Top 10 Tips to reduce risk of (Type 2) Diabetes
4.7M people in the UK are living with diabetes (Diabetes UK).
90% have Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) which is known as a lifestyle disease.
Through changes to lifestyle, it is possible to put T2D into remission, keep blood glucose levels at a healthy level and avoid the need for medication.
T2D is a serious condition where the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin (hormone) to enable glucose to be carried into cells where it is used to create energy. This leaves blood glucose levels dangerously high and if left untreated can seriously damage parts of your body.
Prior to the diagnosis, people usually have insulin resistance when cells don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from their blood.
As a result, the pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. A prediabetes diagnosis is when higher levels of glucose are detected in the bloodstream but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis.
T2D is known as a lifestyle disease since dietary choices and a lack of movement and exercise create this almost surge of glucose in the bloodstream whilst there is less requirement for it.
More and more insulin is produced but it can struggle to keep up with demand; and the cells just start to ignore the signals as they don’t require any more energy!
It is not directly related to weight. Thinner people can still have diabetes but it is more common for overweight people to be effected.
There are steps you can take to help avoid developing diabetes and if you have diabetes, help you manage it (in conjunction with your medical practice).
Blood glucose is largely created from the food we eat. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars- mostly glucose. The more carbohydrates we eat the greater the amount of sugar is released into the bloodstream. Changing patterns of eating behaviour can stop surges of glucose in the bloodstream.
These are my top ten tips:
- Avoid eating any starchy carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread, rice, potatoes) without an accompanying portion of protein foods and a little fat. Protein foods are meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu, lentils, pulses. Fats are nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocados, olive oil. The protein and fat slows the speed that the sugar is passed into the bloodstream.
- Reduce the size of your starchy carbohydrate portions to only 20% of your plate and ask yourself: do you need it at all? It is not a necessity with every meal.
- Try to limit all refined white grains and choose wholegrains instead. This includes white bread, white rice, white pasta, crackers, pies, pizza. There is no nutritional goodness in refined grains but a massive hit of sugar. Obviously biscuits, cakes, puddings and confectionary should be an occasional treat.
- Increase your portions of non-starchy vegetables. This are mostly above ground ones (not potatoes, parsnips, swede but do include carrots). These are fibre rich slowing the speed that sugars are released from carbohydrates. Starchy ones contain a lot of sugar. Aim for plenty of colours and types. Your plate should be almost half vegetables!
- Try to avoid snacking including fruit. Snacking is one of the biggest contributors to constantly surging blood sugar levels. You can achieve this by aiming to eat three balanced meals a day containing protein, good fats and lots of vegetables as this really helps keep you full between measl.
- Watch fruit and eat just 2 pieces a day. When aiming for “5 a day” most of this should be from vegetables. Fruit is very sugary and starchy. Bananas, grapes and tropical fruits like mango are very sweet. Choose berries and non-sweet small apples or pears.
- Always have a portion of protein and fat with your fruit. Don’t reach for a banana thinking it is a healthy option (too much starch). Choose a small apple together with a few non-salted nuts for example.
- Reduce consumption of simulants like tea and coffee to 3 a day. These stimulate the release of adrenaline which in turn causes glucose to be released into the blood stream. It is a stress response we don’t need and adds to rising blood sugar levels.
- Stay well hydrated with water, very diluted cordials and herbal and fruit teas. You should consume 2L of fluid a day. Research has shown a link between poor glucose tolerance and dehydration. And ask yourself are you hungry or actually thirsty?
Even if you partake in more intensive exercise, one hour of exercise can not undo ten hours of sitting.
It’s essential to keep moving throughout the day. It helps glucose utilisation and much more. Stand up and walk around, do some stretching, climb the stairs. Do gardening, walking, yoga in small bursts throughout the day rather than in one stint once a day.
Small changes can lead to big gains in your health and wellbeing, so no matter how small, try and introduce some of these changes into your day to day life.
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