Whether you are living with diabetes or not, eating well is important.
The foods you choose to eat in your daily diet make a difference not only to managing diabetes, but also to how well you feel and how much energy you have every day.
Naturally low in fat and calories and packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and vegetables add flavour and variety to every meal.
They may also help protect against stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.
Potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, chapattis, naan and plantain all contain carbohydrate, which is broken down into glucose and used by your cells as fuel. Better options of starchy foods – such as wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta and basmati, brown or wild rice – contain more fibre, which helps to keep your digestive system working well. They are generally more slowly absorbed (that is, they have a lower glycaemic index, or GI), keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium, which is vital for growing children as it keeps their bones and teeth strong. They’re good sources of protein, too.
Some dairy foods are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, so choose lower-fat alternatives (check for added sugar, though). Semi-skimmed milk actually contains more calcium than whole milk, but children under 2 should have whole milk because they may not get the calories or essential vitamins they need from lower-fat milks.
You can enjoy food from this group as an occasional treat in a balanced diet, but remember that sugary foods and drinks will add extra calories – and sugary drinks will raise blood glucose – so opt for diet/light or low-calorie alternatives. Or choose water – it’s calorie free!
Fat is high in calories, so try to reduce the amount of oil or butter you use in cooking.
Too much salt can make you more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Processed foods can be very high in salt. Try cooking more meals from scratch at home, where you can control the amount of salt you use – when there are so many delicious spices in your kitchen, you really can enjoy your favourite recipes with less salt.
This is an autoimmune disease, which is more common in people with Type 1 diabetes, where the body reacts to gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye), which damages the gut lining and makes it difficult to absorb food.
Everyone with Type 1 diabetes should be assessed for coeliac disease. If you are showing symptoms, you should be given a blood test. If the test is positive, diagnosis is confirmed by a gut biopsy. Don’t start a gluten-free diet until you have a definite diagnosis, as this may give an inaccurate result. The only treatment is to cut out gluten from your diet permanently. A specialist dietitian can help you with both diabetes and coeliac disease.