By Jane Clarke

September 04, 2019

There are three main types of diabetes: 

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition that occurs because the body can’t make the hormone insulin and so blood sugar levels become too high; it isn’t preventable and is treated with insulin injections.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can’t make enough insulin, or the insulin the pancreas does make can’t work properly. Ninety per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2, yet three in five cases could be prevented or delayed by making healthier choices. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with lifestyle changes and drugs that help the body to handle sugars more efficiently.

Gestational diabetes affects around two per cent of pregnant women and usually goes away after the birth of their baby. It can usually be controlled by diet (see below), although occasionally insulin is needed. 

Cases of Type 2 diabetes are unfortunately on the rise – 12.3 million people are at risk of the disease, according to Diabetes UK. It usually occurs when you hit middle age or in your older years, however South Asian and black people are at greater risk and may develop the condition earlier. Alarmingly, Type 2 diabetes is also being diagnosed in children and teenagers of all ethnicities. If not managed well, it can lead to kidney damage, blindness and a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. 

Eating with Type 2 or gestational diabetes

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet and eating to ensure steady blood sugar levels will help you to manage your diabetes and feel better.

  • Eat a well-balanced and nourishing diet (see Nutrition Basics). You don’t have to avoid sweet foods such as cakes and biscuits entirely, as long as you eat them in moderation and make them as nutritious as possible by basing them on wholemeal flour and fruits. The combination of protein, fibre and carbohydrates in a carrot cake, for example, will ensure the sugar is released more slowly, so your body is able to cope with it better.
  • You don’t need to eat sugar-free diabetic products, which can be expensive and taste horrible.
  • If you’re overweight, losing body fat can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels. See Weight Gain for tips on how to slim down healthily.
  • Exercise may also help you to lose weight but it also helps the body to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
  • Diabetes can increase risk of heart disease, so be sure to add heart-healthy fats such as olive and avocado oils to your diet.