Developing diabetes type 2 – What’s the risk?
According to Diabetes UK ‘diabetes is one of the fastest growing health threats of our times and an urgent public health issue’. It is estimated that by 2025 five million people will be living with type 2 diabetes. This dangerous disease, when not managed properly, can lead to many other health conditions, including kidney disease, blindness, leg and foot amputations, nerve damage and even death. Diabetes can also affect nearly every system in the body impacting on energy, digestion, weight, sleep, eye sight and more.
So, how can you reduce your risk of developing diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a completely preventable and reversible condition and with diet and lifestyle changes, you can greatly reduce your chances of getting the disease or reverse the condition if you have already been diagnosed.
The cause of diabetes
Type 2 diabetes develops when your body is unable to respond to insulin, a hormone that transports glucose from the bloodstream into the tissues. This results in blood glucose levels rising, leading to the pancreas secreting more insulin, this is when the person becomes insulin resistance. High insulin levels also promote the accumulation of fat storage, particularly in and around the organs and this contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes. At this point if changes to diet and lifestyle are not made then insulin resistance and impaired insulin production will result in blood glucose levels no longer being controlled. This is because the body can only keep producing more insulin for a period of time but long term the insulin receptor site burn out, Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is caused by high blood sugar.
Avoid these foods if you have type 2 diabetes
- Remove all refined sugar from your diet they cause rapid spikes in blood glucose levels. One of the worst culprits are sugary beverages and fruit juice. Avoiding refined sugar and highly processed foods will help to achieving a more stable blood sugar level but it has also been shown to significantly reduce hunger because insulin levels are kept within the tightly controlled levels that our bodies are designed to deal with.
- Reduce the amount of grains that you consume and yes that includes gluten free products and wholemeal bread. Starchy grains like wheat contain large amount of carbohydrates that are broken down into sugar within a few minutes of consumption. These particularly affect hormones that help to control our appetite – ghrelin and leptin – and can cause intestinal inflammation. Achieving more stable blood glucose levels has also been shown to improve mood, reduce menstrual cramping, headaches, hot flushes, fatty liver, anxiety and depression.
- Alcohol can dangerously increase blood sugar and lead to liver toxicity. Research has shown that heavy consumption of alcohol, defined as 3 or more drinks per day, was associated with a 43% increase in incidences of type 2 diabetes. The recommendation is that beer and sweet beverages, which are particularly high in carbohydrates should be avoided.
- Genetically modified foods otherwise known as GMO which include corn, soy and rapeseed oil have been linked to kidney and liver disease which may promote diabetes. My suggestion would be to remove all GMO foods from your diet and opt for products that are organic or labelled GMO-free.
- Hydrogenated oils including any oil that is not cold-pressed, sunflower, safflower and mixed vegetable oil. These oils are highly processed – treated at very high temperatures and combined with bleaching agents and artificial dyes, consuming them has been linked to many health concerns including diabetes.
Foods to incorporate into your diet
Consume these foods to prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes
- High fibre foods help to slow down the absorption of glucose, regulate blood sugar and support the process of the liver by detoxification. Aim to eat eight portions vegetables and no more than 2/3 portions fruits per day. Examples are (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers), avocados, berries, nuts and seeds, especially chia seeds and flaxseeds.
- Healthy fats can be used as a fuel source instead of using glucose, medium-chain fatty acids can help to balance blood sugar levels and can be found in coconut oil and olive oil. These can be included in your food and smoothies you can also use coconut milk, ghee and grass-fed butter.
- Eating good quality protein has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels and can also slow down the absorption of sugar. So include wild-caught fish – which contains omega-3 fatty acids – to reduce inflammation, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, lentils, eggs and bone broth.
- Low glycaemic index (GI) foods – the GI of food is a measure of the blood glucose raising potential of the carbohydrates we eat. Foods that have high GI are converted into sugar after being eaten more quickly than low GI foods. Especially If you are trying to overcome diabetes, consume low GI foods like non-starchy vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, organic meat, eggs and wild–caught fish.
Other ways to reduce your risk or reverse type 2 diabetes is to exercise. Studies have shown that exercise improves the control of levels of glucose by helping to build and maintain muscle, which helps to balanced blood sugar by allowing muscle to store glucose more efficiently and helps to reduce body fat.
Three-day meal planner
|Day 1||Greek yogurt with nuts, seeds and berries||Chicken vegetable soup made with bone broth||
Apple with handful almonds
|Pan-seared salmon with vegetables||20-minute strength exercise|
|Day 2||Mushroom omelette with roasted tomatoes||Smoked mackerel with avocado and cooked vegetables||
Carrots, cucumber with hummus
wrapped in bacon with
broccoli, carrot and green beans
|4-minute aerobic training|
|Day 3||Homemade smoothie
|Homemade carrot and lentil soup||Boiled egg with spinach||Sirloin steak
sweet potato garlic mash
|20-minute walk at lunchtime|
*generally snacking is not encouraged, we need gaps between meals for levels of insulin to drop so we are in fat burning mode. However, snacks need to be included until sugar levels are more in balance.
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Jeraldine Curran founder of The Food Nutritionist is a fully qualified nutritionist specialising in nutritional workshops, conception and pregnancy, individual consultations, corporate work and wellness retreats