When you first learn you have diabetes, you may be in shock, since it can be a devastating disease. However, you can live a long and healthy life, providing you exercise and follow a proper diet.

This may be easier said than done as many a diabetic can testify. For there is this terrible craving for sugary sweets or junk foods – a temptation readily available to appease your hunger.

Good food, wonderful food is what the diabetic needs, such as fruits and vegetables, and other foods high in antioxidants. Instead of a sugary sweet, a juicy orange or a crunchy carrot, loaded with fibre, will slow digestion and provide the renewed energy that seems to have flown away suddenly.

The antioxidant vitamins E and C and carotenoids are highly important for people with diabetes, according to Food Cures, a new Reader’s Digest book. These are found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Leafy greens such as spinach as well as seeds and nuts provide a 31% lower risk to get Type 2 diabetes.

Try cooking up some whole grains, such as beans, peas, lentils and other legumes, which can be delicious when flavoured with herbs. These grains provide complex carbohydrates in your diet, and are loaded with soluble fibre.

In turn, the fibre forms a gel in your stomach, which slows down digestion, and is critical for heading off harmful blood sugar spikes. It also helps to reduce cholesterol, and lowers your risk of heart disease – a problem most diabetics die of.

Those tempting dried fruits and fruit juices (which lack fibre) are too high in sugar for a diabetic, but may be eaten only in small portions.

Snacks between meals are considered important and may include an apple, a slice of brown bread with peanut butter, a half cup of nuts, or chopped fruits or vegetables. Even a small salad will be a refreshing choice.

It is important to avoid refined carbohydrates, which include white crackers, cookies, pancakes, rice, or all foods made with white flour. These quickly turn into glucose, or sugar, that hits the pancreas to the detriment of the body. Here soup kitchens or food banks usually load up the needy recipients with a variety of these items, generously donated by food companies.

It has been noted that in the North or Western Canada, and on remote reserves, these kinds of foods are trucked in at the expense of donating companies, including soft drinks that hungry Natives can acquire at much lower market prices. This means wholesome milk for children at a high cost is passed up for the cheaper soft drink.

It is obviously important not only to know what to eat, but also to know what to avoid eating. And eating proper food is one of the ways to fight it.

In diabetes, the immune system attacks body tissues where the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas are destroyed.

Over 90% of diabetics have Type 2 – Diabetes Mellitus – that are non-insulin dependent. About 10% of diagnosed diabetics have Type l, called Juvenile Onset Diabetes, requiring insulin. This often develops in children.

Among First Nations, the diabetic count in 2007 affected l5.5% of the population, according to Health Canada. Since then it is estimated by Native health workers it may have risen by 3% to 4%. In contrast, about 6% (1,706,148 pop.) of the general Canadian population died of diabetes in 2009.

Obesity is a large factor in the development of diabetes, and particularly lack of exercise. Like American singer Nancy Sinatra once sang, “These boots are made for walking…” the body, especially the feet, was made for movement. Children especially have to abandon the computer and television and do sports of all kinds. Adults ought to abandon the car for public transport when reasonable distances are involved.

This disease appears to be almost as old as time itself. It was first observed among the obese in prehistoric times by the depiction of Venus figurines, 25,000 years ago. Through the ages the baffling numerous cases did not live long, until Canadian researchers Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin medication in 1922.

It still is one of the leading causes of death in most developed countries. As well as a threat to human health, it is bad for the economic system in a country and a community.