November is Diabetes Awareness Month

By Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and likely everyone knows someone who is affected by this unfair disease. Today there are more than 29 million Americans living with diabetes.

The majority of diabetics have type 2 diabetes, with only 1.5 million having type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease. Diabetes cost the U.S. $245 billion in 2012. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death, and many diabetics are at a higher risk of illness than ordinary people. Diabetics are at a much higher risk of contracting illness and usually take much longer to recover from illness. However, there are steps diabetics—and all people—can take to boost immunity and help avoid getting sick in the first place.

November is the start of cold and flu season. Rather than stocking up on Nyquil and cough drops, get a head start on warding off illness by building your diet on immune-boosting foods. You’ve likely heard that vitamin C-rich citrus fruits, such as oranges, tangerines, clementines, grapefruit, lemons, and limes are great for keeping a cold at bay, but what about other foods? Other foods loaded with vitamin C include sweet bell peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes, kiwis, papaya, berries, chili peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, pineapple and mango.

However, these are not the only foods that can help you bolster your immune system. Be sure to include foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Foods full of beta-glucans, such as oats and barley, have also been shown to help reduce your risk of catching the flu, and should you get sick, they can help antibiotics work more efficiently and speed up wound healing. Allicin, a component found in garlic and also onions, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives, can help rev up your immunity. Research has shown that consuming garlic each day (about 2 cloves a day) could make you two-thirds less likely to contract a cold. Plus it’s delicious! Shellfish, such as clams, oysters, crab and lobster, contain selenium, which helps your white blood cell produce cytokines, which are proteins that help your body get rid of flu viruses. Other immune-boosting foods include chicken soup, green and black tea, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Have you recently been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes? Would you like to learn more about how to make better food choices to improve your health? An Operation Food Search dietitian offers guided grocery store tours at Shop ‘n Save for groups to learn how to eat healthier on a budget following guidelines for diabetes. For more infoformation or to set up a tour, please contact Christina Popp, MPH, RD, LD at Christina.Popp@OperationFoodSearch.org. (A minimum of 3 participants required per group)

Join us this month for these OFS happenings:
Get a jump on holiday shopping as Operation Food Search hosts its 17th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser November 20 – 21 at Plaza Frontenac, and December 5 at St. Louis Galleria selling beautiful ceramic bowls hand-crafted ceramic by local artists. The empty bowls signify hunger in our community and bring light to this important issue. Everyone loves a parade! Cheer on KMOV Channel 4 on-air anchors and Operation Food Search volunteers along the parade route of Ameren Missouri’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 26. Stay tuned to KMOV for opportunities to help nourish our neighbors in need this holiday season!