It’s been said that “timing is everything,” and that’s certainly true of Diabetes Awareness Month. It begins on November 1, after all, which is the day after Halloween. You know, the night when costumed kids roam the streets collecting candy, and dads skim off a few sweet treats for themselves afterwards.
“Borrowing” a little chocolate is no big deal, but consuming too much sugar on a regular basis can have serious health consequences. Just ask Karl Subban: The father of three NHL players was so focused on helping his children succeed that he sometimes overlooked his own sugary eating habits and, at age 40, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body does not properly use the insulin it makes. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used for energy.
Why prevent diabetes? If left untreated or improperly managed, it can result in blindness, along with other severe complications including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, and amputation.
Karl’s journey to manage his diabetes was an important factor in his decision to become a champion for Canadian Men’s Health Foundation. “As you work to take care of everybody else, make sure you’re also working to take care of yourself,” Karl says. “It doesn’t mean you have to make monumental changes…pay attention to what you’re putting in your body.”
The good news: It’s easy to follow Karl’s advice. Cut down on sugar, and keep diabetes at bay, by making the three simple food and drink swaps listed here. If you’re wondering what helps prevent diabetes, keep reading…
Swap soda pop for water
There are around 30 to 40 grams of sugar in a can of soda pop. That’s nine teaspoons, or about the same amount as in a chocolate bar. Not one of those miniature Halloween ones — a full-sized bar!
In fact, drinking just one can of pop accounts for nearly all of your recommended daily intake of added sugar, which is why swapping pop for water, which contains no sugar, is a slam-dunk solution.
If this is easier said than done — pop is everywhere, after all — here are some easy ways to jazz up your H20:
Just add fizz: If it’s the bubbles you miss, buy soda water at the supermarket or make it yourself with one of those inexpensive home-carbonation machines.
Flavoured soda water: There are dozens of natural, healthy, low-sugar water additives out there. Add zesty zip to your still or sparkling H2O by squeezing in some lemon, lime or orange juice, or get creative by stirring in some fresh mint, cinnamon, and sliced cucumber or strawberries.
Just add ice: Find your favourite flavour and add it to your ice cube tray for a quick and easy water booster.
Swap sugary cereals for fibre-rich ones
Vampires and leprechauns make for fun Halloween costumes, but it’s a bad sign when they appear on cereal packaging. Check the “nutrition facts” panel on the side of the box: If a serving of cereal has more than 10 grams of added sugar — that’s about the same amount as 3 chocolate chip cookies — it’s too much. If a cereal contains marshmallows, chocolate chips, and/or a sugary or honey coating, chances are it exceeds the 10-gram mark.
You can also use the nutrition panel to guide you in a healthy direction. Any cereal that delivers more than a quarter of your daily fibre requirements — a healthy adult needs approximately 21 to 38 grams per day — is likely a positive nutritional influence. As well as aiding digestion and making you feel full longer, fibre also stabilizes blood-sugar.
Less sugar and more fibre? That’s a diabetes double knockout!
Swap refined sugar for maple syrup
Speaking of morning rituals, here’s one for your coffee. If you stir white sugar into your Java, why not use Canada’s national condiment instead? Maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which means that it increases your blood glucose level less than refined sugar. Your pancreas, in turn, won’t have to work as hard, which may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
And if you want to hum “O Canada” while drinking your coffee, all the better!
Photography by: Vanessa Paxton
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What do Stooges, Amigos and Musketeers have in common? If you said they all come in threes, you nailed it!
But what about adding watermelon to the mix? What does the number three have to do with this juicy fruit? Turns out there can be THREE amazing benefits of eating watermelon: A healthy sex life, a cancer-free prostate, and straight-up deliciousness!
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland located in front of the rectum and between the bladder and penis. It controls things like your pee flow and the volume of your ejaculate. The prostate grows naturally as men age, and for most guys, this isn’t a problem. But once you hit 40, it’s time to start paying attention.
After age 40 the prostate can become inflamed, grow, block urine flow, or become cancerous. In fact, prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect Canadian men, with one in seven diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. That’s why it’s so important for guys older than 40 to ask their doctors about getting a blood test and digital rectal examination. This is how prostate cancer screening is done. After all, if detected and treated in its earliest stages, the chances of surviving prostate cancer are greatly increased.
Signs and symptoms
With painful ejaculation among the symptoms of prostate cancer, the disease can put a damper on your sex life. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Urgent need to urinate
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Burning or pain when urinating
- Inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping urine flow
- Blood in the urine or semen
It’s important to note that symptoms aren’t always present — especially in the early stages of prostate cancer — which is another reason to talk to your doctor if you’re over 40.
An ounce of prevention…
…is worth a pound of cure, as they say, and healthy eating is one example of how prostate cancer may be prevented and, in turn, how you can help keep your sex life humming along. According to Prostate Cancer Canada, a diet high in red meat or full-fat dairy products, and low in fruits and vegetables, seems to increase the risk of the disease. So there’s one cancer-preventing tip already: Out with the Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and meat-lovers pizza, and in with the apples and asparagus!
