Diet and diabetes
It’s a common misconception that diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar, as Douglas Twenefour, a dietitian and clinical adviser at Diabetes UK, explains.
He explains: “Diabetes is a complex condition, so we cannot simply say it is caused by eating sugar. However, we usually advise people with diabetes, or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, to follow a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and to increase their physical activity. But in practice specific advice depends on individual circumstances.
“Treats can be an occasional thing; what’s important is that you plan them. People with diabetes would need to be aware of how a particular treat fits in with their individual healthy eating goals. For example, if the goal is weight loss you need to be careful with the calories in that particular treat, the portion sizes and the frequency at which you have it.”
Diabetes is a complex condition, so we cannot simply say it is caused by eating sugar
Dietitians can also play a critical role in prevention of type 2 diabetes. “About 80 per cent of type 2 diabetes incidences can be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes.
A dietitian can help support you to make healthy food choices and increase physical activity.”
Here are Douglas’s top tips for managing your diet if you have, or want to prevent, diabetes:
- Plan regular meals and watch your portion sizes.
- Include more fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce snacks and avoid too much salt and salty foods.
- Find a physical activity you enjoy and do it regularly.
- Involve friends and family in your healthy eating plans.
Support from the BHF
As well as controlling blood glucose levels, managing your weight and being physically active are crucial when it comes to managing diabetes. It’s also important to pay attention to the balance of your diet. The BHF has several resources that can help you with this.
The Eatwell guide shows us the proportions of the different food groups that we should eat to have a healthy diet. Each of the groups is important as they provide us with different nutrients. To get the balance right, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and starchy carbohydrates, along with some lean meat, fish, eggs or vegetarian alternatives and low-fat dairy products.
Avoid too many foods that are high in fat and sugar. Even if you are trying to lose weight and are cutting down on what you are eating, you should still aim for this balance of foods in your diet to make sure that you get all your vital nutrients.
Visit the Eatwell guide or find healthy recipes in our recipe finder.