What Do I Eat if I have Diabetes?

Pre-diabetic? Type I? Type II? Are these stages along a continuum or completely different issues? Once diagnosed as one or the other are you then stuck with the diagnosis? No, not always. Implement the dietary steps below and gain control back over your health.

Pre-Diabetes

When your blood sugar levels are higher than they should be and your body is starting to lose control of the situation you’ll be pre-diabetic. You’re probably not yet experiencing any symptoms and, unless your blood sugar levels are checked, you are unlikely to know. At this stage the condition is entirely reversible through diet, nutrition and lifestyle changes. However, this is not to say that a diagnosis of pre-diabetes should not be taken exceedingly seriously. This is your chance to avoid a serious illness and a shorter life.

Diabetes Type I

This is an irreversible auto-immune issue that affects the pancreas. The insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells are attacked by the immune system and disabled. Insulin then has to be provided externally and blood sugar levels constantly monitored to ensure that they don’t become too high or too low. Although this condition is not bought about by diet or lifestyle it can be exacerbated. And if insulin is inappropriately used it is possible, as the body becomes insulin resistant, to additionally develop Type II. This is sometimes known as “double-diabetes”.

Diabetes Type II

A condition of consistently high blood sugar levels, and although the pancreas is still churning out insulin, the body is ignoring it and has lost the ability to remove sugar from the blood stream. This excess sugar damages fine capillaries meaning that blood flow to extremities such as feet, fingers and eyes is reduced and problems can occur with touch and vision. Diabetics can suffer from many circulatory problems, sometimes leading to damage where the only solution is amputation. This is not scare-mongering, 135 amputations are carried out every week in the UK due to diabetes.

Diabetics should not assume that they’re condemned to increasing ill health. By consulting with a nutritionist, and in liaison with their GP, they can halt the progression of the disease and possibly come off medication.

Diabetes Type III

The cardiovascular issues arising with Type II are also a significant contributor towards Alzheimer's disease, (Type II diabetics are twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer's). Both illnesses also involve the deposition of a protein called amyloid beta. Diabetics deposit this protein in their pancreas whilst Alzheimer's sufferers are found with similar deposits in the brain.

And, even though the brain is capable of producing its own insulin, the brain of Alzheimer’s patients also display signs of insulin resistance similar to that of Type II diabetes.

5 Foods Diabetics Should (and should not) Eat

Namely research the Glycaemic Index and adopt a diet rich in foods which don’t raise your blood sugar levels. Essentially you need to retrain your taste buds to accept a lower level of sweetness - don’t panic, it is possible.

  1. Cut out sugars and simple carbohydrates such as: cakes and biscuits; sweets and desserts; goods make with refined flours; white rice, pasta or bread. This isn’t as dire as it sounds: there are many recipes which can provide sweetness without causing an insulin spike, whilst alternatives to refined pasta, rice or bread have been mainstream for years. For those that are really motivated, the ketogenic (very low carbohydrate, very high fat) diet has had great results in improving diabetes.
  2. Fruit should only be two of your 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Select fruit which is slower to digest such as rhubarb, raspberries or kiwi.
  3. Careful of what you drink. Avoid fruit juice, hot chocolate, sugar laden milk shakes, sodas and additional sugar in your hot drinks.
  4. Eat quality protein with every meal. Protein takes longer to digest and releases its energy more slowly than carbohydrates. Such as: unprocessed meats, poultry and fish; seeds, nuts, dairy and eggs.
  5. Eat quality fats with every meal. These also help to slow the digestion time, make you feel fuller and provide a feeling of satiety. A meal that takes longer to digest prevents later hunger pangs and means that the insidious lure of the biscuit tin easier to resist.

Studies also show links between smoking, excess alcohol and the onset of diabetes, and exercise can help prevention by upregulating insulin receptors (thereby avoiding insulin resistance). This is not all doom and gloom, it’s simply about losing your sweet tooth and not your leg. Our quality of life being undoubtedly better when we have all our toes and both our feet.

By Saffron Rogerson

24 May 2016