World Diabetes Day-November 14

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Simone Austin is an advanced
sports dietitian, keynote
speaker and author.

Did you know that 1 in 10 people around the globe has diabetes and half of those people are living with diabetes undiagnosed?

What is diabetes?

When we eat food containing carbohydrate (e.g. rice, bread, pasta, fruit, potatoes, confectionary, sugary drinks etc) your body digests the carbohydrate into sugar (called glucose), which passes into your blood stream and can then be used as energy by the cells in your body. Diabetes develops when your body is unable to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood.

This happens due to either a lack of, or the body not being able to use properly, a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed to transfer glucose from the bloodstream into cells to be converted to energy. 

High levels of glucose in the blood stream can lead to long-term health conditions.

How diet can help with diabetes?

The good news is a nutritious diet is something we can do to help reduce our chance of developing diabetes and to keep us healthy if we are living with diabetes.

To address this important issue, we have some simple nutrition tips to share with you.

Tip 1: Choose carbohydrate foods that will be slowly digested.

By choosing foods with carbohydrate that will be slowly digested glucose will go into the blood stream more slowly. This will help keep your blood sugar at levels the body likes. When blood glucose levels are regularly high damage can occur to your eyes, kidneys, blood vessels and heart. It is important to keep them in control at a level your health professional deems suitable for you.

Carbohydrate foods you could choose that are more slowly digested:

  • brown rice instead of white
  • wholegrain bread instead of white or wholemeal
  • whole fruit instead of fruit juice or canned fruit
  • Rolled oats
  • Potatoes with skin on and kept a little firm
  • Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils.

Tip 2: Eat healthy fats.

People with diabetes need to take particular care of their heart health and eating healthy fats, in foods such as seeds, avocado and nuts like almonds is a good way to do that. Healthy fats also help slow down the digestion of carbohydrate foods, which means glucose is released into the blood stream more slowly.

An example of healthy fats and carbohydrate foods could be a handful of almonds eaten with your fruit, almond spread on bread, extra virgin olive oil on your potatoes and avocado on toast.

And in relation to almonds, there is a growing body of research about the good effects of eating almonds on blood sugar and insulin levels, (one of the hormones that controls blood sugar). The benefits to blood glucose levels are both straight after eating and over the longer term.

How many almonds should I eat?

Everyone is different in what and how much food they need but in general a healthy handful of almonds (~30-50g) a day is a good place to start:

  • as a snack
  • sprinkled on top of your main meal
  • added to breakfast cereal
  • in yoghurt
  • a generous spread of almond butter on your wholegrain bread

There are many ways you can enjoy the taste and health benefits of almonds.

Diet is one way you can really take charge of your health. Being active and looking after your mental health are very important too.

So, to help fight against the increasing rate of diabetes, let’s make some small changes that make a big difference.

Remember to seek health professional advice for your individual health needs. An Accredited Practising Dietitian, Diabetes Educator, podiatrist and your GP are just some of the health professionals that may be involved in your diabetes health care.

References:

https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/about-diabetes/diabetes-globally/#:~:text=Global%20statistics&text=One%20in%2011%20adults%20has,is%20affected%20by%20gestational%20diabetes

https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/diabetes/

Li SC, Liu YH, Liu JF, Chang WH, Chen CM, Chen CY. Almond consumption improved glycemic control and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2011 Apr;60(4):474-9. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2010.04.009. Epub 2010 May 23. PMID: 20580779.