Four more prostate-protecting foods
Watermelon: High in vitamins A and C, and free of fat and salt, watermelon is a delicious healthy food choice regardless of your age. It also happens to be an excellent source of lycopene, an antioxidant that research suggests may help lower prostate cancer risk. There’s as much as 9 milligrams of lycopene in small slice of watermelon — adults should aim to consume about that much a day — and there’s way more watermelon than that in this hassle-free snack recipe. Other lycopene-rich foods include tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, guava, and papaya.
Salmon: This delicious and versatile fish joins tuna, herring, sardines and lake trout in being packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. So fire up the oven and try this awesome easy recipe for baked salmon.
Carrots: A 2014 study found that eating more carrots produced “a significantly decreased risk of prostate cancer.” This versatile and easy-to-prepare veggie was made for dipping — say, in some — and combines deliciously with salmon in this super-easy recipe.
Turmeric: This savoury spice contains curcumin, a compound that may suppress the spread of prostate cancer. Turmeric sure doesn’t suppress flavour, however, and is especially delicious when sprinkled on corn on the cob.
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If anyone knows about the power of perspective, it’s Orlando Bowen.
After a vicious parking-lot assault ended his CFL career in 2004, the Brampton-based father of three could have become bitter or vengeful, or perhaps even worse, given up on his dreams.
But instead, Orlando’s positive perspective on life shone through. “Our problems and challenges won’t solve themselves,” he says. “It’s up to us to find solutions and put them into action.”
Orlando’s action plan was to harness his gift for public speaking. Fourteen years later, the executive director of the One Voice One Team Youth Leadership Organization “equips people to become game-changers by getting off the sidelines of life and going out and doing what they can to contribute.”
What’s so positive about staying positive? It’s about much more than a happy-go-lucky disposition and ignoring life’s unpleasant situations. According to Orlando, it’s about approaching challenges in a positive and productive way.
The sheer volume of health and lifestyle advice out there can become overwhelming, Orlando says. But it doesn’t have to be. “Really and truly, it’s small steps that can make a transformative difference for us.”
As a busy husband and father, Orlando knows there’s no “ideal time” for exercise in his busy schedule. Does that stop him? No way: Instead of giving up, he uses small steps to take positive action. “During my son’s lacrosse practises, I’m the guy skipping rope on the sidelines. I know I need to be physically active to keep my energy levels up.”
Every guy can benefit from taking small steps like these. Got a crazy-busy day at work? Fit in some exercise by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and eat better by trading the vending machine for some grab-and-go fruit or trail mix.
Shrugging off stress
“Life is a gift, but sometimes it’s hard. That’s just a fact,” Orlando says. “We have to understand that our emotions don’t need to ride those up and downs.”
Maintaining a consistently positive outlook despite, say, a parking ticket on your windshield or a hard day at work, will help provide the emotional “even keel” that prevents stress from flaring up. And when stress subsides, good things happen. For instance, researchers suspect that people who are more positive may be better protected against the inflammatory damage of stress that has been shown to cause heart disease.
It’s not about you
“Let’s say someone does you wrong, and you feel disrespected, hurt. Because life is all about perspective, sometimes the things people do and say have nothing to do with us as individuals,” Orlando observes. “Sometimes, it’s other people working through their own stuff.”
Ultimately, he adds, staying positive depends more on perspective than it does on unicorns and rainbows. “It’s about how you frame things, how you see things and how you experience things. Don’t take everything personally, and because life is short, don’t spend your time holding grudges or animosity.”
In partnership with the Canadian Football League Alumni Association
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Next time your paycheck comes up short, spare a thought for the soldiers of ancient Rome. They were paid partly in salt, after all, which wouldn’t cover too many bills these days. Then, when the soldiers retired from the army, they became…wait for it…seasoned veterans!
The good news: That’s the last condiment pun you’ll read for awhile. The bad news: Canadian guys, as a whole, eat way too much salt (which is also known as sodium chloride).
How much is too much? According to the Dieticians of Canada, the average Canadian consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, which is more than twice as much as you need for good health.
The dark side of salt
Too much salt is trouble waiting to happen. It increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. It can also damage the lining of the stomach, which can cause ulcers and cancer. A high salt diet also robs bones of calcium, making them weak and brittle and leading to a condition called osteoporosis — and yes, men can develop osteoporosis. The calcium lost by our bones passes through our kidneys on the way out, and kidney stones can form where this calcium builds up. Passing these stones through your penis can be very painful — like you need to be told — and kidney stones can lead to kidney disease.
Then there’s the weight gain caused by excess salt. There’s no fat, calories or carbs in the stuff, but it does make us thirsty. When we quench this thirst with sugary sodas or alcohol, and then fuel it further by snacking on salty potato chips and pretzels, there’s plenty of fat, calories and carbs involved.
Where does all this salt come from?
Cutting salt from your diet isn’t as simple as avoiding the salt shaker. Over all, adding salt to food only accounts for about 5% of the sodium in it. In fact, a whopping 71 per cent of the sodium in our diets comes from processed and pre-salted restaurant food.
