Diabetes is becoming increasingly common across the world. In the UK alone, it’s estimated that cases of the condition will rise to 5 million by 2025.
For Diabetes Week, we’re looking at some of the ways we can prevent or manage the condition through diet; the foods to choose and those to avoid.
While it’s important to remember that there isn’t a one size fits all approach as there are different types of diabetes, there are plenty of small changes we can all make which help optimise our health and wellbeing by managing blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Consider your carbohydrates
All carbohydrates affect your blood glucose levels so it’s important to know which foods contain higher levels of them. Choosing healthier carbs, in smaller portions, can help regulate those levels.
Some healthy sources of carbohydrate include:
- wholegrains like brown rice, buckwheat, and whole oats
- fruit and vegetables
- pulses such as chickpeas, beans, and lentils
- unsweetened yoghurt and milk.
While being careful with your carbs, it’s also important to make sure you’re choosing sources which are also high in fibre. So, avoid white bread and highly processed cereals.
Cut down on red meat
In recent years, it’s been recommended that we all look to reduce our consumption of red and processed meats, for various health reasons. Meats like ham, bacon and sausages have been linked to heart problems and cancers.
Instead of these, try fish, eggs, poultry, unsalted nuts or pulses like beans and lentils which are high in fibre and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Too much salt in the diet can raise your blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke, conditions you are more at risk of if you have diabetes.
Limiting your salt can help to reduce the risk of these issues. Steer clear of pre-packaged foods and keep an eye on labels to make sure you stick below 6g (1 teaspoon) of salt a day.
Reach for healthier fats
Fats give us energy, but not all fats are created equally. Some have much better properties than others.
Some saturated fats can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart problems. These are mainly found in:
- red and processed meat
- ghee, butter, and lard
- biscuits, cakes, pies, and pastries.
Instead, try including healthier fats found in unsalted nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish, olive oil, rapeseed and sunflower oil.
Up your intake of fruit and vegetables
It’s no surprise that fruit and vegetables are considered essential parts of a healthy diet. We should be including portions of these at mealtimes and as snacks in between to make sure we get plenty of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Fruit, however, is naturally high in sugars, so you may wonder if it’s best avoided. Thankfully, that’s not the case. While whole fruits do contain natural sugars, they also contain plenty of fibre and are great as part of a balanced diet. But try to stick to the whole fruit, rather than fruit juices, which often contain additional sugars.
Cut down on added sugar
Cutting out sugar can be difficult. Small swaps are a good starting point when you’re trying to cut down on excess sugar. Replacing sugary drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices with water, plain milk, or tea and coffee without sugar is a great place to start.
Drink in moderation
High in calories, alcohol can set you back in your efforts to lose weight. If you’re trying to regulate your weight to reduce your risks of Type 2 diabetes, consider cutting down on the amount you drink, sticking to 14 units a week.
Snacking between meals isn’t a problem, as long as you make good choices. Choose yoghurts, unsalted nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables instead of crisps, biscuits and chocolates, to help you feel fuller for longer and to avoid additional processed sugar.
Be sceptical about supplements
While it can be tempting to try supplements based on fads and recommendations, there is no evidence that mineral and vitamin supplements help manage diabetes.
It’s better to get your essential nutrients through your diet, by eating a mixture of different foods, as some supplements can negatively affect medications or make diabetes-associated complications, like kidney disease, worse.
Understand your intolerances
Food intolerances, which can occur when your body’s immune system mistakes a food protein as a threat, releasing antibodies to fight it, can cause a host of inflammatory conditions.
Headaches, brain fog, eczema, acne, low mood, and joint pain are all reactions that can result from a food intolerance, as well as symptoms of IBS, bloating, stomach pain and diarrhoea.
It’s estimated that around 45% of the population has a food intolerance, making it an incredibly common complaint, yet many suffers live with symptoms for years, unaware of the cause.
Understanding the foods which work for and against you can help you make the best possible choices to optimise your health and wellbeing.