Even if you aren't affected by diabetes directly, it would be virtually impossible to go through your life without encountering someone suffering from this condition.
Approximately 2.5 million people in the UK have diabetes. Around 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, which is often, but not always, linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.
Individuals with diabetes have too much glucose (sugar) in the blood because the body is unable to use it effectively. This is because the body's method of converting glucose into energy is not functioning properly.
A very popular approach to control the release of glucose into the bloodstream is the Glycaemic Index (Gi).
The Gi is a ranking of foods based on their effect on blood glucose levels. Foods that breakdown quickly during digestion and lead to an immediate and sharp increase in blood glucose are regarded as high in the glycaemic index, or High Gi foods.
Foods that breakdown slowly and release glucose gradually into the blood stream are low in the glycaemic index, or are Low Gi foods. These foods do not cause the blood glucose levels to rise sharply and so help maintain steady blood glucose levels. They also help you to feel fuller for longer.
You can make a few simple changes to your diet to replace high Gi foods with low Gi foods:
- Choose breakfast cereals made from wholegrains, barley or oats instead of corn or rice.
- Choose wholegrain bread instead of white bread.
- Replace potatoes with pasta or rice.
- Choose brown rice over white rice.
- Go for low Gi fruit such as apples, cherries, prunes and pears instead of high Gi fruit like passion fruit, watermelon or pineapple.
- Include pulses, beans, nuts and seeds in your diet
In addition to eating regular meals based on the low Gi concept it is also important to address other risk factors.
• Cut down on fat. This will also help you to control your weight. Avoid using too much butter or margarine and switch to a low fat version; eat cheese in small portions or switch to a low fat product; switch to low fat dairy products like skimmed milk and low fat yogurt choose lean cuts of meat and grill, boil or bake as opposed to frying or roasting.
• Reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat as this type of fat can raise your cholesterol level and may contribute to the development of heart disease. Choose heart healthy monounsaturated fats when you can, for example, olive oil.
• Eat more fruit and vegetables - aim for at least five portions a day to provide you with vitamins and fibre as well as to help you balance your overall diet.
• Cut down on sugar and sugary foods and drinks. Use sugar-free, low sugar or diet squashes and fizzy drinks, as sugary drinks cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly.
• Use less salt, because a high intake of salt can raise your blood pressure. Try flavouring food with herbs and spices instead of salt.
• Drink alcohol in moderation only - the recommended intake is two units of alcohol per day for a woman and three units per day for a man. A small glass of wine or half a pint of normal-strength beer is one unit. Never drink on an empty stomach, as alcohol can make hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) more likely to occur.