Does that mean we should just let the sodium a-salt continue? (Sorry, we lied about the puns.) No way! By simply swapping these seven salty foods for seven delicious alternatives, you’ll easily sidestep the nasty health risks associated with what’s aptly known as “white death.” Wondering how to reduce salt in food? Wonder no more!
Swapping out salt
Canned or bottled pasta sauces: These pour-and-serve sauces are undeniably convenient, but a whole can typically delivers double the recommended daily intake of sodium. So keep it to half a can, or prepare your pasta another easy and delicious way.
Instant noodles: These just-add-water soup cups or packages can fill the void in a pinch, but one serving packs around 850 mgs of sodium. Yikes! With just a little advance planning, this Easy Chickpea Noodle Soup will slash your salt intake and please your taste buds.
Deli meats: Processed cold cuts are cured, often with salt, so you know where this is going. A 60-gram serving can contain as much as 600 mg of you-know-what. For less sodium, try canned white tuna or roasted chicken breast instead.
Bottled salad dressing: You’re safe with salads, right? Unfortunately, some store-bought salad dressings deliver as much as 400mg of sodium per two-tablespoon serving. Luckily, making your own salad dressing is a snap!
French fries: Swapping a side of fries for a side salad is a no-brainer, given that even a modest side order of fries contains at least 250 mg of sodium (and a boat load of fat).
Sausage: One link of smoked pork sausage contains 562 milligrams of sodium, and have you ever seen a breakfast plate with a single sausage? Three of them maxes out your daily sodium allotment. Bacon is no sodium angel — one rasher contains around 200 mg of the stuff — but keep it to a couple slices and you’ll eat less than what’s in a single sausage.
Snack foods: Even healthy-seeming snacks spell trouble when salt, or high-sodium flavouring, is added. Take pretzels: They are naturally low in fat, but 100 grams of them, a fairly modest serving, contains 1,266 mg of sodium. Salted potato chips are higher in fat and lower in sodium, but not low enough: There’s 480 mg per 100 grams. Good thing almonds and cashews are such great snacks, especially when mixed with other tasty morsels in trail mix.
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Who would you say is the greatest Canadian of all time?
The CBC TV series “The Greatest Canadian” put Tommy Douglas — aka the “Father of Medicare” — at the top of its 2004 list, just ahead of Terry Fox and Pierre Trudeau.
No. 4, however, is a man whose name is less recognizable. Sir Frederick Banting won the 1923 Nobel Prize in medicine for his co-discovery of insulin, a hormone that regulates how our bodies use sugar and other nutrients. Why was this such a breakthrough? Until then, diabetes was one of the deadliest diseases on Earth. After being diagnosed, diabetic children rarely lived a year, and less than 20 percent of adults lived more than 10 years.
The discovery of insulin has saved hundreds of millions of lives and continues to keep diabetics alive and kicking. Today there are 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes, with a new case being diagnosed every three minutes. No wonder Diabetes Awareness Month — November — is such a big deal.
The discovery of insulin was a game-changer, to be sure. But has it made all the health issues surrounding diabetes disappear? Not even close!
What is diabetes, anyway?
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body either can’t make insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it makes. This leads to high blood-sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. If left untreated or improperly managed it can be fatal, with severe complications including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, and amputation.
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 usually develops in childhood or adolescence, so type 2 is the kind most adult men need to watch.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
There is no single cause for type 2 diabetes, but there are several factors that boost your risk of developing it. Here’s what increases diabetes risk:
- Being over 40 years of age.
- Being overweight, especially around the middle.
- Having high blood pressure.
- Having high cholesterol or other fats in the blood.
- Being of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent.
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
Many people who have type 2 diabetes show no symptoms. That’s why guys aged 40 and up should see their doctor about checking their blood-sugar levels through a quick and easy test.
When symptoms do occur, they can include the following:
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight gain or loss
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- Blurred vision
- Frequent or recurring infections
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Trouble getting or maintaining an erection
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your health-care provider ASAP.
How can I reduce the chances of getting type 2 diabetes?
Good news! There’s plenty you can do to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, and it can all be done by making small, easy changes to your daily routine.
Be physically active: The Weekly Fitness Challenge slides easy exercises seamlessly into your busy workday or family life. Just how easy is it? Check it out!
Cut down on fats and sugar in your diet: You’ve come to the right place for tips on eating healthier. See how a few small changes can make a big difference!
Achieve a healthy weight and maintain it: Put exercise and healthy eating together, and controlling your weight comes naturally. With these easy recipes, great taste is also part of the equation.
Don’t smoke: Kicking the habit can be a challenge, but there’s plenty of help at hand.
Maintain a healthy blood pressure: This can be achieved by exercising (check!), limiting your alcohol intake — there are lots of easy ways to do that — and cutting back on smoking (check!).
Know where you stand: Use the super-handy YouCheck.ca health tool to assess your risk of developing seven of the most common diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, among Canadian men.
Do you have a clear picture of your health? See how your health compares to other Canadian men.
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