How Far Have We Come in Managing our Diabetes?

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This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

As a kid, I knew only one person with diabetes: my aunt Sophie’s husband, Joe. My grandmother was always trying to be careful about what she served him. She kept this tiny bottle of saccharine in the cupboard for his coffee and tea. She even tried to bake for him using ground up saccharine tablets. It did not work very well. I used to get a kick out of watching the tablet fizzle and dissolve in hot liquid.

We Didn't Know Better Then

In those days, there were a few oral medications (for type 2 diabetes?) and the syringes used for insulin were about the size of fire hoses. People had to sterilize them between uses.

Back then, we knew absolutely nothing about carbohydrates. Worse, neither did Joe or our cousin, his doctor. Noodles and potatoes were good, cheap and tasty foods. Apple pie was bad!

Twenty years later, another aunt of mine found out her husband had diabetes. He also had high cholesterol and an assortment of other medical issues. In my ignorance, I gave her a recipe for a low-fat potato leek soup. It was one of his favorites, but as it turns out, not the best choice for him. Again the emphasis was keeping sugar, and sugar alone, out of his diet. Potato soup, I could kick myself.

Interestingly, each of these men lived well into his 80s.

Fast-forward to 2000, and my brother came to visit. He lived very far from me, and we hadn’t seen each other in years. He mentioned to me that he had diabetes. He asked me if I could prepare food not using sugar. I was so stupid, I asked if I could use honey (obviously, another poor choice).

He said nothing to me about carbohydrate consumption, so I made a great meal of fresh salmon, asparagus – and rice. He ate and relished it all.

In my defense, and at his urging, I did a super dessert using plain yogurt and raspberry vinegar for a cream over fresh strawberries and Maine blueberries.

Robert worked hard at his health but had little clue about what he really should be doing to manage his diabetes, despite being a medical researcher.

Years later, my sister came to visit. By that time, I had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was unbelievably gung-ho about managing my meals and my diabetes. I carried on something fierce about what I had learned about carbohydrates and how they affected blood sugar. Although she had been diagnosed years before, she looked at me as though I was speaking another language.

Now We Know Better - and We Can Do Better

Six years ago, when I was diagnosed, I was handed a set of booklets suggesting above all “to cut down my intake of carbohydrates.” I have done this, and it works. For the last five plus years, I have maintained an A1C of between 5.2 and 5.4.

So here I am today looking at recipes that claim to be “diabetic-friendly.” I am just amazed how high so many of them are in carbohydrates.

With 9.3 percent of the U.S. population struggling with diabetes, which doesn't include undiagnosed patients, why isn’t the word out there in a clear way?

There are dozens of choices for sugar substitutes on the market in yellow, pink, blue and green. There is a hate club for each of those choices.

There are dozens of oral medications (each with a list of side effects that give me nightmares) and the syringes for the delivery of insulin are smaller and sharper. There is a pump system that so many of the younger people are using.

Still there is a lot of muddy information available about eating for those of us with diabetes. Eating is so basic, it kinda makes you wonder...

We have come a long way, and it is better! Can perfect be far away?

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Lemon Ginger Tart recipe!

Get more cooking tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.

Photo credit: Justin See on Flickr