Eating habits that will help you prevent or manage diabetes


Sugar ages you, it is as simple as that. The more often you raise your blood sugar levels, the more insulin your body makes to dump that excess sugar into storage as fat, and hence the more weight you gain. Doing this day in and day out leads to insulin resistance, your cells becoming “sugar damaged”, and ultimately type 2 diabetes.

The single best way to determine your diabetes risk is to measure your glycosylated haemoglobin (also known as HbA1c) in a medical check-up. This will tell you the percentage of your blood cells that have become sugar damaged. The higher the HbA1c level, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications. But what is the next step should you have already done damage to your cells or if you want to ensure you don’t develop type 2 diabetes.

“Eating a low glycaemic load diet, the measure of the effect that a food has on your blood sugar, is the best way to both control and reverse type 2 diabetes, lose weight and lower glycosylated haemoglobin,” says UK nutritionist, Patrick Holford

He gives us 10 ways to prevent or reverse diabetes, simply by lowering the “GL” of your meals.

1.Combine protein with carbohydrates:

Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates do, which helps to lower the glycaemic load of your meal.  When you eat fruit, potatoes, rice, bread or pasta, try adding something with protein in it, like nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, fish, eggs or meat. For example, have scrambled eggs (instead of jam) on toast; some almonds with an apple; fish, beans or lentils with rice and meat with potatoes. Just by doing this, you can halve the GL of your meal.

2. Stick with Oats

Oats, or specifically oat fibre or bran, contains a powerful anti-diabetes nutrient called beta-glucans. Diabetic patients given oatmeal or oat-bran rich foods, experience much lower rises in blood sugar. In fact, over 1 000 studies show that 10 per cent of your diet as beta-glucans can halve the blood sugar peak of a meal. Practically, that means eating half oat flakes, cold or hot as porridge, with a low-GL fruit such as berries, pears or apples. Interestingly, if you eat cold oats (like you would cornflakes) or make oat porridge and eat it cold, you vastly increase the oat fibre effect.

3. A spoonful of cinnamon

Cinnamon is a great one for decreasing the blood sugar effect of food, but you need a teaspoon a day for a measurable effect. The active ingredient in cinnamon is called MCHP. Extracts of cinnamon that concentrate MCHP, called Cinnulin, taken together with chromium works best. Look for supplements that contain both chromium and Cinnulin and try to add ground cinnamon to your cereal, smoothies, soups and hot drinks.

4. Supplement Chromium

Supplementing the essential mineral chromium is a no brainer if you’ve got diabetes, and not a bad idea if you don’t. Chromium is required for the insulin receptor to work and helps to reverse insulin resistance. Diabetics only need 600mg a day, but most supplements provide only 200mg. Make sure you pick out a good quality, high dose chromium supplement.

5. Ditch the wheat

When it comes to breads and pastas, wholegrains have a lower GL than the refined white options. Wholegrain rye is best, especially sourdough rye bread and the slow-cooked German-style breads called pumpernickel, sonnenbrot or volkenbrot. Whole pearl barley boils like rice and has a very low-GL, a delicious nutty taste and chewy texture for soups and ‘risottos’. There is an ancient form of wheat called Kamut” khorosan which studies show spectacularly improves insulin resistance and lowers blood sugar.

6. Supplement Super-Fibres

Another way to lower the glycaemic load (GL) of a meal and thus stabilise you blood sugar, is to consume a super-soluble fibre called glucomannan. Having 3-5grams before a meal helps to even out blood sugar response. Have it with a large glass of water before a meal, as it absorbs the water and makes you feel full. Together with a calorie- controlled diet, supplementing glucomannan fibre helps you to lose weight.

7. Go for nuts, seeds, beans and lentils

Sprinkling chia seeds on your cereal and eating almonds with your fruit snack, helps to lower the GL of that meal or snack. Pulses, the food group that includes beans, lentils and chickpeas, is a staple in countries with low diabetes incidence, which is an important indicator.  Try the seed-like quinoa, the staple grain of the Incas, instead of rice. It is very high in protein, low-GL and absorbs the flavour of sauces. Including a serving of lentils or beans for dinner has a knock-on effect on breakfast, substantially reducing the blood sugar spikes of breakfast the next day.

8. Choose your fruit

Not all fruit is made equal. Against popular belief, some actually have quite a high effect on your blood sugar levels. The principal sugar in most berries, cherries and plums is xylose, making these fruits especially slow-releasing. A rule of thumb is that the bluer the berry, the better. So blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries and cooked black elderberry are all very low-GL and very good for you.  Montmorency cherries are exceptionally high in antioxidants, which is why Patrick Holford recommends a Montmorency cherry extract, called Cherry Active, as a cordial. Plums, when in season, are a great fruit snack, together with some protein such as a few almonds or pumpkin seeds. The next best fruits are apples and pears.

9. Switch from sugar to Xylitol

If you crystallise xylose, the slowest releasing form of sugar, you get xylitol, a natural white sugar that is great for teeth. This sugar alcohol has an extremely low-GL and is a great alternative to normal sugar, even for baking purposes. To put this into perspective, nine teaspoons of xylitol equals one teaspoon of sugar in terms of GL.

10. Get enough vitamin C

Another important vitamin for diabetics is vitamin C. Having a high level of vitamin C in your blood, consistent with that achieved by supplementation and eating a high fruit and vegetable diet, reduces your risk of diabetes by 62%. That’s the conclusion of a study of over 21,000 people over a twelve year period, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.