What’s In Your Food?
Making small changes to our diet and lifestyle can help delay or prevent us from developing Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes means that the body is not able to control the sugar level in the blood as well as it used to and as a result blood glucose levels start to rise. The body does not respond well to these higher levels of sugar in the blood and diabetes has many unpleasant side-effects. If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes you may find yourself on lots of medication to try to control your blood glucose level to avoid the side-effects of diabetes.
Obviously, prevention is better than cure and studies have proven that making small changes to our diet and lifestyle can help delay or prevent us from developing Type 2 diabetes.* Changes such as:
- Losing 5% of current body weight (or more)
- Eating less fat, especially animal fat (saturated fat) - such as cream, cheese, butter, chocolate, processed meats and pastries
- Eat more fibre (vegetables, fruit, beans, chickpeas, wholegrains etc)
- 30 minutes physical activity most days
* Tuomilehto et al, Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus by Changes in Lifestyle among Subjects with Impaired Glucose Tolerance. New England Journal of Medicine; 344, 1343-1350. May 3 2001.)
While fat contributes most to weight gain and increasing the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, eating a lot of sugar will also help us put on weight and also makes our bodies work harder to control our blood glucose levels. As humans we are programmed to like eating sugar and in our everyday lives it is easy to eat more sugar than we might want to!
If you currently eat a lot of sweet foods your taste buds on your tongue will expect a certain level of sweetness from your food so it can be difficult to cut down on the amount of sugar eaten, but if you keep going for 2-3 weeks it will become easier as your taste buds adapt.
Eating less sugar each day will help reduce your energy intake and can help you maintain or lose weight.
High sugar drinks
- 500ml fizzy drinks - have 56.3g sugar or 11 teaspoons of sugar added - swap for diet fizzy drinks (0g sugar)
- 500ml orange juice - has 54.5g sugar or 11 teaspoons of sugar - swap for low calorie squash or add lots of water to your juice
- 500ml fruit smoothie - 68.5g sugar or 13.5 teaspoons of sugar - swap for a smaller portion or a single fruit yogurt!
Alternatives to Sugar
Sugar substitutes make excellent additions to sweeten your tea, coffee and other drink. The amount to substitute for sugar may vary so check the product packaging for guidance. Not all sugar substitutes can be used in cooking recipes or heated, see the product packaging.
Caution should be taken when eating foods that contain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, or other ingredients that end in ‘ol’. If you eat too much sugar alcohol containing food, you may experience digestive problems e.g. diarrhoea or wind.
Fat is very high in energy and a small amount can have lots of calories.
The more calories we eat every day the more likely we are to gain weight. It is easy to eat too many calories if you eat a high fat diet. And as fat makes food taste nice it is easy to eat more than we need. Think about chips vs boiled potatoes - chips taste better so we eat more.
Fat is used by the body as an energy store - this was an advantage hundreds of years ago when food was scarce, but these days we rarely go a couple of hours without eating so we don't use up our stores of fat. The result is that many of us store too much fat and are overweight. If we store our excess weight around our middle (our waist) this raises our risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.
Eating less fat especially saturated or animal fat can help to lose weight and reduce our likelihood of getting Type 2 diabetes in the future.
As a guide men need 90g of fat per day and women 70g fat per day - obviously if you are trying to lose weight you need to eat less fat each day. In terms of energy or calories per day men need around 2500 kcal per day and women around 2000 kcal per day (this is very average and will change depending on your size, activity level and age).
Foods that are high in fat
- 100g plain chocolate - 1 large bar - 40g fat and 550 calories - have smaller portions of these foods or eat less often
- 100g peanuts - couple of handfuls - 50g fat and 567 calorie
- 100g cheese - large chunk - 34g fat and 416 calories
- 3 table spoons mayonnaise (25g) - 24.4g fat and 282 calories - worth changing to a fat free or low fat mayonnaise option (not light or extra light)
This is the term given to foods that are digested to sugar by the body. It includes sugar which we have already discussed above, as well as rice, pasta, potatoes, breakfast cereals, fruit and vegetables. All of these foods have different amounts of carbohydrates - breakfast cereals tend to have the highest amount of carbohydrates while salad vegetables have the least amount. Rice, pasta and potatoes are in the middle.
We need carbohydrate foods to provide us with energy - especially our brain which can only use glucose (sugar) for energy. All carbohydrate foods are naturally low in fat until we add it whilst cooking or during the processing. This combination of fat and carbohydrate can be hard to resist - think about chocolate and pizza!
Choosing low fat carbohydrate foods will help fill you up without loading up on calories, also getting a good amount of salad and vegetables and fruit will increase your fibre intake, which will help you lose weight and lower your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.
Foods high in carbohydrate and fat
- Large muffin (100g) - 16g fat, 48.5g carbohydrate and 385 calories - Eat smaller portions and/or eat less often
- 3 slices of medium meat pizza (500g) - 80g fat and 1500 calories - choose smaller portions and lower fat options
- Portion of take away chips (200g) - 26.8g fat, 51.6g carbohydrate and 492 calories.
This information has been aimed at helping people avoid diabetes, however if you do develop diabetes in the future the information above will still be useful to help you control your blood glucose levels. Please ask your GP to refer you to a dietician if you have any further questions.