Most of us are aware of diabetes, but aside from knowing that it’s something to do with blood sugar levels and insulin, it can be confusing understanding the different types and what might put us at risk of developing the condition.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition that’s usually diagnosed in childhood. It’s an autoimmune condition that’s managed with insulin injections and cannot be reversed. Whilst dietary changes can help manage the condition medication is still required to control it.
Type 2 diabetes can develop in childhood or adulthood and is caused when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or cannot respond properly to insulin leading to an increase in blood sugar levels. This type of diabetes is often linked with obesity, eating an unhealthy diet, being physically inactive, smoking or having high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Type 2 diabetes can be reversed or controlled with changes to the diet, or by taking medications. If left untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to organ damage due to excess levels of blood glucose (sugar).
Prediabetes is a condition that can precede type 2 diabetes. Having prediabetes means that your blood glucose levels are higher than they should be, but not high enough to make you diabetic.
Prediabetes, Diet and Lifestyle
It’s estimated that around 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes and many of them don’t know it. So, it’s imperative that we understand the lifestyle changes we can make, to avoid having prediabetes or to reverse it and prevent it from developing into type 2 diabetes. Especially so, if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above, including being overweight or obese or having high blood pressure or cholesterol.
Being active and quitting smoking if you smoke are important factors in preventing or reversing prediabetes. It’s recommended that we all do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week, plus two sessions of weightbearing exercise. Moderate aerobic activity can be brisk walking, cycling, slow jogging, playing racquet sports or water aerobics. Weightbearing exercise includes lifting weights, using your own body weight as resistance such as when performing squats and lunges, heavy gardening, yoga and Pilates.
But perhaps the most important factor, is diet. If you’re at risk of developing prediabetes, or you want to make sure you don’t, the following dietary advice is recommended:
- Eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, mainly vegetables as sugar is high in fructose, a type of fruit sugar.
- If you eat meat, swap red or processed meats for lean white meat, such as chicken breast.
- Opt for other, low fat, lean protein sources too, including eggs, low fat dairy, fish, beans, lentils and chickpeas.
- Choose oily fish, avocadoes, nuts and seeds for healthy unsaturated fats.
- Carbohydrate wise, choose high fibre, wholegrain bread, pasta and rice rather than white versions high in refined sugars. Green, leafy vegetables are also great for fibre.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water and herbal teas, rather than sugary, carbonated drinks.
- Grill or bake foods, rather than frying or roasting in excessive amounts of oil.
- Avoid excess amounts of saturated fat, sugar, salt and alcohol.
Think of all these steps as a lifestyle, rather than forcing yourself onto a ‘diet’, and it’ll be easier to follow. Your blood sugar levels and future health will certainly thank you for it.