Around 90% of diabetes cases are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. There are many risk factors which we cannot control such as genetics, age and ethnicity. What we can influence however is our nutritional intake. Nutrition plays a major role in preventing, delaying and management of type 2 diabetes.
To mark Diabetes week (8th – 14th June) we’ve put together some useful information for prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.
Carbohydrates are often seen as the enemy but are in fact a very important source of energy. The bodies preferred source of energy is from carbohydrates. When it comes to carbohydrates you want to choose complex carbs such as brown rice, wholegrains and oats. Complex carbohydrates are broken down slowly and therefore the increase in blood sugar levels is gradual. Our body, specifically our pancreas, is able to cope better with a slow increase compared to a sudden rise. Where possible try to include a carbohydrate at every meal.
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables should make up a large proportion of your diet. They contain a variety of nutrients which help to meet recommended daily nutrient intakes. Not only are they healthy but they are good for bulking out meals. Fruits are often questioned due to their sugar content. However, fruits contain natural sugars and fibre. Fibre helps to slow down the release of glucose into the blood. A good tip for fruit is to split your fruit portions throughout the day. For example, you could have berries at breakfast, a banana at lunch and an apple later in the afternoon. The idea is that you are controlling the amount of sugar you are eating at one time and therefore not overworking your pancreas.
A low fat diet is one of many advised for the prevention/management of type 2 diabetes but this does not mean fat should be cut out of the diet. A warning with many products advertised as low fat is they tend to be high in sugar! The fat that is removed from the product is replaced with sugar. When making a decision on a product that is high in fat and low in sugar and vice versa, it is best to go with the product in the middle. It might not be classed as low in either fat or sugar but it’s probably not classed as high either.
Fat is an essential component of the diet but as with carbohydrates it is the type of fat we have which is important. The main sources of fat should come from unsaturated fats; polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils and oily fish. The other type of fat, saturated fat, is what we want to limit. This is found in many processed foods, meats and butters.
Protein and other tips
Plant based sources of protein are a good option due to their high fibre content. As mentioned fibre helps to slow down the breakdown of food into glucose. Lean meats are high in protein and are also a good source iron.
Foods which are labelled diabetic or suitable for diabetics are best avoided. Not only are they expensive but they don’t provide any benefits in addition to non diabetic labelled foods. The other thing to remember is that there is no diabetes specific diet. Try to have sweet treats or high fat foods such as cakes and biscuits in moderation.
The aim of this blog was to give general tips and information for a healthy well balanced diet specifically for type 2 diabetes prevention and management. In regards to carbohydrates and fat the importance is aiming for complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fats. Overall its consuming a well balanced diet with higher fat and sugar foods in moderation. As nutritionists we can advise on general healthy eating in relation to type 2 diabetes prevention and management. If however you need medical or medical related nutritional advice please contact a dietitian or your doctor.