a healthy diet. Your nutrition priorities include eating lots of vegetables and some fruit, choosing mostly whole grains and watching your portions, including lean proteins with each meal and snack, getting good fats and reducing your intake of sugar. To reduce your risk or manage your diabetes it is important to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and be active daily.


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