Diabetes rates are steadily rising across the globe, but affordable, sustainable, healthy pulses offer one way to fight back. On 14 November, the World Diabetes Foundation is raising awareness about healthy eating and exercise through its Global Diabetes Walk campaign — and all are welcome to join them.

Diabetes is one of the largest global health emergencies of the 21st century. Each year an increasing number of people are affected by this condition, which can result in life-changing complications and death. Today, more than 415 million people have diabetes. By 2014, that could rise to 642 million.

Three-quarters of people with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries. That is a huge burden for those least able to withstand the burden of the disease. But there is something that we can all do, no matter where we live. Regular exercise and a healthy diet helps keep blood sugar levels stable, reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases and improves overall well-being.

3 women (2 sitting on the ground) in a low-income country sorting legumes into bowls

How can pulses increase control of diabetes?

That’s where pulses come in. Pulses have long been proven to be nutritious, affordable and sustainable for both humans and our earth. They offer an affordable source of proteins and minerals.

As many low- and middle income countries face nutritional problems ranging from under-nutrition to obesity, food choices are playing a growing role in the health of individuals and societies. New studies are showing that pulses could play a central role in the future fight against diabetes as well.

The research indicates that pulses can help manage blood sugar levels, because of their low glycaemic index and high fibre content. Adding pulses to the diets of people with diabetes offers new possibilities for regaining control of the chronic disease.

The United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses, with the aim of drawing attention to the many fine qualities of dried beans, lentils and peas. Visit IYP’s website for an inspiring variety of recipes based on these healthy, affordable legumes: http://www.fao.org/pulses-2016/recipes/en/

Hundreds of children in a low-income country taking part in a Global Diabetes Walk, holding signs and wearing shirts showing their support for World Diabetes Day

Changing diabetes one step at a time

The World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) was created in March, 2002, with an ambitious vision: To alleviate human suffering related to diabetes and its complications among those least able to withstand the burden of the disease. The WDF pursued its vision by forming partnerships with global, regional and local groups with expertise in diabetes. Its goal was to act as a catalyst to help others do more.

15 years later, the WDF has treated 5,7 million people, trained nearly 300,000 healthcare professionals, established or strengthened nearly 10,000 clinics, and held more than 40,000 awareness and screening camps. And this is just the start – the projects continue after WDF funding ends, creating a ripple effect benefitting thousands more.

The WDF’s largest advocacy activity is open to everyone. Each year on November 14, World Diabetes Day, the World Diabetes Foundation encourages its partners worldwide to organise Global Diabetes Walks. Walks are held across the globe, and they range from small local Walks to big regional Walks gathering thousands of people. The Walks aim to mobilise local communities in the fight against diabetes, by sensitising locale citizens to the risks of diabetes and how to best prevent it. Since 2002, nearly 3 million people worldwide have participated.

How do I join the Global Diabetes Walk?

Visit ‘See Who Walks’ on the official Global Diabetes Walk website to find a Walk near you. Should you be interested in organising a Walk, we would love to have you – please visit the WDF website for tools and tips. If you have already planned a Walk event, please make sure to register it our website.

For more information on Global Diabetes Walk, please visit http://www.worlddiabetesfoundation.org/global-diabetes-walk. If you take part in a Walk on WDD, feel free to share your photos with us on Twitter (@WorldDiabetesF) or Facebook (Global Diabetes Walk) by using hashtag #GDW16.