Can the right food save your life?
Nutrition So guys, this World Diabetes Day (WDD), the big question is – have you got Type 2 diabetes? Either way – stick with me – because this is a problem for every one of us, but we can all also help to tackle the problem.
The link between diet and Type 2 diabetes isn’t completely straightforward, but the stats surrounding this life-shortening disease certainly speak volumes. Here in the UK, rates have more than doubled since 1996 – there are now more than 400 million people living with diabetes, and more than 90 per cent of those are suffering from Type 2 diabetes. Globally, if Type 2 diabetes were a country it would be the third largest on the planet. Frankly, if that stat doesn’t make people wake up to the ridiculous onslaught of this disease, I don’t know what will.
The condition used to be an adult disease, but now more and more teens are getting it, and the numbers keep going up. If you have the condition and leave it unmanaged, it will put you in an early grave. And if you don’t have it, you’re certainly paying for it. Treatment for Type 2 diabetes accounts for a whopping £8.8 billion of spending a year, almost 9 per cent of the entire NHS budget.
So what’s the good news? You’ll be pleased to know there is some, and that’s why we’re shouting about it this WDD. Type 2 diabetes is completely preventable, and it’s reversible post-diagnosis, too.
Food is delicious and fascinating and can bring people together. And guess what, the perfect diet for someone that’s managing Type 2 diabetes is exactly the same as the perfect diet for someone that’s not got it, and for someone who wants to prevent it. The buzzword is balance. Everything I’ve been shouting about throughout my super-food journey over the past two years applies.
Base your meals around veg, fruit, nuts, seeds, fibre-rich wholegrains and smaller amounts of better quality meat and fish. It’s so simple – it’s about eating fresh, unprocessed, nourishing food and cooking from scratch so you know exactly what you’re eating. If you can get your balanced plate right and keep your portion control in check, you can be confident that you’re in a good place.
What exactly is the balanced plate?
Essentially, it’s about knowing how to approach putting a plate of food together. You want one-third veg and fruit and one-third starchy carbs (like brown bread, rice or pasta) – these fibre-rich options will help to keep your digestive system in good nick, and provide you with slow-release energy. Once you’ve got those two building blocks in place, the last third should be split between protein and dairy, and you want to keep fat/sugar-high foods to a minimum. Remember to use unsaturated oils, such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil, as these types are better for your heart.
Now you don’t have to eat a balanced plate at every single meal, but try to make sure you’re balancing out what you do eat in these ratios across the week.
When it comes to main meals, it’s a good idea to eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily, then you can split the rest of your choices between plant-based fare, some poultry and a little red meat. Veggie diets can be healthy, too.
Keep it varied!
Mix up what you eat so you’re getting a maximum array of nutrients. Veg and fruit is the easiest way to do this, as there’s such a wonderful bounty out there for you to choose from. Choose seasonally, so you not only get your produce at its best, but at its cheapest, too. And make sure you’re hitting five portions a day, or more if you can.
The foods you choose to eat make a difference, not only to managing diabetes but, to how well you feel and how much energy you have from day to day. Always eat breakfast – don’t skip it. And make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, this is absolutely essential. Often when we think we’re hungry we’re actually dehydrated, so drinking water can help prevent overeating (which can lead to obesity, and hence the chain begins).