Activity means burning calories

The concept is simple but we still struggle: Food increases our blood glucose and activity brings it down. This month let's look at how we can make the most of these last days of summer by consuming nutrient rich foods and enjoying the quickly disappearing daylight hours with activities that enhance our health.

To get a good start, take advantage of the cornucopia of fresh foods that are in season at the farmers' markets. The fresher the food the more micronutrients are retained, so support your local farms. Seek out the brightly colored produce for the highest concentration of nutrition. I was raised on iceberg lettuce and was shocked when I learned that it lacks any nutritional value, so be adventuresome and try new foods that may not be familiar to you. You may really like them.

We are fortunate to have easy access to quality local produce. Nothing surpasses the flavor of sweet corn that has been picked, cooked and consumed within 30 minutes! Strawberry season has ended but blackberries and blueberries will appear soon and both are packed with fiber and antioxidants along with fantastic flavor. Since fruit is sweetened with natural fructose, it can raise your blood sugar so consume it with other food or as your dessert to temper the impact on your blood glucose. Remember that a wide variety of foods consumed in moderation is essential, so practice portion control and savor each mouthful.

Now that you are motivated to provide healthy fuel for your body, the other half of the equation is to increase your activity level. Take the stairs in place of the elevator, park at the opposite end of the parking lot and return your grocery cart to the front of the store. Small increments of activity have a cumulative impact. Do leg lifts during the commercials of a 30-minute program and you have completed 10 minutes of exercise! If you need a measurable way to motivate you, start wearing a pedometer with the suggested goal of 10,000 steps a day.

This week the Olympic Games have started and I am amazed to see the achievements of the athletes in gymnastics, swimming and volleyball, but you don't have to be an Olympic athlete, just move! In the August 2008 issue of Diabetes Forecast, a list of outdoor activities is given that correlates the calories that are used per hour for a 150-pound person. The list includes racquetball - 740 calories, swimming - 603 calories, yoga - 360 calories, gardening - 324 calories, brisk walking - 297 calories and golf - 240 calories. None of those activities will make you competitive against Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps, but they are easily accomplished and will enhance good glucose control. So for the last portion of summer, take advantage of the delicious produce that is readily available and enjoy an evening stroll while we still have daylight!

Susan Sorensen is a registered nurse who does diabetes education in the community and can be reached at

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