September 04, 2019
People with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood (which comes from digesting carbohydrate and is also produced by the liver) because their pancreas either doesn't produce any insulin, doesn't produce enough insulin to help glucose enter the body's cells, or the insulin that it does produce doesn't work properly (known as insulin resistance).
Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet and eating to ensure steady blood sugar levels will help you to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, or manage your diabetes and feel better.
Insulin resistance is when the body is unable to process sugar from the bloodstream and store it in fat cells, eventually leading to a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Numerous studies link a diet that's high in added sugar with inflammation in the body, and increased likelihood of insulin resistance, increased weight and high levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol. Excess weight is a key factor in insulin resistance – and weight gain around the waist in particular. This is why menopause can be a crucial time, as the reduction in oestrogen can lead to weight gathering around the middle, and even women who have previously had a 'pear shape' can become 'apples', with a higher risk of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
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. 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 want to satisfy a sweet craving, try sipping one of our delicious, natural and organic Nourish Drinks which come in Chocolate, Vanilla, Raspberry and Mango flavours. They are nutritionally balanced and are protein rich, so the carbohydrates they contain are released more slowly into the body, reducing their impact on blood sugar.
- 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.
- The body excretes excess sugar via urine, so it's important to stay well hydrated. Ideally, you should look to water and herbal teas to provide the majority of your fluids, as fruit juices and fizzy drinks are high in sugar. Cut back on coffee and tea, too, as research shows that people with Type 2 diabetes react differently to caffeine, and it may increase blood sugar and insulin levels for those living with the condition.