Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body fails to regulate blood sugar levels, resulting in levels higher than normal.
After eating, your body breaks down food into sugar (glucose), which is absorbed into the blood. Insulin helps glucose enter cells in the blood, which either immediately provides the body with energy or is stored for use later. In people with diabetes, there is an issue with the insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes
Those with type 2 diabetes are unable to correctly use insulin – a condition called insulin resistance. Initially, the pancreas produces extra insulin to compensate. However, over time the pancreas is unable to sustain the extra production.
People who are susceptible to type 2, or in the early stages of it, can delay the onset of more serious type 2 with lifestyle changes. One of these changes is diet.
We are not doctors here at Off The Grid News and do not provide medical advice. However, we can discuss one of the most common diet changes that is recommended for those in the initial stages of type 2. That change is a reduction in carbohydrates. The reason for reducing carbs is that they increase your blood sugar level.
While there are different schools of thought on how many carbohydrates are appropriate – and the details depend on one’s metabolism, weight and gender – a commonly accepted value is 40 to 60 grams (g) of carbohydrates per meal, with the overall diet consisting of three meals totaling 1,600 to 1,800 calories per day.
To understand what these numbers mean, let’s look at a couple of typical meals in the United States. Let’s start with breakfast. Trying to watch your weight, you have a bowl of low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk, a glass of orange juice and one slice of toast. The carb total for this breakfast (40 g in cereal, 10 g in one cup of milk, 25 g in toast and 25 g in one cup of orange juice) is about 100 grams of carbs.
Now let’s look at dinner, specifically a spaghetti dinner that includes pasta, bread rolls, salad and soft drink. The carb total for this dinner (60 g for one serving of spaghetti, 30 g for two dinner rolls, 15 gram for a salad with sugar-free dressing and 50 g from one glass of soda) is about 155 grams of carbs. Leaving out the soda or skipping the rolls still leaves you well over 60 grams.
The lesson from these examples is that typical American meals have too many carbs. The worst type of carbs come from sugar (both refined and natural sources like honey or sorghum). Treats like cake, ice cream, pies or shakes need to be avoided.
Other foods, like milk and yogurt, have a naturally high amount of sugar, and commercial providers often add even more sugar.
This leaves carbs from plant-based sources. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and grains have a lot of complex carbs. While these foods provide needed nutrients and carbs for energy, even small servings yield a lot of carbs. For example, look at the carb totals for a one-cup serving of the following:
Pasta – 40 grams
Potato – 30 grams
Corn – 30 grams
Rice – 45 grams
On the other hand, most protein sources from meat and eggs have negligible carbs.
Impact of Preparing for the Future
Those living off-the-grid and preparing for an uncertain future need to consider modifications for those family members with type 2 diabetes. And that means looking at your garden and the animals you raise.
Foods like potatoes, root crops and grains are still a great complementary source of calories and carbs, but they should not be the mainstay source of either. Instead, focus on more protein sources.
For example, a typical homestead that strives for self-reliance in food may have staple crops of potatoes, carrots, turnips, wheat or corn. To supplement these, the homestead may have a few chickens for meat and eggs.
For those with type 2 diabetes, fewer staple crops can be grown, and energy instead can be spent on growing food and fodder for animals. Acres that used to provide potatoes could provide hay for rabbits or fodder for pigs or goats.
The homestead also could shift focus from growing staple crops to growing nut trees. Nuts, which have lots of protein and nutrients, have moderate amounts of carbs and are a great food source.
Barter is another idea. Depending on your neighbors or local partners in barter, you could trade excess potatoes, root crops or grains for chickens, rabbits or other meat.
Many off-the-gridders religiously preserve the summer’s harvest. While this is great for vegetables, sometimes a lot of sugar is used to preserve fruits. Instead of canning, alternative storage techniques like drying should be considered. For thousands of years before electricity, civilizations throughout Africa and Europe dried fruits for storage over winter. The result is a preserved fruit without the sugar associated with some modern techniques.
Having a self-sustainable food supply should be a goal for all homesteaders, whether or not they have type 2 diabetes. However, if a member of the homestead does have the disease, consider shifting the food staples from complex carbohydrates to a diet with more meat, eggs and nuts. Before doing so, please consult your physician.
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