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A diabetes diagnosis can be a foodie’s worst nightmare, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’ve been recently diagnosed with adult-onset Diabetes, or you regularly cook for someone who has, follow our advice about the simple changes you can make without sacrificing everything you enjoy.
Diabetes is diagnosed when your body isn’t able to process the amount of sugar you’re putting into your system, so regulating your intake of sugar is really important. If you have Type 1 diabetes, the likelihood is you’ve been brought up to know exactly how to control your blood sugar. Therefore, here we’re focusing on those people with Type 2 diabetes, which can often be treated by making concerted changes to diet and lifestyle.
Resist the siren song of the second helping
It sounds obvious, but it’s something we all forget: the simplest way to reduce your intake of sugar is simply to eat less of the things that contain it.
Giving up on your favourite foods entirely is unrealistic and much more likely to result in a binge when your resolve breaks – and as a diabetic, binging is the worst thing you can do. Our suggestion is to allow yourself a little bit of what you fancy, every now and again, and really savour every mouthful when you do.
Carefully selected carbs
As a diabetic, even if you’re not trying to lose weight, it’s a good idea to closely monitor your carb intake. That’s because carbohydrates are essentially sugars, and eating lots of them can cause your blood sugar to spike.
When you do eat carbs, you should therefore go for ones with a low glycaemic index (‘GI’). This means they have less of an impact on your blood sugar, because the sugars they contain are bound with things like protein or fibre. This means the energy in them is released slowly, making them less likely to cause a spike.
There’s loads of information online about low-GI foods. They include things like sweet potatoes, most fruit and veg, wholewheat pasta, and beans and pulses. High-GI foods are those you should avoid where possible and always eat in moderation. There are many, but these include some of our favourite foods: white bread, milk chocolate, potatoes, bananas and cake. We’ve written before on why we’re hard-wired to enjoy sugary foods like these.
Watch the booze
Alcohol is well-known for being full of sugar, but as long as you stick to the guidelines it’s OK to enjoy your favourite tipple – red wine especially has a low glycaemic index. Men should consume no more than 2-3 units per day, and the same for women.
Other changes you can make
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, there’s a good chance you’re carrying a few extra pounds, and may have been told to reduce your cholesterol too. We’ve put together 10 tips to reduce your cholesterol, which should dovetail neatly with changes to your diet to control your diabetes.
If you’re a keen baker and don’t want to give up on the enjoyment of making cakes, you may want to look at sugar substitutes that can be used in baking. Xylitol and stevia are both naturally-derived sugar alternatives that can be substituted for the real thing in many recipes, while having a much lower impact on blood sugar.
If you’re really struggling to identify where you could reduce your sugar intake, a dietary consultant could help you. It could be as simple as switching from shop-bought pasta sauces to home-made equivalents.
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